In the salary cap era of the NHL, it is pretty common for teams to make changes to their roster over the summer. Pair that with a first round exit, and things will get interesting. For the Chicago Blackhawks, things will look a lot different on October 12 than they did almost three months ago.
Let's get to it.
The first big move of the offseason came on June 15 when Stan Bowman was finally able to shed the final season of the dumpster fire that was Bryan Bickell's contract. Unfortunately for Bowman, he also had to include 21-year-old skilled center/winger Teuvo Teravainen in that deal to Carolina. Look, losing Teravainen is going to hurt, mostly because I felt he was just getting started. But let's be honest, he didn't have the greatest 2016 season, and the Blackhawks didn't have time to sit and wait for him to fulfill his potential. There were also rumors questioning his work ethic, but we won't get into that. The much bigger part of this deal was dumping Bryan Bickell's contract, which has absolutely crushed the team since he signed it back in 2013. Hindsight is 20/20, and Bickell's remarkable 2013 playoff run earned him that deal, but man, you know Stan Bowman regrets that one. It definitely cost them Brandon Saad, Johnny Oduya, and now Teuvo Teravainen. Nothing can be done about it now.
After the Bickell trade, there was a lot of speculation that Andrew Shaw would re-sign in Chicago. The problem was, he was looking for a large raise, and that would've put the Blackhawks back to where they started with Bickell. After reports came in on draft day that Shaw was looking for as much as $4.5M/year, Bowman had no choice but to move on after the cap came in at $74M. He wasted no time sending Shaw's RFA rights to Montreal for a pair of second rounders, which in my mind was a fantastic return. The Blackhawks were fortunate enough to have Alex DeBrincat, a projected first rounder and 50-goal scorer in the OHL fall to them at 39th overall. I think Blackhawks' fans will be thrilled with that pick in a few years.
Shaw wasted no time signing a new deal with Montreal, which has an AAV of $3.9M over the next six years. Look, I love Andrew Shaw, but the Blackhawks simply couldn't give him anywhere near that kind of money, and I would've definitely been hesitant to give him that kind of term. I wish him the best in Montreal.
After the draft, all focus was shifted towards free agency which began on July 1. It was no secret that the Blackhawks desperately needed to find a solid defenseman to replace Johnny Oduya in the top four. One could argue that it shouldn't have taken them a year to do so, but hey, I'm not the GM.
The choice was almost too obvious, and if you follow me on Twitter, you know I've been calling for it since April. It's no secret that Brian Campbell never wanted to leave Chicago, but the Blackhawks just couldn't afford to keep that massive eight year contract on the books after 2011. Campbell made it quite clear that he would be willing to to take a discount to return to the city him and his family consider home, and he did just that last Friday when he signed an extremely team friendly one year contract with an AAV of $2.25M and a cap hit of only $1.5M. Seriously, those are the numbers.
I just want to take a minute to talk about how absurd that value is. Yes, Brian Campbell is 37 years old. But he is still more than capable of giving you top four minutes, moving the puck, and quarterbacking a power play unit. The Blackhawks desperately needed a player with his skills, and they got him for next to nothing. The Blackhawks' defense should look a lot better in October with Campbell back in town, TvR on the third pair, and Michal Kempny coming over from the KHL to join the fun. Whether Campbell is paired with Brent Seabrook or Niklas Hjalmarsson remains to be seen, but I think I speak for everyone when I say welcome home, Soupy.
Oh, Michal Rozsival and Brandon Mashinter were each re-signed for one year. Thrilling stuff.
In not so surprising news, Andrew Ladd left to join the Islanders for the next seven years. I would have LOVED to see Ladd stay, as he is one of my favorite players in the NHL. In fact, I wish he never got shipped to Atlanta back in 2010. There was just no way to pay him this time around. I suppose you could criticize the trade with Winnipeg back in February, but we're not going to do that. Marko Dano and a first rounder is a heavy price, but Andrew Ladd gave the Blackhawks the best chance to win this year, and that's all you can ask for. I have zero problem with the trade, it just didn't work out.
Dale Weise signed a four year deal with Philadelphia. Whatever.
David Rundblad was bought out. Good riddance. I'll pack his bags and drive him to the airport.
On Tuesday, the Blackhawks signed Jordin Tootoo to a one year deal. I mean, at least he's not Steve Ott? I don't know what the point of this was, and I'm not even sure he makes the team out of camp. We'll see what happens.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned about the Blackhawks' forward depth.
Panik-Toews-Hossa; Panarin-Anisimov-Kane is probably a lock for the top six, which isn't the worst. After that, Kruger, Desjardins and Rasmussen are probably the only locks. That leaves three more spots. Who gets them? There will be competition between Nick Schmaltz, Tyler Motte, Ryan Hartman, Jordin Tootoo, Brandon Mashinter, Kyle Baun, Vinnie Hinostroza, and Tanner Kero, among others. Schmaltz obviously highlights that list, and I would guess he gets every opportunity to earn a spot out of camp.
Like I said, it isn't the prettiest situation, but there are still some decent names available and the Blackhawks have a little bit more money to spend.
If you want to talk about perfect fits, we can discuss Jimmy Vesey, the soon to be prized free agent out of Harvard. Selected in the third round by the Nashville Predators in 2012 and unable to reach a deal, his rights were traded to Buffalo earlier this year. It doesn't look like the Sabres will be signing him either, and he'll hit the market on August 15. Whether or not the Blackhawks have enough money to offer him could be an issue, but they're definitely interested (as is everyone else). He'd be a great fit in the top six. The Vesey situation is something to keep an eye on.
It hasn't been the greatest offseason, but it could be worse - they could be the Canadiens. The Blackhawks took care of their biggest need, and that's all you can ask for. Sometimes playing it safe in July is the best strategy. We should all trust Stan at this point.
Anyone who watched the Chicago Blackhawks play this year could tell you that the 2015-2016 team was full of holes. Patrick Kane and Corey Crawford carried the team a majority of the season, they struggled to replace Brandon Saad on the top line, couldn't find consistent depth scoring, and the defense, well, uh.. yeah.
If you follow me on Twitter (@_88Showtime), you know how I feel about the regular season. It doesn't mean shit to the Blackhawks. Just do enough to get into the playoffs and then the real fun starts. This team had proved multiple times that they were capable of just flipping the switch, and that is exactly what I thought would happen this year, especially after acquiring Andrew Ladd in late February.
So here we are in June watching two other teams play for the Stanley Cup. It's disappointing that the Blackhawks aren't involved, but defense wins championships. Obviously, when you only have three of them, you're going to struggle. That's exactly what we saw in the first round against the Blues.
Nobody could be trusted outside of Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and to a lesser extent, Brent Seabrook. We saw Trevor van Riemsdyk, Michal Rozsival, Erik Gustafsson, Viktor Svedberg, and even David Rundblad play against the Blues this year. Yep. That was a thing.
I highly doubt Rozsival comes back, and outside of TvR, I don't trust any of those guys to contribute meaningful minutes next season. The Blackhawks did sign Michal Kempny last week, which is a move I am a big fan of. But it's important to keep some perspective here. He's never played in the NHL before.
The Blackhawks spent an entire year trying to replace Johnny Oduya with the guys listed above, and it worked out about as well as you'd expect. We're not even going to get into the two months Trevor Daley spent here, or the trade that sent him to Pittsburgh. Nope.
That's where Brian Campbell comes in. Elliote Friedman of Sportsnet wrote about the Blackhawks taking a shot at Campbell the other day. He'll be an unrestricted free agent in July after spending the last five years with the Florida Panthers, and he'd be a perfect fit should he return to Chicago.
Brian Campbell hoists the Stanley Cup as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks on June 9, 2010.
There's a bit of a problem, though. The salary cap is unfortunately a thing (fix your stupid dollar, Canada), and the Blackhawks are pretty crunched as is. In a perfect world, Stan Bowman is able to dump Bryan Bickell and his $4 million salary.
Yeah, good luck with that.
In order to get Campbell to fit, it'd have to be a Brad Richards type deal. A one year discount. I'm not sure how likely that is, and it's not like Campbell won't have a ton of bidders with a lot more cap space.
He'd be a perfect fit alongside Niklas Hjalmarsson, and he can still move the puck really well, something the Blackhawks have lacked since they traded Nick Leddy. Campbell finished the 2015-2016 season with five goals and 26 assists. He just turned 37, but he can still play effectively. He's a defenseman you know you can trust to make the right play, which is another thing the Blackhawks lacked this year. Campbell could obviously contribute on the power play, and he's a guy that would take a lot of pressure off TvR, which is something everyone could benefit from.
Let's hypothetically say a deal gets done in July. The Blackhawks defense would probably look something like: Keith-Seabrook; Campbell-Hjalmarsson; Kempny-TvR.
Yeah, that'll work. Guys like Ville Pokka, Gustaffson, and Svedberg would likely get the first crack after those six.
Campbell's return to Chicago seems like a long shot, but it's at least something to consider.