Chicago Blackhawks: Offseason Game Plan

Overview

  

Outlook

The magic of the 2010 season is past, but the mess has been left behind for a new management team to clean up.  The core pieces remain intact, but cap realities have caught up to the Hawks roster which was so perfectly manipulated by Dale Tallon.  Stan Bowman attempted to piece something reasonable together in the aftermath of Tallon’s departure, but it is clear now that his appointment was based on name value and higher influence rather than credentials.  Still, what’s done is done, and the Hawks will have to move forward with what they have, and look to add high quality pieces as opportunity arises.  The challenge now is to replace the lost depth in a cost effective manner, utilizing trade, free agency, and development. 

Under Contract

 

Jonathan Toews (6.3)

Marian Hossa (5.233)

 

Patrick Sharp (3.9)

Patrick Kane (6.3)

 

Dave Bolland (3.375)

 

Bryan Bickell (0.5425)

Ben Smith (0.8125)

 

 

Duncan Keith (5.55)

Brent Seabrook (5.8)

Brian Campbell (7.14)

Nik Hjalmarsson (3.5)

Nick Leddy (1.117)

 

John Scott (0.5125)

 

 

Corey Crawford (2.666)

 

CAP HIT:  52.7485 million

CAP SPACE: 9.4515 million

 

  • UFA: Kopecky, Turco, R.Johnson, Pisani, Hendry, Boynton
  • RFA: Brouwer, Frolik, Stalberg, Campoli

From this list, expect all the RFA’s to be resigned.  Brouwer and Frolik in particular formed a highly effective checking line for the Hawks in the playoffs, nearly allowing the champs to complete a miracle comeback. Campoli and Stalberg may be packaged to get a better player in a position of need if such an opportunity arises, but both were effective enough to warrant a new contract if that does not materialize.  Of the unrestricted class, I would expect only Kopecky to get serious consideration to stay with the club.

Cap Reality: The Hawks should be able to spend to the cap and beyond.

Prospect Growth

Regression is the word that constantly springs up when analyzing the prospect pool of the Chicago Blackhawks.  Almost all of the Hawks best and brightest took a step back, or stumbled making a jump to the next level last season.  It doesn’t mean the future is without hope, but initial returns on the mass exodus of excellent depth players like Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and Kris Versteeg are not looking good.  However, as highly touted 1st round selections like Olsen and Beach failed to grab the ball and run with it, lesser heard of prospects in the system took the opportunity to make their presence known.  The stats don’t always tell the whole story, but judge for yourself:

Jeremy Morin (LW) – 6’2″, 198 pds, Age 20

  • 2009/10 – 58GP, 47G, 36A, 83Pts, 76PIM, +4 (OHL)
  • 2010/11 -22GP, 8G, 4A, 12Pts, 34PIM, +2 (AHL)
  • 2010/11 – 9GP, 2G, 1A, 3Pts, 9PIM, +2 (NHL)

Dylan Olsen (D) – 6’3″, 220 pds, Age 20

  • 2009/10 – 36GP, 1G, 10A, 11Pts, 49PIM, 0 (WCHA)
  • 2010/11 – 17GP, 1G, 12A, 13Pts, 8PIM, 0 (WCHA)
  • 2010/11 – 42GP, 0G, 4A, 4Pts, 10PIM, -18 (AHL)

Kyle Beach (LW) – 6’3″, 210 pds, Age 21

  • 2009/10 – 68GP, 52G, 34A, 86Pts, 186PIM, +22 (WHL)
  • 2010/11 – 71GP, 16G, 20A, 36Pts, 163PIM, -24 (AHL)

Ivan Visnevskiy (D) – 6’0″ 200 pds, Age 23

  • 2009/10 – 28GP, 2G, 10A, 12Pts, 10PIM, +4 (AHL)
  • 2010/11 – 46GP, 5G, 10A, 15Pts, 26PIM, 0 (AHL)

Brandon Pirri (C) – 6’0″, 180 pds, Age 20

  • 2009/10 – 39GP, 11G, 32A, 43Pts, 67PIM, 0 (ECAC)
  • 2010/11 – 70GP, 12G, 31A, 43Pts, 50PIM, -6 (AHL)

Shawn Lalonde (D) – 6’1″, 195 pds, Age 21

  • 2009/10 – 58GP, 13G, 43A, 56Pts, 87PIM, -21 (OHL)
  • 2010/11 – 73GP, 5G, 27A, 32Pts, 76PIM, -16 (AHL)

Morin is still the cream of the crop, but players like Olsen and Beach are fast becoming trade fodder as their performances at the pro level seem to indicate they are not as well rounded as initially expected.  It’s far too soon to give up on them, but the Hawks are competitive now, and need their prospects to get on board.  Bowman will have to pick a real gem with the 36th overall pick to salvage the Andrew Ladd trade, because Visnevskiy is looking more like a career minor league player than the key piece in a deal for a team captain, and sixty point man.  With six picks in the first three rounds of the draft this year, the Hawks need to make this year’s crop count.

Areas of Concern

Depth Versus Cap

          Even after losing twenty-one million and change worth of players from their championship roster, the Hawks are still faced with the dilemma of not having adequate cap space to really improve their roster.  This is partly because the team did not solve the real problem and move out Brian Campbell’s enormous 7.14 million dollar contract.  For that price, the Hawks could have retained Byfuglien, Ladd, Eager, Burrish and Fraser.  Again though, what’s done is done.  The Hawks need to get the depth players they do have locked up to affordable deals.  Here is what the next contracts of key RFA’s could look like:

Troy Brouwer, 2 years, 4.7 million, 2.35 cap hit
Comparables: Ladd (2.35), Kulemin (2.35), Little (2.383), Mueller (2.0)

Michal Frolik, 2 years, 3.5 million, 1.75 cap hit
Comparables: Dubinsky (1.85), Cogliano (1.0), Peverley (1.325)

Chris Campoli, 2 years, 3.0 million, 1.5 cap hit
Comparables: Niskanen (1.5), Franson (0.8), Stralman (1.95)

Viktor Stalberg, 1 year, 1.0 million, 1.0 cap hit
Comparables: Bergfors (0.9), MacArthur (1.1), Foligno (1.2)

Taking this analysis a step forward, we can do the math, plug these players into the above depth chart and conclude that the Hawks will have approximately three million dollars to find a top line winger, a fourth liner, and an extra or two.  Filling in the blanks will be easy enough, but when you sketch it all out like this, it becomes clear that, at least in the short term, the Hawks are going to have to fill out their roster from within. Players like Jeremy Morin, Marcus Kruger and Brandon Pirri are likely to be used to plug those holes.  That, or the Hawks could be patient and hope that bargains like Eric Belanger at 750K fall to them in August.  This is one luxury the Hawks do have.

          Whatever the case, it would be wise for the Hawks to leave themselves as much cap space as possible.  Even a million dollars now could mean the difference between Tomas Kaberle and Chris Campoli at the deadline.

Goaltending

          Marty Turco did not hold up his end of the bargain last year.  He may have proved a crucial part in Corey Crawford’s development though, both by allowing him to have the net, and being a great off-ice mentor for him.  Still, there is the need to support Crawford in his sophomore year with someone a tad more reliable than the aging Turco.  If Crawford stumbles, as so many do in their second year, the team will need someone capable.

Potential Solutions (Cameron’s Take)

UFA TARGETS

Ty Conklin (G)

Highly familiar to the Hawks thanks to divisional rivals the Blues, Conklin could be a highly sought after backup goaltender by many teams this year.  Due to the level of interest, he could be priced out of the Hawks range.  However, the allure of playing with a recent champion, and guys like Toews, Sharp, Hossa, Kane, Keith and Seabrook, could be enough to entice discounts.

Johan Hedberg (G)

Hedberg gets a lot of credit for being a great teammate.  He has been the ultimate suitcase throughout his career.  By joining the Hawks, he might get what he thought he was getting in Jersey – a chance to play for a contending team.

Cory Stillman (LW)

Stillman is an example that could be representative of several aging players the Hawks could target.  These kinds of players could be willing to take a substantial discount (1 million or less), to try and win the Cup one more time.  Other examples might include Andrew Brunette, or Jason Arnott.

TRADE TARGETS

Top Line/Four Player on ELC (LW/D)

With limited cap space, the Hawks have very little room to go after help in the trade market.  They have the assets to trade, and could try to parlay roster players (Stalberg, Campoli) and prospects (Beach, Olsen) into a top line player, or at least a legitimate top six player, or maybe even a top four defence-men.  The difficulty is that any such player will have to be very affordable on the cap, and likely on an ELC.  There is very little manoeuvrability for the Hawks in this course of action, but it is an option nevertheless.

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2 Responses to Chicago Blackhawks: Offseason Game Plan

  1. Buchek8 says:

    This is very interesting article, thank you.

  2. [...] A look at the Hawks Offseason: Click Here [...]

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