Carmelo, Love, and the Bulls

20131211_151215I think it’s time to take a quick break from writing about hockey on here and focus on another Chicago sports team: the Bulls. It doesn’t really seem to matter what sports coverage you’re reading, watching, or listening to in Chicago right now as all we’re hearing about is the Bulls and their pursuit of a superstar player to join forces with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. The names Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love are continuously being linked to the Bulls, and now you add a certain LeBron James to that list as well with him opting out of the final two years of his contract with the Heat.

The odds of the Bulls getting LeBron James are not good at all. While it might actually make the most sense for him to sign with the Bulls, it’s probably not going to happen. So let’s quickly move on from that discussion.

Carmelo Anthony. He opted out of his contract with the Knicks within the past couple of days like most people expected him to. And why not? There’s no reason he can’t re-sign with the Knicks, but opting out of his contract allows him to listen to offers from other teams. One of those teams is going to be the Bulls.

The Bulls have not kept it a secret that they will pursue Carmelo Anthony. It has been reported that Tom Thibodeau took it upon himself to start calling some of Carmelo’s past coaches to get their opinions of the superstar. While Anthony has never seemed to have any interest in playing defense, Thibodeau apparently made it clear to the coaches he talked with that he believes he can change the type of player Anthony is on the defensive end. I can’t say I don’t believe that because just look at what Thibs has gotten out of the all the players he has coached on the Bulls…

I guess the biggest question with Anthony is whether or not he’ll take a major pay-cut to sign in Chicago. The Bulls clearly want him, but does Carmelo want to win bad enough to take a 50 million dollar pay-cut to play with them? The Knicks and possibly even the Houston Rockets (another team going hard after Anthony) could deal Anthony a max-contract, whereas the Bulls can’t. As it is, the Bulls would have to amnesty Carlos Boozer and trade away a couple of other players like Mike Dunleavy and possibly Tony Snell just to open up the cap space to give Melo a smaller contract than New York or Houston could. The Bulls could offer Carmelo somewhere in the $15 million per year range, while the Knicks and Rockets could go as high as the mid-20’s. It all comes down to how bad Anthony wants to win. The Bulls would no doubt be a title contender with Anthony, boasting a starting lineup of Rose, Butler, Anthony, Gibson, and Noah.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Minnesota TimberwolvesAnother option for the Bulls is Kevin Love. A while back, Love supposedly mentioned Chicago as one of a few places he’d like to play. Love has one year left on his current contract and already said he will not re-sign in Minnesota next season, prompting the Timberwolves to open up trade talks regarding Love. Among the teams reportedly talking with Minnesota about Love are the Warriors, Celtics, and Bulls.

ESPN’s Chad Ford reported recently that the Bulls had made an offer of Taj Gibson, Tony Snell, and the 16th and 19th picks in the upcoming NBA draft for Kevin Love. If that is in fact accurate, which it sounds like it is, then the Bulls are not kidding around in trying to upgrade their roster. That is a substantial offer that they have placed on the table, and one that will be tough to beat for the Warriors and Celtics. Golden State can probably make a better offer, one that includes Clay Thompson, but are they willing to give up Thompson and David Lee for Love?

Rumors came out last week that Derrick Rose would prefer to play alongside Kevin Love than Carmelo Anthony. If that is the case, then I’m assuming he has enough say within the organization to force the management to make Kevin Love their number one priority. If it appears that they can’t get Love without having to trade away too much, then Carmelo will be next on their list. Again, it was just a rumor that Rose held this opinion, and I have no idea if it’s actually true.

What I would like to see is this:

I want the Bulls to amnesty Boozer, trade Dunleavy and possibly Snell if necessary, and then sign Carmelo Anthony. Anthony is one of the game’s most lethal offensive players, and I trust that Tom Thibodeau can make Anthony a better defensive player than he has been. The reason I would choose Anthony over Love is because with Anthony, you would still have Taj Gibson starting at power forward. Gibson has become an incredible defensive player who’s offensive game keeps improving. If you trade Gibson for Love, you’re upgrading at power forward, but you’re not getting the offensive firepower that you would get with Anthony. Bottom line, many teams would kill for Taj Gibson, so keeping him and adding Anthony to the lineup would spell disaster for the rest of the league.

The national media is making it sound as though the Bulls could very well end up with either Anthony or Love on the roster to start next season. It would be a HUGE disappointment if they strike out on both. Now is the time for the Bulls to do whatever they have to in order to win. Anything short of that is a failure by the management.

More Blackhawks rumors

130107_gq_trout_aAccording to a report from the Ottawa Sun, Ryan Kesler has made it clear to the Canucks’ management that he wants to be traded to either the Blackhawks or Penguins. I’ve talked on here before about the likelihood, or lack thereof, of Kesler actually becoming a Blackhawk, and now I guess I have to do it again since these rumors and reports keep surfacing.

Vancouver is entering a rebuild mode right now. They traded away Roberto Luongo this past spring, they fired their head coach John Tortorella after just one season, and they are really focusing a lot of their attention on their younger players and prospects with the hopes to build a new, younger and better team in the near future. Ryan Kesler is a 29 year old veteran on that team who wants out. If the Canucks are to trade him, which it looks like they certainly will, Vancouver is going to want good, young talent in return. If not that, then they’ll want a star player who will be a good role model to the younger guys on that team. Enter the names Patrick Sharp, Teuvo Teravainen, and Brandon Saad.

The Canucks will almost positively be seeking one of those three players from the Hawks in return for Ryan Kesler. The question is, is Kesler worth that price?

Odds are it would have to be Patrick Sharp leaving town to get Kesler simply for the money reasons. Sharp is due $5.9 million annually for three more seasons, so trading his contract would open up the cap space for Ryan Kesler and his five million dollar contract. With Ryan Kesler, the Hawks would be getting a 20-30 goals per season center, as well as a former Selke Trophy winner as the league’s best defensive forward. Kesler is also one of the more physical forwards in the league, which makes him that much tougher to play against. He would no doubt be as good of a fit for the Blackhawks’ number two center position as anyone. As for Sharp, the Hawks would be losing probably a more talented player than Kesler (especially offensively), a proven leader, and a two-time Stanley Cup champion and one-time Olympic gold medalist. Not to mention his presence would no longer be in that Blackhawks locker room, and I don’t think it’s any secret how well liked he is among the other Hawks players.

Clearly, it’s a tough call to make if you’re Stan Bowman as to whether or not it’s worth trading Sharp for Kesler. I think one thing the Hawks like about Kesler over Sharp is the fact that Kesler is just 29 years old, while Sharp is 32. This is one of those potential trades that has it’s definite positives and it’s definite negatives.

So what about Teravinen and Saad?

Originally it was believed that the Canucks wanted Brandon Saad as part of any deal that involved Ryan Kesler coming to the Hawks. Obviously, the word on the street is that the Blackhawks said “no way” and those talks ended. The only reason the Kesler rumors have picked up again is because it would appear Brandon Saad no longer has to be part of the deal. Some people have said that in place of Saad, the Canucks now want Teuvo Teravainen, the Hawks’ top prospect. While I’m sure they do want him, there’s no way they’re getting him. Even if the Hawks were willing to part ways with Teuvo or Saad, neither of those players has a large enough contract to open the cap space for Kesler (the cap space would be there right now, but not in two years after the Hawks re-sign Kane and Toews). And there’s no way the Hawks trade Saad/Teravainen and Sharp.

So that leaves Patrick Sharp as being the only real possible candidate to get traded for Kesler. I’m sure the Hawks would gladly trade Seabrook and his contract for Kesler, but I’m not sure the Canucks would go for that. The Blackhawks are looking for ways to get their young defensemen (Clendening, Dahlbeck, and Johns) into the NHL, and trading Seabrook or Oduya would open up that door.

Another name that has really come onto the scene recently is that of Jason Spezza. He wants out of Ottawa, and the Senators appear to be trying to grant his wish. Spezza is another center that would fit perfectly on the Hawks’ second line, and he might even come at a cheaper price. Still, a big contract would have to be moved from the Hawks to get him. I’d say the Kesler thing is a bit more likely than this one.

WINTER CLASSIC

7327531TSN’s Bob McKenzie confirmed yesterday that the Blackhawks will be Washington’s opponent in next year’s Winter Classic. This will be the second time that each of these teams has taken part in a Winter Classic, with Chicago having done so in 2009 at Wrigley Field, and Washington in 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

Personally, this matchup makes very little sense to me from a hockey standpoint. These two teams have zero rivalry between them, and the Capitals aren’t even a playoff team. The only reason Washington is in this game is because they have Alex Ovechkin and they’re an east coast team. The NHL always seems to need an east coast team in these big games just to be “safe” with their TV ratings.

If I’m a west coast team like Minnesota, Colorado, or St. Louis, I’m pretty hacked off at this point. All three of them just made the playoffs, and all three could fill up an outdoor stadium for a Winter Classic. Yet other teams are already playing in their second Winter Classic, some of them not even playoff teams. If you put them (Minnesota, Colorado, or St. Louis) up against a team like the Blackhawks, it would make for a much better game than a Hawks-Capitals one. The Hawks share a “rivalry” with all three of those teams, and the Blackhawks generate large TV ratings, which would make it a “safe” game for the NHL. But what do I know?

Thanks for reading.

Blackhawks’ trade rumors

130107_gq_trout_aOver the last week or so, a bunch of different names have been mentioned throughout the NHL as possible candidates for being traded. A good handful of those names are big name, superstar players, which makes the trade rumors this summer all that more intriguing. A couple of those names are current Blackhawks. It is not often that Stan Bowman looks to trade away any of his top players, and while this offseason may be no different, one cannot help but speculate as to what could potentially happen in Chicago this summer.

The past few days have been very interesting. For the first time since I can remember, I have heard the names Patrick Sharp and Brent Seabrook mentioned as possible players the Blackhawks may look to deal this offseason. Keep in mind that these are just rumors, meaning that there really isn’t any way to know whether or not the Hawks are actually looking to trade either of those guys. If those rumors are in fact accurate, then some conclusions can be drawn from them.

Patrick Sharp is due to make $5.9 million a year through the 2016-17 season. Brent Seabrook’s contract is for $5.8 million through the 2015-16 season. Trading away one of those players opens up a TON of cap space for the Blackhawks, allowing them to acquire a big name player to fill some gap on the team. The only way either Sharp or Seabrook is traded is if the Blackhawks know they will be getting a star player in return or via a separate trade.

So, who might the Blackhawks look to acquire this summer?

The names Joe Thornton and Ryan Kesler are popping up left and right in regards to the Blackhawks. Both players are supposedly being shopped by their current team, and both the Sharks and Canucks are going to want something of significance in return.

Thornton is due to make $6.75 million per year through the 2016-17 season, and Kesler is set to make $5 million for two more years. If the Hawks were to in fact go after one of these two, we would likely see Patrick Sharp going the other way, or to some other team to free up the cap space.

Will a massive trade like this actually go down for the Blackhawks? Probably not. I don’t see the Hawks parting ways with Sharp, and the only way Seabrook goes is if a big time defensemen is coming to the Hawks. As of right now, I’m unaware of any rumors involving big time d-men other than Seabrook…

A story surfaced shortly after the Olympics that Patrick Kane went to the Hawks’ management and basically said “If you can get Kesler, get him.” Again, who know’s if that actually happened. However, it is no secret that Kane and Kesler have developed some chemistry together via international play, and I would guess that Kane would welcome him with open arms to the second line on the Blackhawks, seeing as how they currently don’t have a true number two center. The bottom line is that I do believe there is some validity to the “Kesler to Chicago” rumors, but I’m not sure that the Blackhawks would be willing to part ways with what it would take to get him. AKA Patrick Sharp.

As for Joe Thornton, I don’t see the Hawks making a move at him. Obviously, he would be a huge boost to the team and would probably elevate Kane’s statistics to ridiculous numbers, but his salary and the amount it would take to get him seem to both be too high for the Hawks. That’s not to say the Blackhawks won’t inquire about him, but I don’t see them making a serious push.

Someone I haven’t mentioned yet, Johnny Oduya, could very well be dealt in the next month, however. He is entering the final season of his contract and is set to make $3.375 million this year. Trading him opens up the cap space to sign a defensemen or two, or to acquire some depth forwards via trades or free agency. I’d say the chances of Oduya being a Hawk next year are 50/50 at this point.

What will most likely happen is this: The Blackhawks will kick the tires on a couple of big names who are being shopped, but will refuse to give up what it will take to acquire such a player. They will fall back on the fact that they have Teuvo Teravainen waiting in the wings down in Rockford, and he will most likely get the best chance of anyone to occupy the Hawks’ second line center position come opening night. Johnny Oduya will be traded for a prospect or two and a draft pick, and the Blackhawks will fill his roster spot with a guy like Adam Clendening, Stephen Johns, or Klas Dahlbeck, all of whom are in Rockford and NHL-ready. The Blackhawks will also sign a depth defensemen or two, as well as a depth forward. The lack of talent on the Hawks’ fourth line was a huge reason as to why they were eliminated by the Kings. Rolling just three lines in the late stages of the NHL playoffs is not a good thing, and I am hopeful the Blackhawks will address that problem this summer.

Really, anything could theoretically happen between now and opening night of next season. Someone like me can only speculate as to what that may be.

So now what for the Blackhawks?

940-toews-jonathan-8colNow that the Blackhawks have come up just short of defending their Stanley Cup championship in this year’s playoffs, we can look ahead at what might take place on West Madison Street as the summer progresses. Last year, we were all talking about a Stanley Cup victory and how the team would remain mostly intact heading into the 2013-14 season. Unfortunately, this summer has a much different tune to it, even though you can’t really view this season as a failure.

The Hawks finished up this season with 107 points, which in the past had usually guaranteed you one of the top three spots in the conference heading into the playoffs. However, with many teams improving around the league and the parity growing, 107 points was good for third place in the Central Division this year. Third place in your own division doesn’t sound so good, but 107 points is nothing to cry about.

In the playoffs, the Hawks knocked off a Stanley Cup-favorite in the St. Louis Blues in the first round, and they eliminated the Wild for the second year in a row in the second round. Defeating the Blues was big, and beating the Wild to advance to the Conference Final for the fourth time in six years was even bigger. Then came the Kings, who beat the Hawks in overtime of Game 7 to put an end to hockey in Chicago, for now. Think about it, the Blackhawks were one lucky bounce, one shot away from winning the Western Conference again. That isn’t anything to get too upset over.

While the feeling around Chicago regarding the Blackhawks has turned into “Stanley Cup or bust” each year, that doesn’t mean the Hawks need to rebuild every time they don’t win the Cup. With that said, let’s look at what may happen this summer.

It is unlikely that you will see the following players wearing Blackhawks jerseys again next year: Michal Handzus, Sheldon Brookbank, Nikolai Khabibulin, and Peter Regin. They are all unrestricted free agents that the Blackhawks will most likely opt to not re-sign. Jeremy Morin, Antti Raanta, and Ben Smith are all restricted free agents that I believe the Blackhawks will try to lock up before they become available to other teams. If one of those three were to be let go, I’d put my money on it being Raanta, although that is very unlikely to happen.

Some other guys you might not see with the Blackhawks include Joakim Nordstrom, Johnny Oduya, Michal Rozsival, Nick Leddy, and Kris Versteeg. Nordstrom may be sent back down to Rockford next season, and the other four guys will likely be brought up in trade talks this summer. It is highly unlikely that the Hawks would trade away two of their defensemen, let alone three, so if one of them goes, I’m putting my money on Oduya as he is entering the last year of his contract and is due over $3 million next year. After him, Rozsival would be the most likely to go for similar reasons. Nick Leddy would bring back the most to the Hawks if he were dealt, but I don’t see them giving up on him. He is too talented to trade away at just 23 years old. As for Kris Versteeg, I wouldn’t trade him yet. I’d see how he performs during the first couple months of next season before trying to make a deal.

The Blackhawks will also be looking to add players to the roster. Most notably a second line center. My best guess here is that the second line center position is Teuvo Teravainen’s to lose. The Blackhawks may look to sign a center this off season who could play on the second line if need be, but I believe they want Teravainen to be that guy come opening night. I don’t see him not making the NHL roster, unless he has an absolutely terrible training camp and preseason.

I would imagine the Hawks will be looking to sign a depth defenseman or two. They probably won’t bring back Brookbank, and there is a 50/50 chance they trade Oduya or Rozsival in the next month or so. They acquired David Rundblad this past spring, who is a puck moving defenseman, and he might fill any void left on the d-pairings heading into next year. That leaves room for the Hawks to sign one or two depth defensemen who can rotate in and out of the lineup.

If they don’t sign any defensemen this summer, look for guys like Adam Clendening and Klas Dahlbeck to make the jump from Rockford to the NHL to begin the season.

Something else to keep an eye on is the contract situations with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane (both have one year left on their contract). Stan Bowman is now allowed to begin negotiating extensions with each player, and he has made it very clear that re-signing both Toews and Kane is priority number one this offseason. I would imagine that if they do both sign extensions, they will receive identical, or close to identical contracts again. It would be nice if they took discounts to allow Bowman to re-sign and sign other players, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Toews and Kane each ask for Evgeni Malkin-type money ($9.5 million per year).

A lot could potentially happen with the Blackhawks this summer. There is also the chance that not a lot happens either. They are still one of the best teams in hockey and will no doubt be a Stanley Cup contender again next season. Whether or not they make a serious push for the Cup, however, could depend on what Stan Bowman decides to do in the next couple months.

 

Game 7

bluejackets07-rgbjpg-8678ad1b3fbe2735For the second straight postseason, we’re going to witness a Game 7 featuring the Blackhawks. And, for the second straight year, the Blackhawks come into this one having won games 5 and 6 to force a seventh game. While their victory in Game 6 was about as exciting and nauseating as a game can get, it’s important to realize that all that win did was allow the Hawks to live another day and have a chance to win Game 7. Without a win tonight, Game 6 means jack squat.

Like I’ve done before, here’s what the Hawks need to do tonight in order to win and advance:

  • Corey Crawford needs to be great like he was for most of Game 6.
  • The Blackhawks’ forechecking has to be relentless. The Saad-Shaw-Kane line put on a forechecking clinic last game, so hopefully the other lines will follow their lead.
  • Look for the Kings to play Drew Doughty against Kane and his linemates. This will open up the door for the Toews line to possibly have some success. Tonight would be a good time for Bryan Bickell to show up again.
  • The Hawks cannot afford to take penalties. One or two are fine, because that’s hockey, but they can’t be stupid ones. If they do take penalties, the PK has to be good. They allowed another PP goal to the Kings in Game 6, and it almost cost the Blackhawks their season.
  • Brent Seabrook needs to forget about his whole postseason up to this point. He has not been good. The Hawks really need him to start playing like he has in past playoffs, like last year when he was a huge reason for them winning the Cup. The rest of the defense needs to be great as well. No defensive zone turnovers, no breakdowns in coverage, and no getting beat to rebounds in front of Crawford. The defense as a whole played maybe their best game of the series in Game 6 despite a few mistakes, but they’ll need to be better tonight.
  • The Blackhawks will most likely only roll three lines. The fourth line during the morning skate today was Versteeg-Handzus-Bollig. Those guys will be glued to the bench for most of the game, meaning the other three lines are going to have to somehow play 60 minutes without getting exhausted, much like last game.
  • Lastly, look for Patrick Sharp to have an effect on tonight’s game. He was everywhere in Game 6 and damn near scored a few times. Could he finally be heating up? I hope so.

As for how to handle another Game 7, do what you feel most comfortable doing. Don’t watch it with ANYONE who isn’t going to be 100% focused on the game. If need be, watch it by yourself to avoid any distractions or interruptions. That is what I’ll be doing.

Drew Doughty said following Game 5 that the Kings couldn’t let this series get to a seventh game. After Game 6, he said the Kings won’t lose Game 7. Sounds to me like he’s scrambling for things to say and trying to pick up his team while knowing there’s some doubt in that locker room. As for the Hawks, they have been extremely calm and business-like. I prefer their approach.

If you thought either of the past two games were going to make you vomit from being so nervous, then guess what? We get to go through all of that again in just a couple hours.

I can’t wait.