Blackhawks’ roster taking shape

10-171460575-smallLast week, we learned that Patrick Sharp had been traded away to the Dallas Stars along with top d-prospect Stephen Johns. In return, the Hawks received one of the Stars’ top defensemen in Trevor Daley, as well as winger Ryan Garbutt. Today, Johnny Oduya announced that he would not be returning to Chicago and will sign elsewhere sometime soon. Meanwhile, we are still waiting for more inevitable moves to be made. All things considered, however, it’s a safe bet to assume that most of the transactions that Stan Bowman will make this summer have already been completed.

Let’s first start by talking a bit about the loss of Patrick Sharp. We all knew he wasn’t going to be back next season, but that didn’t ease the pain of losing him. He was one of just a few guys to have played on the Hawks during the so called “dark ages,” as well as on the three Cup-winning teams. He saw it all in Chicago and witnessed one of the biggest turnarounds a sports franchise can have.

Sharp was an obvious fan favorite here for his play on the ice, as well as for his personality off the ice. He is one of the classiest players in the game.

As for what he meant to the Blackhawks, he was a 30-goal scorer just two seasons ago and one of the team’s most clutch playoff performers over the last seven seasons. He could play in all situations and was one of the top leaders in the dressing room, thus leading to his title as Assistant Captain.

Moving Sharp’s $5.9 million dollar cap hit was absolutely necessary for the Blackhawks, but that doesn’t make this any easier. It will be tough watching him play against the Hawks in the coming years, but so it goes. He’ll forever be a fixture in the history of this franchise.

Now, on to the other stuff.

In return for Sharp, the Hawks got Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt. Daley figures to be a part of the team’s top four defensemen next season now that we know Oduya is gone. For those unaware, Daley is a step above Oduya in terms of his offense (16 goals last season), but he’s a step or two below Oduya defensively. Whereas Johnny Oduya saw heavy minutes on the Hawks’ penalty kill, Trevor Daley will most likely not. That’s not to say he can’t learn a thing or two from the Hawks’ coaching staff, but it’s a safe guess. He will, however, more than likely see lots of powerplay time.

Ryan Garbutt, when in the lineup, which may or may not be every night, will almost certainly see all of his time spent on the bottom two lines of the Blackhawks. He’s a gritty player somewhat like Desjardins and Shaw, although with less skill than Shaw. It’s possible that he will be battling it out with other players for a consistent role in the lineup.

As of right now, here’s how the Blackhawks lines may look:

Shaw-Toews-Hossa

Panarin-Anisimov-Kane

Bickell-Teravainen-Dano

Garbutt/Versteeg-*Kruger*-Desjardins

Keith-Seabrook

Hjalmarsson-Daley

TVR-Rundblad

A couple of things to mention here. First of all, Kruger has yet to re-sign with the Hawks. The odds of that happening increase by a ton if Bowman can figure out a way to trade Versteeg and/or Bickell to free up more cap space. Trading either one of those guys on their own may be next to impossible to accomplish, so another player off the current roster may have to be included just to move one of those guys. Needless to say, a lot could still possibly change regarding the Hawks’ forwards.

Defensively, I don’t see TVR and Rundblad being the fifth and sixth defensemen to start the season. I’ve got to believe that, again, Bowman is working to move someone and their contract to free up enough space to not only re-sign Kruger, but maybe sign a depth defensemen as well. Some names have floated around as being targets of the Hawks, but I won’t even mention those because a lot would have to happen before Bowman even begins negotiating a contract with one of them.

As for the lines themselves, I would think that Joel Qunneville would like to at least start the season by having Dano and Anisimov together on the same line as they are already familiar with each other from their time in Columbus. Placing them with Patrick Kane seems to make sense at the moment, but that would force Dano into moving over to the left wing where is hasn’t played much. This means we could see him end up skating on the right side of the Hawks’ third line.

If Dano does in fact begin on the third line, we’ll most likely see Artemi Panarin playing left wing alongside Anisimov and Kane. Panarin has an incredible skill set, which should blend nicely with Kane. He also speaks Russian, as does Anisimov. Whether that plays a factor into things, who knows… Of course, this is all assuming Panarin makes the NHL roster.

I’ve also got Teravainen starting as the team’s third line center. It’s no secret that the Hawks would like to see him evolve into an NHL centerman, so my best guess is that they’ll start the season with him there, or possibly even on the second line centering Kane. Marko Dano can also play center, but it’s doubtful that both he and Teravainen will be centers on this team at the same time.

Andrew Shaw seems like the best bet to begin the season at left wing with Toews and Hossa.

There’s still a lot that could potentially happen with the Hawks via trades, which makes predicting their lines a bit challenging. One thing is for sure though, and that’s that we’ll be seeing lots of new faces wearing the indian head next season.

Blackhawks deal Saad to Columbus

10-171460575-smallIn a completely unexpected and stunning move, the Blackhawks have traded Brandon Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for four players and a 2016 fourth round draft pick. Stan Bowman had stated on more than one occasion leading up to this summer that his number one priority was to re-sign Saad this offseason and that he was confident he could do so. Unfortunately, it is now clear that the two sides could not come to an agreement on a contract, thus leading to the trade.

Obviously this one hurts, a lot, but let’s break it down here and really take a look at what this trade means.

First off, it is being reported that Saad was looking for a deal worth about $6.5 million per year for 6 years. If that is in fact true, then there’s no way the Blackhawks could have signed him to that deal without having to dismantle their roster. With the Hawks as tight against the salary cap as they are, two million dollars is a lot of money. If Saad was looking for four million per year, then he doesn’t get traded. This isn’t like the MLB where a team can sign players to huge deals left and right. In this case, what seems to be not a huge sum of money (two million), is in fact just that.

Secondly, with Saad reportedly looking for that type of contract and the Hawks not in a position to agree on that, they had to deal him away before he became a restricted free agent at midnight tonight. If he were still on the Hawks’ roster at 12:00am tonight, any team in the league could then contact Saad and sign him to an offer sheet, which would likely have been $6.5 million for 6 years. If that had happened, the Blackhawks would have been left with two options:

  1. Match whatever offer sheet Saad signed, thus forcing them to make possibly even more trades than we were all expecting and putting them in an unfavorable position for the near future.
  2. Don’t match the offer sheet and receive a handful of draft picks in return that may or may not pan out to be good NHL players.

Given that situation, Stan Bowman and the Hawks chose to trade Saad now before he became an RFA.

Here’s what they got in return:

  • Artem Anisimov: Anisimov (27 years old) is a solid two-way player who can be placed at center or on the wing, making him a valuable asset to the lineup. He registered 27 points (7 goals, 20 assists) last season with Columbus, but my immediate thought is that those numbers will quickly rise now that he’s in a star-studded lineup with the Hawks. His ability to play center and win faceoffs makes losing Richards and/or Vermette easier to handle.
  • Marko Dano: This guy is just 20 years old and is viewed as one of the better prospects in the game. He has some tremendous upside and could very well end up being a big player on the Hawks for many years. As a winger, he could find himself on the Hawks’ third line next year.
  • Jeremy Morin: No, that is not a misprint. Morin is back with the Hawks after being traded away to Columbus this past December. If you’ve forgotten, Morin is a hard nosed winger who isn’t afraid of battling along the boards or standing in front of the net. He has shown some good potential at the NHL level, but hasn’t been able to put it all together yet. Whether or not he starts in NHL or AHL next year remains to be seen. That’s if he doesn’t get traded again before the season starts.
  • Corey Tropp: Tropp is a 25 year old right winger who tallied just 8 points with the Blue Jackets in 61 games last year. And to be honest, that’s all I really know about him.

In addition to those four players, the Blackhawks also received a 2016 fourth round pick from Columbus.

When you look at the return for Brandon Saad in this deal, there’s reason for optimism. Artem Anisimov is without question a nice pickup and could be quite valuable for the Hawks immediately. He ensures that the Hawks will have some nice depth at center for next season, as they already have Toews, Teravainen, Kruger (assuming he gets re-signed), and Phillip Danault, who is expected to see more NHL time. This also means that we may not see Brad Richards or Vermette back. It wasn’t likely that Vermette would have been back anyway, but Richards seemed to be a real possibility. Him coming back is still not out of the question though.

Marko Dano, as I mentioned, figures to be part of the Hawks’ future for sure. He has some real goal scoring talent and is just 20 years old. When you add in the fact that they already have an incredible talent in Teuvo Teravainen, who is also just 20, the Hawks up and coming players could make them quite scary again, and soon.

Now here’s another angle.

It’s possible that the Hawks turn around and trade Morin, Tropp, or even Dano (not likely) along with Bickell or Sharp to get a bigger return. I personally can’t see Morin playing another game for Joel Quenneville, who clearly doesn’t like what Morin brings on the ice, so maybe he’s the best bet of the three to get traded again. Whether this theory holds true, who know? It’s just a theory.

What’s not a theory is that the Hawks do still have to trade Sharp and/or Bickell to open up more cap space. If they can trade both, which would be ideal, they could afford to go after some free agents that they probably couldn’t have before trading Saad. They could also seriously look at bringing back Oduya and Richards.

So while none of us are happy to see Saad go, and I’m still stunned by it, the more you look into to it, the more it appears that this was a move that needed to be made. And if Bowman can deal Sharp and Bickell, that would allow the Hawks to makes some moves to help them in the long run.

While it’s easy to be pessimistic right now, there is still a lot of reason for optimism when you look at who the Hawks just acquired and what they could still potentially do this summer.