*All information current as of July 13, 2015.
Yes Hawk fans, change is coming. The team that takes the ice on October 15, 2015 to defend our Stanley Cup championship will look markedly different than the team that won it. Unfortunately, in the era of the salary cap, it is nearly impossible for an organization to keep that magical chemistry whole for consecutive years. The days of winning four or five Stanley Cups in a row are long gone.
It is possible to keep a core group of players together to rebuild around as the Hawks have done with success in the past six years. Smart money management has enabled them to be the closest thing to a “dynasty” with three Cups in those six years.
First move comes quickly
The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup on June 15. The first move was made 12 days later. 12 days! The thrill hadn’t even waned when Hawks goalie Antii Raanta (26) got the call that he was going to the New York Rangers for forward Ryan Haggerty (22). At the moment, Haggerty is listed on roster for the Rockford Ice Hogs, the Hawks farm team in the AHL. The move is questionable from the standpoint that it seriously thins the Hawk’s depth at goalie.
The NHL Draft
Seven players were drafted by the Hawks this year, the oldest being 19. It remains to be seen if there will be immediate contributions or if they all be sent to the ECHL or the AHL for further development.
A quick look at the draftees;
- Graham Knott (18), L/W, 54th overall pick. Strong, scoring forward. Has good knowledge of the game that could make him a contender for the big show next year.
- Dennis Gilbert (18), D, 91st overall pick. Currently committed to the University of Notre Dame.
- Ryan Shea (18), D, 121st overall pick. Currently committed to Northeastern University.
- Radovan Bondra (18), R/W, 151st pick overall. Currently in Slovakia.
- Roy Radke (18), R/W, 164th pick overall. ECHL or AHL bound.
- Joni Tuulola (19), (D), 181st pick overall. Currently in Finland.
- John Dahlstrom (18), R/W, 211th pick overall. Currently in Sweden.
Let’s take a look at the players that we know are staying by way of contract extensions and those that are still in limbo.
- David Runblad (24), D. Showed signs of maturing and improvement as season went on. Can make himself a regular on the blue line with hard work leading into training camp.
- Michael Leighton (34), G. Journeyman goalie in the AHL with limited NHL experience in his 11 year career. Provides experience for the Ice Hogs, but his ability to jump to the NHL if needed is questionable.
- Andrew Desjardins (28), C. What can you say about a guy that is only five years into his career, gets traded and wins a Stanley Cup and is so enthralled with the organization he takes a pay cut to stay two more years. Very Classy. Desjardins will make a little over $800 thousand in each of those two years. A tough center that is not afraid to get into those tight spots proved to be a great move for the Hawks.
- Trevor Van Riemsdyk (23), D. Started his rookie year in great fashion until he broke his kneecap blocking a slap shot. Signed a two year extension through 2016-17. With a chance to show his real talent in the upcoming season he will have a big day waiting at the end of his contract.
- Marcus Kruger (25), C. 2009 draftee of the Hawks has developed into one of the league’s top defensive forwards. A role player that has proven himself to be indispensable on the penalty kill unit and in shutting downs the other team’s top players. Currently in negotiations with the Hawks. The two sides are said to be doing everything possible to get a deal done. Let’s hope so.
- Johnny Oduya (33), D. Patiently waiting for the Hawks to finish with Kruger before he starts looking for a better deal elsewhere. Has proven himself to be an excellent second unit defenseman. Is worth at least a three year deal at $1.5 million per year. Another player we would like to see stay for a little while longer.
Going, going, gone…
The biggest deal so far this off season has been the trading of Patrick Sharp (33) L/W to the Dallas Stars & Brandon Saad (22) F, Alex Broadhurst (22), F and Michael Pilotta (22), D to the Columbus Blue Jackets for four players and a draft pick.
- Patrick Sharp (33), L/W. Proven veteran with three Stanley Cups was traded to the Dallas Stars after coming off a not so productive season that was filled with rumors of off-ice antics. His current contract signed in 2012 is a five year deal worth $29.9 million with a $9 million signing bonus (broke up across four years). Drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2001, Sharp has 526 points (249 G, 277 A) in 745 regular season games.
- Brandon Saad. Unfortunately, there was no way the Hawks could give the kid a fair deal at this time. The money was just not available. Drafted by the Hawks in 2011, Saad quickly proved himself to be worthy of the big leagues. In 208 games he has 126 points (52 G, 74 A) and is on his way to being one the premier two-way power forwards in the NHL. Very deserving of the six-year, $36 million contract he was given by the Blue Jackets.
- Antoine Vermette (32), C. Acquired by the Hawks on February 28, 2015 in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes, Vermette did not register a point in the regular season for the Hawks. He proved his worth in the playoffs as a steady center and scoring two game-winning goals. Vermette couldn’t his the door fast enough and returned to the ‘Yotes with a two year deal worth $7.5 million.
- Brad Richards (35), C. Signed as free agent prior to the 2014-15 season. He knew the Hawks had what it takes to win. After all his talk about wanting to stay, he hit the door running for a one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings worth $3 million ($4 million w/incentives). A future Hall of Famer, Richards has won two Stanley Cups (Tampa Bay and Chicago). In 15 years Richards has 288 goals and 904 points in 1,058 regular season games and 34 goals, 104 points in 146 playoff games.
- Peter Regin (29), C. Signed with Jokerit (KHL) on 5/11/15
- Anders Nilsson (25), G. Minor league goalie traded to the Edmonton Oilers.
- Artem Anisimov (27), F. Acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Saad deal. A talented forward that, in the right situation can bring a lot to the table. Looks like this might be the right situation. Hawks already signed him to a five year extension through 2020-21. Has 192 in 408 NHL games.
- Jeremy Morin (24), F. Re-acquired in the Saad deal. Morin is a scrappy player that likes the front of the net and is not afraid of the corners. Did not get a proper chance in his first stint with the Hawks because of depth issues. This time should be different.
- Marko Dano, (20), F. Also, from the Saad deal. Thirty five games of NHL experience. A young, talented player that has great potential.
- Corey Tropp (25), F. Saad deal as well. Drafted in 2009 by the Buffalo Sabres, Tropp has amassed 27 points in 148 NHL games. The question mark of the deal for the Hawks.
- Liam Coughlin (20), C-L/W. Acquired from Edmonton in Nilsson trade. Scheduled to play for the University of Vermont in 2015-16 season.
Everyone knows it is coming, or at least they think it is. Patrick Sharp or Bryan Bickel. All the trade talk centers around these two forwards.
- Bryan Bickel (29), L/W. A strong forward that is willing to go at it with the best of them to protect his teammates. Bickel is not afraid to get in front of the net or dig in the corners. Drafted by the Hawks in 2004, he has played in all three Stanley Cup seasons for the Hawks. After his breakout play in the 2012-13 playoffs Bickel was given a four year contract extension valued at $16 million with a $1 million signing bonus. Bickel’s lackluster performance this past season has provided plenty of fuel for trade talk.
Earl ‘Duke’ Filskov
http://dukesblotter.com & @dukesblotter