So, it looks like this could be another cruel summer for the Hawks. Not as bad as last year’s cup win and mass exodus, mind you, but there’s still a few cuts to be made to an ever-adapting team, and by the looks of things, Hawkey Nation won’t have to wait too long for another visit from Lord Stanley. I take a look at some of the more simpler likely scenarios that face the Hawks this off-season*.
* obviously this doesn’t allow for trades or anything of an unpredictable nature.
Starting off with just a guide: Names at the top, cap hit at the bottom (via CapGeek). RFAs are indicated in green, UFAs are in red, with what I’ll hazard a guess at what their salary will be, should they be granted a new contract before free agency begins in July.
First things first, let’s take out of the equation people that aren’t likely to be re-signed.
Turco’s the first out the door. He was only brought in as a sort-of stabiliser until Crawford adjusted to the NHL, and he done that pretty damn quickly, ousting Turco from the #1 spot pretty early in the season. So now that he’s not needed, and with Alexandre Salak coming back from Europe to share crease duties, that’s goalies covered, at least at NHL level. At AHL level, both Hannu Toivonen and Alec Richards’ deals are up this year, Toivonen being UFA and Richards RFA. Given how little I know about how they’ll manage things at Icehogs level, I don’t know if either/both of them will be re-signed, or whether Mac Carruth or Kent Simpson will be given a contract to replace one of them. Either way, it won’t affect the Blackhawks’ main 2 choices unless (God forbid) injury strikes, and rules one of them out. In which case, maybe keeping a hold of Toivonen if he can be re-signed for around the same money ($550k) as being cheap and experienced enough to help break in rookies at AHL level.
Also out the door: Ryan Johnson and Fernando Pisani.
I’ll make it known, I’m a fan of Ryan Johnson. He does his job for the Blackhawks, and does it really well: win faceoffs. That’s exactly why he was brought in and that’s exactly what he’s done. Brought in mid-season as a short term veteran acquisition to help win draws, after the departures of John Madden and Colin Fraser in the summer, I don’t believe the hawks were ever looking to keep him beyond this season, thus explaining why he was only offered one year on his contract. Since Frolik’s come in well since he was acquired for Jack Skille, and with Kruger now on the roster after finishing his year in Sweden, he’s now surplus to requirements, at least when Dave Bolland comes back next season, and we have our 4 centers we need.
Fernando Pisani is in a similar position, veteran help to cover until some of the younger talent is ready to make the step up to the big league. Considering that Jeremy Morin and Ben Smith have been given a few glimpses of NHL action this season, I’d wager that Quenneville will probably be giving one of them a spot on the main roster next year, pending training camp performances, or keep them on the Rockford shuttle-bus to save on cap space instead of being healthy scratches in the press box most nights.
These are my immediate picks from AHL level who I think would be able to provide any injury cover over the season, if called upon. Just so you can see the numbers and make comparisons to others, if they ever need chopping and changing. The defenders seem more of an unlikely option, and you’ll see why in just a moment, but the forwards anyway seem more likely to fill in. Well, maybe not Kyle Beach for that amount of money, but he’s listed anyway just for reference.
Now, the main event. I’ll be presenting 4 scenarios. The first one being unlikely for an obvious reason, which I’ll get to, but the other 3 seem viable enough that they could happen. As per the Committed Indians article I read earlier, I’m using a salary cap of $62M as a basis. Could be more (likely), could be less (doubt it). For the sake of argument, every RFA on the Blackhawks gets re-signed. From what I’ve seen all season, they’re all quality players, and I’ll be gutted if any of them leave.
This is the one that I don’t think is likely to happen. Mainly because, going on my estimated pay rises, this will put us slightly over the salary cap if things stay as they are. Now, a few notes I have to make about this that I perhaps didn’t consider when I made this spreadsheet for myself.
- Nick Leddy’s contract is 2-way, which gives him free movement to the Icehogs and back. Now, while it seems like he’s going to be on the Hawks for the rest of this season, and the early part of next season (depending on whether or not Hendry either recoveres from injury, or is re-signed), this could be a huge factor next year should everyone be re-signed.
- Jordan Hendry’s contract is (as far as I know) also 2-way. If he gets offered a new contract at the end of the season, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll want a 1-way since he’s established himself on the team. However with Campoli in, who indeed may not be re-signed, since he was essentially Hendry’s injury cover, he may look for regular ice time elsewhere.
Which leads us to…
HENDRY ISN’T RE-SIGNED
This seems pretty viable if you ask me, and is the most likely of the 4 I’m presenting to happen. As Hendry’s been either a healthy scratch a lot of the time when the Hawks’ bill of health was clean, or even at times moved to the wing during an injury crisis, chances are that the guy’ll be looking for a more stable position on a team that can guarantee him some good TOI on a 2nd/3rd pairing. Since the Hawks bagged Campoli after Hendry got injured, and Leddy’s establishment as a team regular, it seems that Boynton’s release to the Flyers will become a moot point in the race for those 3rd pairing positions. Scott’s already contracted, and can play either D or wing if necessary, so the extra (projected) $800k on the salary cap may not be something Stan Bowman wants further down the stretch next season if there’s another injury worry close to the deadline and there’s not enough room to facilitate any serious movement.
KOPECKY ISN’T RE-SIGNED
This option I honestly don’t think will happen. Kopecky’s been doing really well for himself since Quenneville put together the Czechoslovakia line with Hossa and Frolik, but next season, with 4 centers in place, I’d wager that the Hawks will want to keep the wingers playing on the wings at all times, and utilising centers for making plays, getting to the dirty areas and, importantly, winning faceoffs.
A point put forward by Tab in the comments on his original article, was that Kopecky would be able to get a matched-or-better deal from almost any other team in the league, and this situation is made to factor this in.
KOPECKY AND HENDRY BOTH LEAVE
Unlikely, but believable at the same time. Kopecky gets his improved contract and 2nd line minutes elsewhere, Hendry looks to not be a healthy scratch elsewhere. Leddy comes up full-time, we still have 6 defenders, Scott’s reserved as a utility guy for matches when he’s needed, and we still have roughly a million in wiggle room for mid-season trades or free agents.
So yeah guys, I don’t know about you, but from where I’m sitting, there’s certainly not a lot to worry about here next season, barring a bunch of the RFAs decide not to pen new deals. Next year’s playoffs should be the target again, and with this side as it stands, it’s still a very achievable aim. So, don’t be reaching for that panic button yet.
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