Blackhawks

Blackhawks Blog: Nick Leddy Has Been Traded To The Islanders

Today, the Hawks traded Nick Leddy and AHL goalie Kent Simpson to the Islanders for defensemen Ville Pokka and TJ Brennan and goalie Anders Nilsson. Nilsson’s in the KHL right now and Brennan’s likely headed to Rockford. Pokka could be worth watching, though. He’s only 20 and has some real potential. It will be interesting to see how he fares in America after playing the last four years in the Liiga in Finland.

While, at face value, this package may not seem all that great in exchange for Leddy, this was a move that needed to be made. The Hawks were over the cap, and my guess was that it was either going to be Leddy or Versteeg that got traded in order for the Hawks to get under the cap. Since Versteeg had such a good camp, it’s not surprising to see Leddy get traded, especially with so many promising defensemen in the system.

Go Hawks! (Only 5 more days)

Follow me on Twitter @KSchroeder2325.

Blackhawks Blog: Toews and Kane Sign 8-Year Extensions

Today, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane signed 8-year extensions with the Hawks that carry a cap hit of $10.5 million every year, making them the highest-paid players in the NHL. $21 million a year for Toews and Kane sounds like a lot, but, remember, the cap will be going up. Really, $21 million a year for two of the best players in hockey is quite a deal. After this, I can almost forgive Stan Bowman for overpaying Crawford. (I’d be happy with Crawford at $5 million a year, and the Toews and Kane deals came in a combined million under what I was expecting, so I guess it’s even financially.) The Hawks got the centerpieces of the franchise locked up, and between the cap going up, and the strength of the farm system, this team should be a legitimate championship contender for the next decade.

Follow me on Twitter @KSchroeder2325.

Blackhawks Blog: 2014-15 Should Be a Tryout for both Crawford and Raanta

Let me start off this blog by saying that while I know I’m probably Corey Crawford’s biggest critic, I’m going to be completely rational here. So, yeah, that last goal in game 7 wasn’t Crawford’s fault since he couldn’t even see the puck. If anyone truly deserves blame there, it was Nick Leddy. However, there were a lot of goals in the 2014 playoffs that were Crawford’s fault. He needs to get better, plain-and-simple. Especially since he’s about to start a six-year, $36 million contract.

Bowman overpaid Crawford. Period. As much as I defended him while other fans were criticizing him for not making any big moves like trading for Ryan Kesler, I can’t defend Bowman on this one. And I don’t want to hear that Crawford’s not overpaid because he was great in the playoffs last year (which I’ll admit he was) and the market on goalies was going up last season. What Bowman should have done was make a firm offer. If Crawford says no, fine. He’s still under contract for one more year. Make him earn the big deal in the 2013-14 season. Of course, hindsight is 20-20, but the fact that Crawford’s cap hit with his new contract is the same as Ryan Miller’s, $200,000 higher than Jonathan Quick’s, and $1.5 million higher than Jaroslav Halak’s is kind of hard to swallow.

Toews and Kanes’ contracts are up after the 2014-15 season and Bowman has guaranteed that the Blackhawks will lock them up long-term. Toews and Kane asked for $12 million a year, but I’m guessing the number will end up around $11 million a year. In any case, those are two pretty big cap hits. Now, while the cap will likely continue to increase every year, it’s worth noting that the cap for 2014-15 ended up being about $2 million lower than expected and the Hawks are currently over it. It seems like a safe bet to me that Kris Versteeg will be gone before the season starts. The writing was on the wall once the Hawks signed Brad Richards. Also, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the Hawks trade Nick Leddy. He wasn’t great this year and this would free up another $2.7 million and a spot on the NHL roster for Adam Clendening.

With this cap space, the Hawks should sign Martin Brodeur. Now, I know I’m biased, as Marty is my all-time favorite NHL player. But hear me out. If the Hawks can sign Brodeur for $2 million or less, he’d make a really good backup/insurance policy. I know this means the Hawks would be committing $8 million in salary to two goalies with question marks and keeping Raanta off the NHL roster, but this would give the Hawks a backup with experience, which, let’s be honest, they could have used in the playoffs. Also, this gives Raanta the chance to be the starter for a full season in America. Make these moves and re-evaluate the goalie situation next year. Ideally, with a new goalie coach and the chance to learn from the best to ever play the position, Corey Crawford makes the leap and becomes and elite goalie. Also, with a full season as a starter in the U.S. under his belt, it’s not out of the question that Raanta makes a big leap and proves himself ready to be an NHL starter. I was thrilled by what I saw from him when he was starting consistently when Crawford was hurt. During that stretch, Raanta had a .910 SV% and a 2.25 GAA. Those numbers aren’t far away from Crawford’s numbers (.917 SV%, 2.26 GAA). It’s also not out of the question to think that the Hawks may be able to sign Raanta to a long-term deal cheap next year.

Best-case scenario: Both Crawford and Raanta make big leaps. From there, they weigh Crawford’s value (skill for the price) vs. Raanta’s and a) trade one for them; Crawford to free up cap space or Raanta for a propect, or b) start Crawford, use Raanta as the backup and weigh both values again in 2016.

Worst-case scenario: Neither make the leap, and the Hawks have to consider trading Crawford for whatever they can get and pursuing a cheaper goalie. Raanta serves as the backup.

What will actually happen: Neither make huge leaps, but both get better. Do I see Crawford ever being an elite goalie? No. But I don’t think anyone will mind his cap hit too much if he improves his game, gives up fewer bad goals, and is good enough for the Hawks to win a couple more Cups and be a consistent championship contender throughout his time in Chicago.

Follow me on Twitter @KSchroeder2325.

Blackhawks Blog: Hawks Sign Brad Richards

Today, the Hawks signed former Rangers center Brad Richards to a one year deal worth $2 million. No, he’s not the superstar some were hoping the Hawks would trade for to be their second-line center, but as I’ve said before, such a trade would have been unnecessary.

To me, this is a fantastic move for the Blackhawks. To get Richards for $2 million is an absolute steal, although it means that Versteeg is likely gone. Also, Richards is a good fit for the team right now. When Stan Bowman said that Teuvo Teräväinen was off-limits in trade discussions, it seemed pretty clear that he sees Teräväinen as the long-term second-line center. So he signs Richards, who along with Andrew Shaw and Ben Smith, should be more than enough to fill the spot until Teräväinen’s ready to take over. (And when I say “take over,” I mean take over. To any Hawks fans still upset that the team didn’t trade for someone like Kesler or Spezza, don’t worry – Turbo can play.)

Follow me on Twitter @KSchroeder2325.

Blackhawks Blog: Kesler Ends Up In Anaheim

Former Canucks center Ryan Kesler was traded to Anaheim on Saturday. While the Hawks were interested in Kesler and were in the hunt for Kesler up until the end, they ended up missing out on him as he became a Duck.

To be honest, I’m not so sure the Hawks needed to trade for Kesler. Also, while I know that Patrick Sharp had a less-than-spectacular postseason, I don’t understand why everyone seems to be in such a hurry to trade him. As far as needing a second-line center is concerned, the Blackhawks have guys on the roster that can fill the hole now and guys in the system that can be the long-term solution. Really, it’s kind of ironic that people want to trade Sharp after a bad postseason, but forget that the line of Saad-Shaw-Kane worked really well in the postseason. With that being the case, if I’m Stan Bowman, I’m not giving up a lot for a center that we hope Teuvo Teräväinen would make expendable by next year, anyway.

Also, I’m curious as to who the “we need Kesler” crowd thought was going to replace Sharp at left wing in the top 6. And don’t say Bickell. There’s a reason he was on the third line for pretty much the entire regular season.

Bottom line – those who want an entire overhaul of the team need to remember how close the Hawks were to repeating as Stanley Cup Champions last season, and how good the farm system is.

Follow me on Twitter @KSchroeder2325.

Blackhawks Blog: Brandon Bollig Traded to Calgary

Today, the Blackhawks traded forward Brandon Bollig to the Flames for a third-round draft pick. With the salary cap coming in lower than expected, this was a move that needed to be made. Bollig’s cap hit is going to be $1.25 million for each of the next three years. The Hawks need to lower their team salary, and with that being the case, you can’t really justify spending $1.25 million of a fourth-line forward whose primary utility is as an enforcer, especially when you’ve got Jeremy Morin on the team.

Anyway, thanks for everything Bollig, especially for laying out that dirtbag Roussel.

Follow me on Twitter @KSchroeder2325.

Blackhawks vs. Wild Game 6 Preview

(Photo: Bill Smith/NHL/Getty Images)

 

After 2 abysmal games in Minnesota, the Blackhawks rebounded and took game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals 2-1 on Sunday night in Chicago. Looking ahead to tonight’s game 6 in Minnesota, here’s what I think the Hawks need to do to put this series away:

1. Get shots on net.

Honestly, it really doesn’t matter where the shots are coming from. Don’t be afraid to take a bad shot; even if the puck doesn’t go in, a rebound that the Wild have to chase is a good thing. The Wild have played great defense the last few games and are dangerous when they’re able to get set in their lanes and make passes difficult. While Bryzgalov has gotten a little better with his rebound control as the series has gone on, he’s still far from great. So shoot the puck and make the Wild leave their lanes to chase the rebound. Make the most of those second-chance opportunities. Make Bryzgalov beat you and stop letting the Wild hide him.

2. Get to the net.

Look, I’m not a huge fan of Andrew Shaw. He takes a lot of really stupid penalties and those can kill you in the playoffs. However, this is where the Hawks really miss Shaw. His net-front presence is the best on the team. They really miss him on the power play. This is where Bickell needs to step up. He got to the front of the net on the first goal in game 5 and needs to keep that up in game 6. Can’t let Bryzgalov get comfortable.

3. Step it up on defense.

Look, even the most die-hard Crawford defenders have to admit that he was not good in games 3 and 4. The defense needs to step up and limit Minnesota’s opportunities.

My lines:

29-19-88

10-28-81

20-12-23

11-26-16

I’d load up the front line. Put Toews and Kane together with Bickell at the net setting screens. After the way Regin played in game 5, I’d keep him in the lineup in Minnesota. Also, on  defense, I’d go with Roszival and Brookbank as the 3rd pairing. I like the way Brookbank’s played in this series. Both Leddy and Roszival have struggled in recent games, but I’m giving Roszival the nod.

Go Hawks!

Follow me on Twitter @KSchroeder2325.