Welcome to Draft week Blackhawks fans! For the first time in awhile, Stan Bowman will be drafting in the top 10 for the first time as general manager of the Blackhawks. It’s weird, but justified. The Blackhawks missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008 this past season and many wondered what direction they would go next. Joel Quenneville and Stan Bowman are back but is it their last chance? The Blackhawks believe in their core and are gearing up for another run at Lord Stanley. With a significant amount of cap space expected, the Blackhawks should be in a good spot to be competitive in the Western Conference.
As for their draft pick, the Blackhawks hold the 8th pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and will have the opportunity to land one of the best prospects in this class. They also hold the 27th pick which was acquired from Nashville for Ryan Hartman. Brady Tkachuk and Oliver Wahlstrom are two names to keep an eye on at 8. Both are forwards and even though many think the Blackhawks should go defense, Bowman has said they will go best player available. As for the 27th pick, the Blackhawks could move that along with someone on the roster for a top four defensemen. They need help on the blue line and bringing back the same guys as last year is not going to get it done. Henri Jokiharju, the 27th pick by the Blackhawks in 2017, recently signed a three-year entry level contract but he’s got a tough hill to climb if he wants to crack the opening night roster. So the Blackhawks could use a polished veteran, preferably with a affordable contract, to step in right away. Report have circled that the Blackhawks have talked with the Hurricanes about Justin Faulk but there is nothing new on that front. Everyone knows about Erik Karlsson from the Senators but his price may be steep. The Blackhawks best bet is to go after free agents such as Calvin de Haan and Ian Cole. de Haan is a great shot blocker and early reports say he will not be back with the Islanders. Cole has Stanley Cup experience with Penguins and will not have a hefty price tag.
Moving onto the forwards in free agency, everyone knows about John Tavares. The Islanders are going to do everything to try and bring him back. The Islanders have had little playoff success since drafting Tavares, but they have the upper hand money-wise. The abundance of cap space, over $28 million according to Cap Friendly, could make Tavares the second highest paid player behind Connor McDavid. The Blackahwks will not have that kind of money but they can makes moves to free up as much space as possible and make their sales pitch. The thought of Tavares in an Indian head sweater yells another Stanley Cup. Expect the Blackhawks to be active in the sweepstakes for the best player on the market this offseason.
Another player the Blackhawks are expected to go after is James van Riemsdyk. The 2nd overall pick in 2007 is coming off a 36 goal season, a career high. Adding van Reimsdyk to an already strong forward group would be huge. His price tag will be much more reasonable than John Tavares which leads me to believe the Blackhawks may be more connected to him.
If the Blackhawks miss out on these players, very likely, expect them to ride with their current group. A few minor moves could be made like bringing back Tommy Wingles. He’s a perfect fourth line center who brings aggression and has enough skill to crack the top six if needed.
According to Jay Zawaski of 670 the Score Chicago, he’s been told that it’s a priority for the Blackhawks to move Marian Hossa’s contract this offseason. Hossa has offcicially announced he will not play hockey again due to a skin disorder from his hockey pads. The Blackhawks placed him on long term IR last season, saving money toward the cap. But with the plans this summer, it would be very beneficial to trade his contract to get his $5.275 AAV completely off the books. There will be plenty of teams who the Blackhawks can talk to and take on the contract to reach the salary cap floor. I’d say it’s only a matter of days until Hossa is off the books.
A: I’d say the best way to spend that money is going after Tavares and van Riemsdyk. The Blackhawks can show those guys anything they want on their visit to Chicago but money talks. Also, if the Blackhawks do indeed trade Artem Anisimov, that free’s up even more cap space to go chase one of the top free agents this offseason.
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