Blackhawks quiet on Day 1 of NHL Draft


Blackhawks quiet on Day 1 of NHL Draft

SUNRISE, Fla. — For teams with first-round selections, it was an active night. Some hoped they found players to help rebuild their teams while others selected those they hope are part of current success.

But for the Blackhawks, who have to do some dismantling at some point, it was very quiet.

General manager Stan Bowman said he had “a lot of talks” but nothing came to fruition in the first round of the NHL Draft on Friday night. The Blackhawks obviously have to part with a player or two — or more — to get under the $71.4 million cap that’s set for the 2015-16 season. They also want to re-sign Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger. But when the first round wrapped on Friday, the Blackhawks stood pat.

[MORE: Blackhawks 2015-16 schedule released, Stanley Cup banner to be raised Oct. 7]

“I really didn’t have expectations,” Bowman said of Day 1. “Things come up sometimes. We had a lot of talks and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. But we’re looking to tomorrow and we’ve got a number of picks and we’re going to do our best.”

Rounds 2-7 begin at 9 a.m. CT on Saturday. The Blackhawks have seven draft picks, beginning with the compensatory pick (54th overall) they received for not signing Kevin Hayes.

While Bowman said the Blackhawks are focused on the draft, there’s no doubt many are watching to see how and when they shed salary. The team currently has more than $64 million committed to 14 players. That’s not counting restricted free agents Saad and Kruger; Bowman said he’s had “good discussions” regarding both players and upcoming deals. But again, the Blackhawks have to clear some cash. Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell are two possibilities to be moved. Both have two years remaining on their current deals; Sharp has a $5.9 million cap hit and Bickell has a $4 million cap hit.

Despite nothing shaking out on Friday, Bowman said he’s not feeling a massive sense of urgency.

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“We have a plan,” Bowman said. “We want to do certain things, but you can’t always force the timing. It takes two to make a deal. We’ve had a lot of good discussions and we’re focused mainly on the draft. If other things come up, that’s fine.”

As we’ve previously written, the Blackhawks’ salary-cap woes are not a secret. Other teams know the situation they’re in and it’s possible the Blackhawks don’t get the return they truly want. Bowman, however, didn’t see it that way.

“If you’re looking to make a deal as a team, you have a lot of self-interest there" he said. "If you can get something that works for you, I don’t know that you’re worried about another team’s situation. Most of us are always trying to do what’s best for our team individually, so I don’t think that’s true.”

There was plenty of first-round action for a lot of teams on Friday. The Blackhawks weren’t among them. They’ve got plenty of work to do outside of those draft selections. Whether or not that current roster work begins tomorrow remains to be seen.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Seth Gruen (Big Ten Unfiltered) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel. 

The Blackhawks drop their 8th straight. So should their “One Goal” be to tank?

Plus, Jon Lester isn’t a fan of the new pace of play proposals. Is he right?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?


With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

After losing their eighth straight game and falling 12 points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks' playoff chances have dipped to a season-low 0.2 percent. It would take a miracle for them to extend their postseason streak to 10 at this point, where getting just one win seems like a monumental task.

The Blackhawks were probably never really going to be buyers before the Feb. 26 trade deadline even if they were still in the hunt, but it's hard to imagine they had plans to be sellers. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has reiterated over and over again that he's confident in this group, one that's getting younger and faster.

But now they've reached a territory where they have to consider selling off spare parts simply to coup some draft picks or prospects that they could perhaps retain or use as sweeteners in the offseason.

So which players could the Blackhawks realistically sell?

Let's start with the two players getting rewarded with top-six ice time as of late: Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels.

These are two players that play with high energy and go to the greasy areas, something that's important in the playoffs when scoring goals becomes more difficult. They can clean up rebounds. Wingels, particularly, likely has more value and it's showing given his recent success on the power play as a net-front presence guy. He also isn't a stranger to the playoffs with 54 games under his belt compared to Bouma's five.

Both of them are pending unrestricted free agents and are making $1 million or fewer, which certainly works in the Blackhawks' favor considering they won't cost much and their cap hits are easy to fit in on any interested team.

Maybe a team would like to take a flyer on Tomas Jurco, who's a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but that would be a move somebody makes as more of a longer term project than strengthening your depth for a playoff run this spring.

On the back end, Michal Kempny and Jan Rutta could be in play for a contender looking to ensure some depth as a sixth or seventh defenseman. Again, each of them are making less than $1 million so it's a low-risk situation for clubs whose Plan A or B fall through and may be interested in at least getting something.

While they don't have much NHL experience, they're both 27 years old and have played the sport long enough to know what they can bring to the table.

Once Feb. 26 passes and potential roster spots open up, expect the Blackhawks to start calling up the kids. 

Matthew Highmore deserves a look after leading the Rockford IceHogs with 20 goals and 32 points. John Hayden has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 15 games since joining Rockford, and belongs in the NHL. Even Anthony Louis, who's taken a step forward, should get a taste of the action as he continues his development.

Carl Dahlstrom is getting his shot now. Erik Gustafsson is in that process as well. Gustav Forsling had another extended look during the first half of the season before the team decided it would be wise to continue his development in Rockford, where he can play top-pairing minutes.

All of this would give the Blackhawks a better indicator of how they can approach the upcoming offseason, and which young guys they can possibly add into the mix for 2018-19. But first, we have to see how the end of February plays out before making those calls.