Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Salary cap issues forced Buff's departure

Hawk Talk: Salary cap issues forced Buff's departure

Thursday, June 24, 2010
1:57 AM

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

Stan Bowman had to start somewhere. And the Blackhawks general manager told the media on a 12:30 a.m. conference call that whomever he chose, debate would follow. In this case, it's one of their highest players of impact the last two postseasons.

Speculation already was that Brent Sopel and Ben Eager wouldn't be back, but the salary cap situation requires a couple of bigger-money contracts to be moved out. Dustin Byfuglien's is one. Another may follow at this weekend's draft in Los Angeles. Bowman's made it clear the route the Hawks are going is to restock the roster with high draft picks, if possible, in order to acquire more assets for down the road, who will hopefully be ready to step in and contribute with what is sure to be an annual rite of early summer. That's the cost of having high-end "core" commitments on your roster like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Duncan Keith -- who, unfortunately, had his big night as the deserving Norris winner overshadowed. There are no easy decisions, and the team has to start somewhere.

Byfuglien's 10-goal, 15-point post-season might be missed 10, 11 months from now. Atlanta will try to get more out of him during the regular 82-game campaign where his inconsistencies sometimes frustrated fans, as well as Hawks brass. For now, Bowman says he'll look to the Bickells and Kopeckys to step into more prominent roles, and feels they're ready for that. Troy Brouwer's also capable of playing big, and don't rule out the Hawks' top pick from two years ago, Kyle Beach, who's progressed nicely. When the GM says there are other options they'll look into over the next day or two, don't be surprised if that includes another swift deal. That could bring another early pick or two in addition to the ones he acquired in this trade and the restocking of the farm system will be in full swing while taking care of the cap issues that require immediate attention. Andrew Ladd will have suitors, but being able to re-sign him will keep more veteran grit in the lineup. Niklas Hjalmarsson's and Antti Niemi's financial futures need addressing. The thought here is if there's one more significant move to be made and if management decides to go the route of keeping Cristobal Huet's contract in the minors if they can't wing a trade so he's not counted against the cap, most of this season's heavy lifting, financially, will be done.

Bowman seemed especially excited about the upside of Jeremy Morin -- a second rounder just a year ago who had 47 goals in just 58 games for Kitchener of he OHL. He'll be the biggest asset of this deal right now to keep an eye on until they see what they get from the 24th and 54th picks this weekend.

Two weeks to the very night the Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in 49 years, the necessary reconstruction of the roster because of the salary cap was under way.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes Saturday night on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Niklas Hjalmarsson's new home.

Brace yourselves, Chicago. It's going to be a weird site seeing Hjalmarsson in a different sweater other than the Blackhawks, where he spent his first 10 NHL seasons and won three Stanley Cups.

Now he serves as an alternate captain and blue-line anchor for the Coyotes, who are the only team still seeking its first win of the season. You know they'll be hungry to snap that skid, especially when there's extra motivation for a player on their team facing a bunch of old friends.

2. Connor Murphy returns to Arizona, too.

The man Hjalmarsson was traded for will also be returning to a place he called home for four years. Murphy's role with the Coyotes increased every year before he was dealt to the Blackhawks as part of a shake-up for both teams, so you know he's going to play with something to prove.

Murphy is a physical defenseman, and has laid several notable big hits this season. His former teammates surely know it, and may want to keep their heads up.

3. Patrick Kane 2.0?

Ever since he was drafted with the No. 7 overall pick in 2016, Clayton Keller has drawn comparisons to Kane. They're both undersized, offensive playmakers, possess supreme stick-handling abilities and are American-born players.

Keller got a brief taste of NHL action last year, but he's secured a full-time spot with the Coyotes this season and has been arguably their best player so far.

The 19-year-old forward paces all rookies with five goals and ranks second with seven points, and leads the Coyotes in both categories. Expect to see his name as a finalist for the Calder Trophy for the league's top rookie at the end of the season.

Anton Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they need

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USA TODAY

Anton Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they need

Anton Forsberg had just finished an extended morning skate Wednesday morning in St. Louis. The backup goaltender had played in one regular-season game for the Blackhawks to that point, so getting in extra work to stay sharp was helpful.

“I try to keep my focus in practice and work extra every day, get a few extra shots in practice with the extra guys who are out there, work with Jimmy and try to keep my game shape,” Forsberg said, referring to Blackhawks goaltending coach Jimmy Waite.

Whatever Forsberg’s working on in practice and skates seems to be working, because in two games with the Blackhawks he’s looked sharp. Forsberg probably deserved a victory on Thursday night when he stopped 40 shots in the Blackhawks’ 2-1 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers. It’s the backup life to wait and see when that next start will come, but Forsberg has been ready.

“For sure I felt more comfortable today, more used to the speed,” he said following Thursday’s game. “I felt I read the game better, felt I had more time moving around. It’s tough, again, to lose in overtime. Obviously I wanted to win and it’s frustrating.”

Frustrating for sure, but Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they want and need: a dependable backup that gives them a chance to win. The two goals Forsberg gave up on Thursday weren’t softies, either — Patrick Maroon’s goal off a ridiculous Connor McDavid pass and Mark Letestu’s over game-winner that deflected off Brent Seabrook’s stick.

“He kept us in a tight game like he did in Toronto, got us to overtime. I kind of feel bad we didn’t get him a win in either of those,” Ryan Hartman said. “He played well both of those games. It’s nice to have a guy on the back end like that.”

Forsberg has blended in well with the Blackhawks. It helps that he already knew two of them, Brandon Saad and Artem Anisimov, his former teammates in Columbus. He and Corey Crawford already have a good rapport. Same goes for he and Waite, and Forsberg has soaked up any information they’ve given him.

“I feel like both him and Corey teach me a lot. We talk about different situations, especially all the reads,” Forsberg said. “I get to know how (Crawford) thinks the game. He’s been around a long time and has been doing well, so it’s interesting every day to hear what he has to say. Even Jimmy’s been around same thing there, discussing my game, what we want to improve, what we want to do different, what to keep the same and go from there.”

The extra work in practices and skates appears to be working as Forsberg has done a lot right in just his first two games, which were 10 days apart. The Blackhawks have had a good run of backup goaltenders; two games is a small sample size but Forsberg could be the latest reliable backup.