We’re just about through Day 1 of free agency. Here’s how things broke down for the Blackhawks:
General manager Stan Bowman said on Tuesday that he wanted to sign the team’s newest acquisition, center Artem Anisimov, to an extension as soon as possible. That came on Wednesday morning when the Blackhawks signed him to a five-year deal worth a reported $22.75 million. All those second-line center questions go away...for now.
Another Russian added
Viktor Tikhonov, grandson of the coach who led those tremendous Soviet teams in the 1970s and 1980s, signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks. Tikhonov spent the last several seasons playing in the KHL but wanted another opportunity in the NHL. Where he fits in the Blackhawks lineup is uncertain at the moment; he’ll be another forward vying for a job at training camp in September.
Au revoir, Mr. Richards
Brad Richards came to Chicago for $2 million last summer in search of another Stanley Cup. He got it. And while he initially kept options open to possibly return to Chicago (if the money was right), he signed a one-year deal for $3 million with the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday. Richards’ chances of coming back dimmed considerably when the Blackhawks acquired Anisimov. Still, Richards had a great postseason and proved he still has some hockey left in him.
You too, Mr. Vermette
We always knew Antoine Vermette was unlikely to sign with the Blackhawks again. He was going to get paid again, his heart belonged to Arizona and not surprisingly he signed a two-year deal with the Coyotes on Wednesday night. Still, his short stint here was a memorable one: after some frustrating healthy scratches, Vermette scored four postseason goals, three proving to be game winners. Vermette got to hoist his first Stanley Cup in Chicago. He’ll take that experience with him back to the desert. “This is very special whenever you have a chance to win the Cup. I’m truly happy to have [had] a chance to do that,” he said on Wednesday night. “This is an experience you want to be part of. It helps down the road. Hopefully I can bring some experience in and make a positive impact on this [Coyotes] team.”
What's left to do
Plenty. The Blackhawks didn’t do anything on the trade front on Monday but they’re still going to have to ship out a player or two. Marcus Kruger’s extension should get done – “We’re getting closer to completing something there,” Bowman said on Tuesday. But even without Kruger’s completed deal, the Blackhawks (including Jeremy Morin and Corey Tropp, also acquired in the Columbus deal) have $71 million devoted to 17 players.
[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
Patrick Sharp is still the most likely to be moved, but where? Pittsburgh, once thought a strong option for a trade, is highly unlikely now after the Penguins acquired the very pricey Phil Kessel on Wednesday afternoon. A source said Boston has interest. The Bruins signed Matt Beleskey ($3.8 million cap hit) and acquired Jimmy Hayes (who needs to be re-signed) but they still have cap space; according to generalfanager.com, the Bruins are at approximately $62.4 million. Florida has its share of former Blackhawks. But on Wednesday the Panthers acquired Reilly Smith, as well as Marc Savard’s contract – Savard hasn’t played since February 2011 due to concussion issues – and may not have the cap space now to handle Sharp.
There is certainly still time to get trades done. Day 1 of free agency is usually a whirlwind of signings, and that was true again this year, although the typically insane money didn’t accompany most of those signings. There are still teams out there with needs and one way or another the Blackhawks will get something done.