Recapping Day 1 of Blackhawks free agency


Recapping Day 1 of Blackhawks free agency

We’re just about through Day 1 of free agency. Here’s how things broke down for the Blackhawks:

Center signed

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, 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.

The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line


The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line

Jonathan Toews' offense usually comes in spurts. We're seeing it again right now.

But it's no coincidence his numbers have spiked since Patrick Kane joined him on the top line.

After recording another two points in Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Blackhawks captain has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his past eight games; he had 11 points in his previous 23 games total.

Toews also reached the 20-goal mark for the 11th straight season, joining Kane and Alex Ovechkin as the only three active players to accomplish that feat to open their NHL careers.

Kane has seen his offensive production pick up, too. He has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in his past 13 games after going five straight without one, which was his longest point drought of the season.

When the two of them are on the ice together at even strength, they control 57.9 percent of the shot attempts. It hasn't quite translated on the scoresheet (14 goals for and 17 goals against) maybe the way it should, but they are certainly spending far more time in the offensive zone than the defensive end and are generating a high volume of shots.

So yes, reuniting the dynamic duo has worked stats-wise.

But it comes at a cost:

— Vinnie Hinostroza and Nick Schmaltz haven't scored in six straight contests.

— Alex DeBrincat's season-long goal drought is up to 13 games.

— Artem Anisimov's last even-strength goal came nine games ago.

When you put Kane and Toews together, you risk losing some balance across the lineup and that's why Joel Quenneville has always been reluctant to go to that nuclear option. He prefers when opposing teams are forced to play 'Pick Your Poison.'

Ideally, you'd like to spread out the scoring, but one thing is for certain: The Blackhawks are better when Kane and Toews are each producing offensively, whether they're apart or together. 

When the wins start to dry up though — and they have — that's normally when it's time to try something different.

Perhaps more importantly, the last thing you want are those scoring droughts mentioned above to stretch even further and get inside the younger skaters' heads, then carrying it with them into the offseason.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Has the championship window closed?


Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Has the championship window closed?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Jonathan Toews sits down with Pat Boyle for a 1-on-1 interview. Toews weighs in on his season with Brandon Saad, whether he expects major changes this offseason and has the championship window closed?

Also, Adam Burish joins the podcast and plays the game: “Building block, not sure, or no thanks.” Burish runs down the Blackhawks forwards and predicts whether or not they have a future with the team.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: