Blackhawks

Scott, Carcillo, Richards, Campbell: A look back at the Blackhawks' free-agency periods

Scott, Carcillo, Richards, Campbell: A look back at the Blackhawks' free-agency periods

It’s free agency again, when we see what pre-July 1 conjecture comes to fruition, when we either give pickups a nod of approval or a vehement shake of the head and when we make fun of teams overspending because someone always does.

It’s always interesting to see what a team will or won’t do and how much they’re willing to spend to find the answers. What will free agency mean for the Blackhawks? As of Friday morning the Blackhawks are still $3 million in the red and, while they can be 10 percent over the $75 million cap from now until the start of the season, they still have voids to fill and little-to-no cash with which to do it. It’s still very likely they Marcus Kruger to free up some space. Will the league give the Blackhawks the go-ahead to use Marian Hossa’s cap hit for long-term injured reserve and, if so, when do they apply it?

Time will tell on that. Free agency isn’t just one day and much can change between now and the fall. Before we hit this July 1, however, let’s look at how the free agency period has treated the Blackhawks the last few years:

2010: After spending June of that year going through their Stanley Cup salary purge, the Blackhawks started the rebuild attempt the following months. They signed John Scott on July 1 but didn’t make other additions until later in the summer. Unable to afford Antti Niemi – he had been awarded $2.75 million in arbitration in late July – the Blackhawks signed Marty Turco to a one-year deal on Aug. 2. Fernando Pisani signed a one-year deal later that month.

Results: Scott spent two seasons with the Blackhawks, playing a total of 69 games. Pisani played 60 games and wasn’t the depth signing the Blackhawks hoped he would be. Turco struggled early and by the turn of the year Corey Crawford was emerging as the Blackhawks’ No. 1 goaltender.

2011: In another attempt to restock the depth they lost in 2010, the Blackhawks sign five veterans on July 1 of that year: Jamal Mayers, Daniel Carcillo, Andrew Brunette, Sean O’Donnell and Brett McLean.

Results: McLean didn’t make the Blackhawks out of camp, played part of the season with the Rockford IceHogs before returning to Switzerland, where he had played the two previous seasons. Brunette and O’Donnell each spent one season with the Blackhawks; Brunette had 12 goals and 15 assists in 78 games and O’Donnell had seven assists in 51 games. Mayers continued on with the Blackhawks and was part of their 2012-13 Stanley Cup-winning team. Carcillo was on the 2012-13 Cup team, spent the next season with the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers, then rejoined the Blackhawks in the fall of 2014. He earned his second Cup with the Blackhawks later that season.

2012: We wouldn’t have hockey until January 2013, but that offseason the Blackhawks addressed defensive depth needs. Sheldon Brookbank was signed on July 1 and in September, the Blackhawks added Michal Rozsival.

Results: Rozsival’s been part of two Stanley Cup teams here. He hoisted his first Cup in 2013 – “Oh my God, how heavy is it? Oh my God!” – and was coming off a strong Western Conference semifinal series against Minnesota in 2015 when he fractured his ankle. Rozsival is still here, having signed a one-year deal last season. Brookbank played two seasons with the Blackhawks, including on the 2012-13 Stanley Cup-winning team. He played in one postseason game that year, filling in for a suspended Duncan Keith against the Los Angeles Kings.

2013: You know how we’ve recently talked about the Blackhawks bringing back former players? Well, we forgot one: on July 5, 2013 they signed Nikolai Khabibulin to a one-year deal. His first stint with the Blackhawks was from 2005-09.

Results: Khabibulin played in just four games that season before suffering a hip injury. He would have season-ending shoulder surgery later. Soon after, Antti Raanta got his opportunity as the Blackhawks’ backup goaltender.

2014: The Blackhawks’ seemingly subtle moves this offseason proved pivotal. On July 1, 2014, they found their second-line center, signing Brad Richards to a one-year deal. Richards had become an unrestricted free agent in late June when the New York Rangers bought out what was left of his nine-year, $60 million contract. The other signing? Lemont resident Scott Darling, who was coming off a solid outing with the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville’s AHL affiliate) the previous season.

Results: Yeah, these two did alright. Richards had a pretty good regular season, recording 37 points in 76 games and finding good chemistry with Kris Versteeg and Patrick Kane. But he saved his best for the playoffs; his primary assist to Kane sealed the Blackhawks 2-0 Game 6 victory over the Tampa Bay Lighting, earning Richards the second Stanley Cup of his career. As for Darling, he battled with Antti Raanta for the Blackhawks’ backup goaltending job, winning it in February 2015. Darling was critical to the Blackhawks’ postseason, replacing a struggling Corey Crawford in the first-round series against the Predators.

2015: After getting Artemi Panarin a few months earlier, the Blackhawks signed Panarin’s friend and KHL teammate Viktor Tikhonov to a one-year deal on July 1. On July 10 the Blackhawks parted with Patrick Sharp and Stephen Johns in exchange for Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt.

Results: Offseason acquisitions, we hardly knew ya. Tikhonov was here until December of 2015, when he was placed on waivers. The two players the Blackhawks got in the Sharp deal were soon gone, too. In December 2015 Daley was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for longtime defenseman/one-game wing Rob Scuderi. In January, Garbutt was dealt to Anaheim for Jiri Sekac, who was with the Blackhawks for a month before they placed him on waivers. Daley won two Cups with the Penguins. Garbutt is headed to the KHL this season.

2016: It was Blackhawks-Cup-days-revisited time again. Looking to add depth at defense, the team brought Brian Campbell back on a one-year deal last July 1. A few days later the Blackhawks picked up gritty forward Jordin Tootoo.

Results: Campbell was fine with the Blackhawks last season but the move didn’t have the overall desired effect on a defense that, following a first-round sweep to the Predators, had to get younger and faster. Campbell is not expected back this season. Tootoo, who was in and out of the lineup in 2016-17, will enter his second season with the Blackhawks.

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.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime loss to Oilers: Connor McDavid adds to highlight reel

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USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime loss to Oilers: Connor McDavid adds to highlight reel

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night:
 
1. Shake-up on power play doesn't work.

Joel Quenneville spruced up his power play units before Wednesday's game in an effort to snap a dry spell, but the Blackhawks had no luck in that department in the second of a back-to-back.

The Blackhawks went 0-for-5 on the man advantage against an Oilers team that was ranked dead last in penalty kill percentage going into the contest, and failed to capitalize on a 5-on-3 opportunity for 56 seconds in the opening minutes of the season period.

They're getting off a fair amount of shots, but the quality of them isn't there.

2. Ryan Hartman fine after brief exit due to illegal hit.

It was a physical game between the Blackhawks-Oilers, but a line was crossed at the 4:59 mark into the second period when Zack Kassian delivered a huge hit on Hartman, who went face-first into the boards.

Kassian was given a two-minute minor penalty for boarding, a call that didn't sit well with the sold-out United Center crowd of 21,444. Hartman went to the locker room to be checked out after the hit despite getting up quickly and showing no visible signs of distress, but he fortunately returned a few shifts later.

It was a dangerous hit by Kassian, and an avoidable one too. 

Quenneville admitted Hartman getting up quickly perhaps may have "helped" keep it a minor penalty and not a five-minute major, but the Blackhawks coach wasn't focused on that after seeing the result unfold.

"I saw how hard it looked," Quenneville said. "But Hartzy getting up right away, that helped. You don't even measure it anymore after that. That's the one thing you're hopeful for right off the bat."
 
3. Connor McDavid adds another play to highlight reel.

We're only two weeks into the season, but the 20-year-old reigning Hart Trophy winner submitted an early entry for Assist of the Year.

Late in the first period, McDavid flew from his own end into the offensive zone, made a spin-o-rama move on two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith and backhanded a perfect pass to Patrick Maroon, who tapped in a goal at the doorstep.

It looks impossible to defend from anyone watching, and Keith pretty much felt the same way.

"When he gets the speed in the other end there and he's able to skate all the way down, it's tough to stop a guy especially when he's that fast," Keith said. "He's just flying through the middle. I'm just a sitting duck there at the other end of the ice waiting for him to come full speed. It's a hard play to defend against."
 
4. Anton Forsberg sharp again.

It's a small sample size, but the Blackhawks' backup goaltender has looked really sharp in practically every start he's had in a Chicago uniform, including preseason.

He deserved a better fate in his regular season debut last week in Toronto when he stopped 39 of 43 shots in an overtime loss, and the same applied here.

Forsberg tied a career-high with 40 saves, and seemingly got better as the game went on.

"I for sure felt more comfortable, felt like I was more used to the speed," Forsberg said. "It's tough again to lose in overtime, obviously I wanted a win and that's kind of frustrating."

"Excellent games, both games," Quenneville said of his goaltender. "Would've been nice to get him a win tonight."
 
5. Jordan Oesterle keeps it simple in debut.

The Blackhawks' crowded blue line has made it difficult for Quenneville to give all eight defensemen a fair amount of playing time, but Oesterle took advantage of his season debut.

He logged 15:01 of ice time, registered three shot attempts (two on goal), and blocked two shots.

"I liked him," Quenneville said. "Moves the puck."

Said Keith: "I thought he was good. Tough situation for him, he hasn't played all year in a game but I thought he played good. He's got good poise, he's smart back there."