Which 'new' Blackhawks could return next season?


Which 'new' Blackhawks could return next season?

Brad Richards recalled the talk he had with Joel Quenneville last summer, the one on which the Blackhawks coach kept interrupting his soon-to-be center.

“The last thing Joel said when I hung up was, ‘Come to Chicago. We’ll win a Cup.’ He said it like three times in that conversation,” Richards said a few minutes after lifting the Stanley Cup for the second time in his career. “I kept thinking, ‘How does he know that?’ I don’t know how he knew, but he knew we had a chance and here we are.”

Richards came to Chicago for one year and $2 million. It wasn’t about the money; it was about another chance at winning that Cup. Now he’s got it, he’s enjoying his time here and he won’t rule out the possibility of coming back.

We already know the Blackhawks have to part with several players, be it unrestricted free agents due a raise they can’t afford to give or those whose contracts will no longer fit under the upcoming salary cap. But what about the other side: Which players could the Blackhawks possibly bring back?

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Blackhawks know roster changes are coming in wake of Cup win]

The Blackhawks will work to re-sign Marcus Kruger, who has now been here for two Cups. Andrew Desjardins and Richards could also be on the radar. Obviously it all depends on where the salary cap falls — most forecasts have it settling around $71 million — but the possibilities are there.

For Richards, it’s a thought he won’t completely rule out right now.

“I haven’t talked about anything. My attitude is, everything’s wide open now,” Richards said. “I know the situation here. I knew it before I signed here. But obviously it was an amazing year. So if they want to discuss something I’m obviously going to discuss it.”

It won’t be about money for Richards. It’s more a chance to return to this successful team, on which he eventually found his niche and had a very nice postseason.

“I’m in a fortunate position, financially, where I’ve done all that stuff and hit my big contracts. Now it’s really all about what just happened this week. You can’t replace that with anything, so we’ll see,” Richards said. “It’s a lot different feeling than last summer, I tell you that. I won’t care who calls right now. I’m just enjoying this every day.”

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks Stanley Cup champs gear right here]

Patrick Kane, who was Richards’ line mate for some of the regular season and again in the postseason — Richards set up Kane’s goal in Game 6 against Tampa Bay — Richards possibly returning was a nice thought.

“He’d be a guy you’d love to see come back here and play in that second-line center role,” Kane said. “He’s a good player. He’s a good guy but a good hockey player. You’ve seen what he’s done in the past; his numbers speak for themselves. It was a pleasure playing with him. I hope we can do it again.”

That situation is up in the air. So let’s go back to the fairly certain part of this story: The Blackhawks will find a way to sign Kruger. The center has been an important part of this team for two Cup victories now, and general manager Stan Bowman has re-signing him near the top of his list.

“Absolutely, we want to bring him back, make it known he’s going to be a part of this going forward,” Bowman said. “He’s another one of those guys who doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. He’s a penalty-kill guy who matches top centers on other teams, face-offs; he does all the important details that coaches appreciate. Joel would tell you he’s a big part of why we win.”

There was little fanfare when the Blackhawks picked up Desjardins at the trade deadline. More of the focus was on Antoine Vermette, who also wouldn’t mind returning to Chicago but probably won’t be affordable. Desjardins, who made $750,000 this season, was a great addition, giving the Blackhawks a dependable fourth line with Kruger and Andrew Shaw. Desjardins talked on the Cup-winning night of the chemistry he had with Shaw and Kruger. Bowman liked it, too, and would like to see Desjardins here again next season.

“We would love to bring him back. That’s a discussion we’ll have,” Bowman said. “It’s up to him and his agent; hopefully he wants to come back. We were pleased with his contribution.”

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.