Bears

Could Brodeur be who the Blackhawks need?

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Could Brodeur be who the Blackhawks need?

It was a Twitter jolt felt round the hockey world this morning when TSN.cas Darren Dreger first reported the news: Martin Brodeur hired agent Pat Brisson and could test the free-agent market on July 1.

Its almost too stunning to believe. Brodeur, who has spent his career with the Devils (and just wrapped up a six-year deal worth 5.2 million a year with them) possibly playing elsewhere in 2012-13? And no sooner did the news come out that national hockey scribes prognosticated on where Brodeur could land. Several, including Sportsnet.cas Mark Spector, have the veteran going to Chicago.

Here are the pros and cons of the Blackhawks grabbing the future Hall of Famer:

PROS

Fantastic mentor: If Brodeur stays with the Devils, hes still a starter. In Chicago, hed start as the backup (considering recent history, lets emphasize start) to Corey Crawford. Theres nothing like some veteran tutelage, and Crawford said he picked up a few things from backup Ray Emery last season, including Emerys strong pregame preparation. Imagine what Crawford could learn from Brodeur, just by watching him on a daily practice basis?

Now in relief : Lets say Crawford gets off to a tough start and the Blackhawks, once again, look to their backup goaltender to right the ship. Brodeur could handle that workload. Up until the 2010-11 season, Brodeur played 70-plus games a season on a fairly regular basis. Even the past two seasons he played 56 and 59 games, respectively.

Hes Martin Brodeur: Its not about what he could bring Crawford, but also to the Blackhawks as a whole. Brodeur has three Cups, records galore and has a locker-room savvy and a calming influence that would be felt throughout that organization. As Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador told me about Brodeurs presence during their Cup run, when you have a guy who holds every record and has won everything and still has the passion to win, at this point in his career that alone is uplifting.

CONS

Hes 40: Yes, Brodeur is that rare breed of player who, at 40, hasnt lost a whole lot. But when does his age start becoming an issue? Brodeur has always kept himself in great shape and doesnt have a lot of past injuries, outside of a torn bicep that cost him much of the 2008-09 season. Still, there are always other factors that can accelerate the wear and tear, which brings us to

Western Conference schedule woes: God bless the Eastern Conference teams (and their scribes) who never have to know the rigors of the Western Conference schedule. Its brutal, even for a very centrally located Blackhawks team. Brodeur has had it nice, schedule-wise, for a long time; the Devils most distant division foe is Pittsburgh, is a mere 360 miles away. The Blackhawks division isnt, but its the rest of the West that were talking about. East teams take, what, one long trip per year vs. West foes and then stay in their own time zone for the rest of the season? It would be a big change, and one that could affect the aging goalie.

Other needs rank higher: Just one scribes opinion, but the Blackhawks need to bolster their defense should still be top priority. Brodeur could still want a decent amount of cash (although probably not the 5.2 million he earned each of the last six seasons). Yes, making the right moves could get the Hawks a good defenseman and Brodeur. But ultimately, solidifying the D, not the backup goaltending spot, will probably be the way the Blackhawks go.

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?