Blackhawks

Are the Blackhawks done making moves?

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AP

Are the Blackhawks done making moves?

The NHL Draft and free agency came and went without any sort of fireworks for a Blackhawks team that missed the playoffs for the first time in a decade. It was a little surprising.

But maybe it shouldn't have been.

Stan Bowman has been very transparent on what the main priority is going forward and that's to save room in the long run for when the young guys like Alex DeBrincat, Vinnie Hinostroza, Nick Schmaltz and Dylan Sikura are due new contracts. They're the present and the future.

Surely, the Blackhawks were hoping to land an impact-type player up front and on the back end on July 1, but only if it made sense. Any contract longer than two years would've presented problems for the reasons listed above.

When Bowman joined Blackhawks Pregame Live on Feb. 8 — three weeks before the trade deadline — to acknowledge the team won't look much different next season, he wasn't kidding.

Here's the full transcript for context:

"I don't expect us to be a buyer this year," Bowman said at the time. "It's nothing to do with where we're at in the standings, I just think that each season is a little bit different. Your team is different. I think the strength of our team is we're trying to build some young players that we're going to have. We have a lot of new players this year relative to last year. It's hard when you bring in 11 or 12 new players in every year, so I think next year's team is going to look very similar to this year's team. Not identical, we're going to have some changes, but I think you look at some of these young guys, we're expecting them to take that next step, so bringing somebody in to sort of bump them out of the lineup probably doesn't make a lot of sense right now."

Fast forward to the end of the season and his message stayed the same:

"We're not in a difficult cap position like we have been in some previous years," Bowman said. "From that perspective, it's looking better for the potential to make some moves. I think we're going to examine everything. We're going to look long and hard at ways to improve our team through personnel. I guess I want to make it clear our No. 1 priority as we move forward is to make sure we can keep these younger players — DeBrincat and Schmaltz and Hinostroza and some other young players that are going to maybe join our team over the next year or two. That's the direction we're headed, and we want those guys to be Blackhawks and to take a bigger role.

"Knowing that's on the horizon, you have to be prudent with what you do with your money this summer. It might be looking at some shorter-term contracts for some free agents. And if there's a situation that makes sense on a longer term, we're not going to shy away from that, but it would have to be understood that we're going to be able to commit to those young guys who are here. They showed in a short amount of time that they're sort of the future of where we're headed over the next couple seasons, and we want to make sure they're part of it."

And on July 1, no change in his tone or approach when discussing the balance between now and the future:

"The main thing for us is to accumulate a lot of really good young players that are on the cusp of breakout status," Bowman said. "And I think you’re not quite sure when it’s going to happen. The process of turning it over to the young guys, you still have to mentor those young guys. And I think we have some veteran players that have done some special things, obviously winning three Cups with the Blackhawks, but also having to help them a little bit. Sometimes everything falls on their shoulders, not only to lead the way but to mentor young players. That’s where bringing in a veteran on a shorter-term basis can help. Because these guys bring some things to the table.

"The important thing for us is we have some impressive young guys that are going to take on bigger roles in the coming years. But we also have some elite NHL players in the prime of their careers right now. So we’re going to try to do our best to supplement that and give them not only some players to help them perform better on the ice, but also to lead young players. It takes a combination. I don’t think you can win with just a bunch of young guys. There’s a little bit of a misconception. You also can’t have just a bunch of older players. You have to have that mixture of the two.

"The hardest thing is finding these elite players and we’ve got a number of them. Not only do we have them, but they’ve proven that they know how to win, more than almost any other team in the league we’ve got guys that have a lot of experience and have accomplished a lot in their careers, but they’re hungry to accomplish more. So that’s what we’re looking at here.

"We’re looking to rebound next year and to surround our really good players with some guys that can help them out and take the next step for the young guys so that, we’re talking a year from now, some of these young players have really emerged as legitimate difference-makers. I think we’re on the verge of that and we’re hoping that that does take place."

For five months, Bowman has been consistent about the Blackhawks' short- and long-term goals and there wasn't a desire to risk reaching into the open market this free agency for a player that might get in the way of those plans. It's easy to see why when you look at how the market unfolded.

James van Riemsdyk got a five-year deal that carries a $7 million cap hit, a contract too lengthy and pricey for the Blackhawks. Same with James Neal, who signed a five-year deal worth $5.75 annually. Jay Beagle would've been an ideal bottom-six centerman, but he received four years worth $3 million annually. Again, another case where both term and money was an issue there.

Ian Cole's $4.25 million cap hit may have been doable, but more-so on a two-year deal than three. Calvin de Haan's $4.55 million per year also was likely in the Blackhawks' range, but the four years wasn't.

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks made three signings and none of them went beyond two years with Chris Kunitz and Cam Ward each signing for one year and Brandon Manning for two. Notice a theme? 

Schmaltz and Sikura will be restricted free agents after this upcoming season and DeBrincat and Hinostroza will be in the same boat in two seasons. That's where the Blackhawks plan to tie their money up.

So if any moves are to be made going forward, whether that's in the form of a trade or whatever is left of the free agent market, the only way it happens is if it fits under the Blackhawks' budget both money and term wise. But that won't stop them from calling.

"It's our job to make calls and have discussions and we've done that and we'll continue to do that," Bowman said after the free-agent signings last week. "At this point, there's not a lot happening today, so there's a lot of players changing teams and teams that are looking at options they're not quite sure. So the trades aren't as likely to materialize. If they're going to happen at all, they're not going to happen today or tomorrow. It'll be more when things start to settle in a little bit and teams are looking at ways to improve. Maybe a trade will be a better option at that point. With all the movement happening today, it's probably more likely throughout the league trades will happen a little bit later.

"We have had some discussions on various players and nothing is close to happening. As far as whether we would make a trade or not, I'm not sure the percentages on that. We'll have a better idea as we get into the summer here and we see which free agents move where, and they'll be some teams that don't get what they're looking for, then they might be a little more open-minded to a trade."

NBC Sports Chicago to carry 12th Annual Blackhawks Convention live on multiple platforms

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NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago to carry 12th Annual Blackhawks Convention live on multiple platforms

Chicago, IL (July 23, 2019) – NBC Sports Chicago – the ONLY HOME for Blackhawks hockey – is ready to start up the 2019-20 NHL season in a big way with exclusive, LIVE Opening Ceremonies coverage and expanded weekend-long, multi-platform reports from the sold out 12th annual Blackhawks Convention, which will be held downtown this weekend (July 26-28) at the Hilton Chicago.

 

On Friday, July 26 beginning at 5:00 PM CT, NBC Sports Chicago - featuring host Pat Boyle (@BoyleNBCS), along with NBCSportsChicago.com Blackhawks digital reporter/producer Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) - will provide viewers with every thrill-packed moment of the convention’s Opening Ceremonies featuring introductions of Blackhawks players/coaches/alumni/front office executives, the singing of the National Anthem, exciting video montages, plus – special live interviews with Blackhawks guests prior to the start of the ceremony. (NOTE: NBC Sports Chicago will re-air the Convention’s Opening Ceremonies later in the evening at 11:00 PM.)

 

At 6:00 PM on Friday night, Blackhawks Convention coverage continues on NBC Sports Chicago with a live remote edition of SportsTalk Live presented by The Chevy Silverado featuring host David Kaplan (@thekapman), along with a panel of Blackhawks/NHL experts and a special Blackhawks guest interview.  In addition, tomorrow night (Wed, July 24) at 6:00 PM, fans can look forward to a special Blackhawks player appearance on SportsTalk Live to discuss the upcoming Convention, along previewing the upcoming 2019-20 Blackhawks campaign. (IMPORTANT NOTE: Live stream of the Opening Ceremonies coverage and SportsTalk Live will also be available to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers at NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive and via the “MyTeams by NBC Sports” app; fans located anywhere in the U.S. can download MyTeams for free on iOS and Android devices in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.)

 

Throughout the weekend, fans can look forward to even more comprehensive Blackhawks Convention coverage on NBCSportsChicago.com’s BlackhawksTalk section (NBCSportsChicago.com/Blackhawks) featuring additional players/coaches/front office executive interviews, feature stories, fan reaction, photos, videos and much more to be provided via Boyle, Roumeliotis, along the NBC Sports Chicago’s team of behind-the-scenes Blackhawks experts (@NBCSBlackhawks). 

 

From a social media standpoint, NBC Sports Chicago will also deliver a number of additional on-site Facebook Live (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago) interviews and special segments throughout the weekend, along with Blackhawks Convention “Sights & Sounds” highlights from ‘NBCSChicago’ featuring photos/quick video offerings from Instagram and Instagram Stories.  Plus, fans can also get interactive with NBC Sports Chicago’s “Blackhawks Convention” coverage throughout the weekend by utilizing the social media hashtag #AuthenticFan.

 

Also, on Sunday, July 28 at 10:00 AM, fans can also look forward to a live “Blackhawks Convention” edition of the popular “Blackhawks Talk” PODCAST presented by Your Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana Chevy Dealers featuring hosts Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis, along with special guest appearances by Blackhawks forwards Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome.  Fans can download all of NBC Sports Chicago’s podcasts at NBCSportsChicago.com/podcasts and simply subscribe to them via Apple Podcasts, Google Play or Stitcher.  The podcasts can be played on any mobile device, laptop, or desktop computer.

 

In addition, Blackhawks Convention attendees are urged to stop by NBC Sports Chicago’s #AuthenticFan booth for their chance to win a number of special #AuthenticFan Blackhawks-themed giveaways including beach balls, keychains, picnic blankets, tote bags and much more (while supplies last).  #AuthenticFan cheer cards will also be given out to fans in advance of the Opening Ceremonies.  Attendees are also urged to utilize the social media hashtag #AuthenticFan throughout the weekend as a number of lucky fans will be “authentically surprised” with special Blackhawks giveaways and experiences. NBC Sports Chicago’s dedicated Blackhawks Twitter handle (@NBCSBlackhawks) will also provide fans with up-to-the-minute NBC Sports Chicago #AuthenticFan booth activities throughout the weekend.

 

 

NBC Sports Chicago, a partnership between the Chicago Blackhawks (NHL), Chicago Bulls (NBA), Chicago Cubs (MLB), Chicago White Sox (MLB) and the NBC Sports Group, features over 275 live pro games in high definition each year.  In addition, NBC Sports Chicago delivers extensive pre/post-game coverage for its core pro team partners, as well as Chicago Bears postgame coverage, local sports discussion programs that includes SportsTalk Live, and massive cross-platform coverage provided by the network’s growing digital platform, NBCSportsChicago.com, the new “MyTeams by NBC Sports” app, and its variety of fan-focused social media outlets. Fans can follow the network on Twitter via @NBCSChicago.  

 

NBC Sports Regional Networks is NBC Sports Group’s portfolio of nine regional networks that delivers more than 2,200 live sporting events and original content to more than 35 million homes. Aligned within Eastern and Western Divisions, the NBC Sports Regional Networks are: NBC Sports Boston, NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBC Sports Philadelphia +, NBC Sports Washington, NBC Sports Washington + and SNY; and NBC Sports Bay Area, NBC Sports California, NBC Sports Chicago/NBC Sports Chicago+, and NBC Sports Northwest. For more information on NBC Sports Group properties, including press releases, photos, talent and executive bios, headshots and logos, please visit www.NBCSportsGroupPressBox.com.

 

 

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2019 Blackhawks development camp: Final thoughts and takeaways from scrimmage

2019 Blackhawks development camp: Final thoughts and takeaways from scrimmage

Thoughts and takeaways from the final day of Blackhawks development camp at Fifth Third Arena, which featured the prospect scrimmage:

1. The standouts

In the middle of the week, GM Stan Bowman singled out Adam Boqvist, Kirby Dach, Ian Mitchell and Alex Nylander as the four players who had stood out so far, in large part because they're on another level in terms of talent. Dach was taken No. 3 overall, Boqvist and Nylander were drafted No. 8 overall and Mitchell has first-round talent and the confidence to go with it.

In particular, Boqvist and Dach were easily the most noticeable prospects during Friday's scrimmage. They were flashy, creative and produced on the scoresheet. Boqvist finished with a primary assist — a beautiful setup, which you can see in the video below — while Dach scored two goals and added an assist. They were all over the ice. Check out the clips below, as the two of them dominated the highlight reel.

2. Additional observations

—  Josiah Slavin had a hat trick, including the game-winning goal with 6.9 seconds remaining. He made the most of his scrimmage, no doubt.

— Antti Saarela scored two goals, one of which came on a penalty shot — see video below. 

— Nylander didn't seem as engaged as others, but his skill alone was enough for him to be noticeable. Good things happened when he was on the ice.

— Alexis Gravel was solid in net. He gave up only one goal and it came in the final minute of the first period when Dach scored on a breakaway.

— Nicolas Beaudin and Alex Vlasic were quiet, but in a good way. They were sound defensively.

3. Names to watch going forward

— Philipp Kurashev: A crafty playmaker with a heavy shot, Kurashev took a huge step in his development this past season. He led the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL with 65 points (29 goals, 36 assists) in 59 games and earned All-Star honors at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship after leading all skaters with six goals.

He's a smooth skater, fast, smart and strong on the puck. Kurashev will start the season in Rockford and is expected to play a large role. He was the hidden gem in the Ryan Hartman deal in 2018. The Blackhawks used their fourth-rounder acquired in that trade to take Kurashev.  

— MacKenzie Entwistle: This is a player to watch in Rockford this season simply because he knows his role and is really good at it. A bottom-six, versatile forward who can play center or win and is dependable on the penalty kill. Those are players coaches love to have at the next level because they accept their role and take pride in doing so. 

— Brandon Hagel: Here's a player who essentially fell into the Blackhawks' laps. The Buffalo Sabres drafted him in the sixth round (No. 159 overall) in 2016 but did not offer him a contract ahead of the June 1 deadline in 2018, so they lost his signing rights. The Blackhawks pounced in October by signing him to a three-year, entry-level contract.

And how did he follow his season up? By finishing fourth in the WHL in scoring with 102 points (41 goals, 61 assists) in 66 games with the Red Deer Rebels for a points-per-game average of 1.55. It was a 43-point improvement from the previous season, albeit he played in 10 more games. 

Still, this is someone who the Blackhawks weren't expecting to have in their pipeline but he is and could turn into a solid player. A scout once told me Hagel is highly competitive, which is one of the top criteria for the Blackhawks when evaluating a young player. Hagel appeared in eight games for Rockford last season and compiled only one point, but it's a small sample size. It will be interesting to follow his progression in his first year as a pro and playing against bigger men.

Other notes:

— Jake Wise participated in on-ice sessions all week but did not play in the scrimmage. He's still working his way back from a shoulder injury.

— Other non-participants: Evan Barratt (hip), Parker Foo, Dominik Kubalik (rest), Niklas Nordgren (injury) and Tim Soderlund (visa issues).

Scrimmage videos:

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