Blackhawks

Blackhawks

Jimmy Vesey has made his decision, and the Blackhawks are not part of his plans despite going all-out in their recruiting efforts for the NCAA standout.

The reigning Hobey Baker Award winner officially chose to sign an entry-level contract with the New York Rangers on Friday, ending the #VeseyWatch saga.

So what's next for the Blackhawks?

General manager Stan Bowman said at the ninth annual Blackhawks Convention in July that he's fully prepared to enter the 2016-17 campaign with the roster as currently constructed, so adding Vesey would have been a mere bonus — albeit a nice one.

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Both Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville stressed the importance of searching within the organization for help, which means there are opportunities for notable prospects like Ryan Hartman, Tyler Motte and Nick Schmaltz to step up in a large role.

However, there is still room for the Blackhawks to fill out the roster and add more forward depth via free agency if they choose to go that direction.

According to generalfanager.com, the Blackhawks have $70.6 million committed to 12 forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders. Counting cap overages from last season and retained money, that leaves them with $2.39 million in cap space to work with before the regular season kicks off.

 

The obvious option — and the one that makes the most sense — would be taking a flyer on Jiri Hudler, a versatile forward who compiled 16 goals and 30 assists in 72 games last season with the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers. He's 32 years old, can play all three forward positions and is only a year removed from his career-high 76-point season, which indicates he still has some good hockey left in the tank.

Or maybe re-signing Tomas Fleischmann, who was acquired at the trade deadline last February, would want another chance in Chicago. It's unclear what his interest would be though after the 32-year-old forward gave the Blackhawks some early spark but fizzled out and found himself fighting for a roster spot during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

[RELATED: Jimmy Vesey chooses to sign with Rangers over Blackhawks]

Brandon Pirri, the Blackhawks' second-round pick in 2009, is still on the market and started to show progression in his game with Florida, but it took him a while to crack the roster during his first stint in Chicago and he likely wouldn't want a second one.

There are also veteran forwards such as Patrik Elias (40 years old), Dominic Moore (36) or Alex Tanguay (36) available who could be looking to latch on to a contender at a low cost in an effort to win one more Stanley Cup before hanging up the skates.

But the likeliest route at this point would be standing pat, and it wouldn't be the worst decision, either.

The Blackhawks know better than anyone else that cap flexibility, especially at the trade deadline, is crucial and they would have wiggle room in case of an injury later in the season if they're confident with the group they have now.

One thing we know for sure is, there has never been a more important training camp for the Blackhawks than the one this September, and that's when the roster will really begin to take shape.