Andrew Shaw wants to stay but can Blackhawks afford him?

Andrew Shaw wants to stay but can Blackhawks afford him?

Andrew Shaw brushed off questions about his status as the postseason continued, saying he would let that all work itself out in the summer.

The thought, however, has been there. And now that the summer came quicker than he and the Blackhawks anticipated, the question was raised again: How much does an uncertain offseason weigh on Shaw?

“You try not to [think about it] but I trust my agent and Stan to do what they can,” said Shaw, talking about Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman. “I want to be back here and I think they want me back.”

There’s little doubt the Blackhawks would like to have Shaw back. But the last few seasons it’s rarely been about what the Blackhawks want. It’s what they can afford. And they may not be able to afford Shaw.

Shaw, who is now a restricted free agent, could certainly get a lucrative contract elsewhere. The forward is coming off a two-year deal that had a $2 million cap hit. The Blackhawks don’t know what the salary cap will be for 2016-17, but it likely won’t go up by much. Considering that, plus Artemi Panarin’s performance bonuses – most of that $2.595 million counts against next season’s cap – and the Blackhawks will have a tough time coming up with money for Shaw.

Bowman said he won’t know where the cap settles until June, so it was difficult for him to say whether the Blackhawks could or couldn’t re-sign Shaw. There’s no doubt of Shaw’s value, though, Bowman said.

“He's a heart and soul player, really competitive. He lays it on the line every night,” Bowman said. “We certainly like what Andrew brings to the table. There's just some things that have yet to be determined, in terms of what's the salary cap going to be. I don't have enough information to answer that, but certainly we’d like to try and do what we can to bring him here.”

Shaw was the Blackhawks’ leading scorer this postseason, recording four goals in six games against the St. Louis Blues. For coach Joel Quenneville, Shaw has long brought those intangibles that he appreciates.

“His competitiveness, his willingness to find the dirty areas, score big goals doesn’t get distracted by the competition. I think everybody loves that feistiness he brings every game. So he’s an irreplaceable guy in that regard,” Quenneville said. “When we’ll get those [cap] discussions we’ll see how it all plays out. But I think everybody has an appreciation for what hebrings.”

His teammates certainly do, on and off the ice.

“He would be a difficult guy to replace, we all want to see him back here, I think we all enjoy having him around,” Patrick Kane said. “He's one of those guys who gets along with everyone on the team and can bring some comedy to the room and also at the same time you saw how successful he was and has been in playoffs throughout his career. And I think with him too he's still a pretty young guy and he has a lot left in him and a lot ahead of him to improve. We all hope to see him back here.”

Shaw has been a big part of the Blackhawks through these past few seasons including the 2013 and 2015 Stanley Cup teams. But once again, the Blackhawks could lose a valued player because of the salary cap. Bowman has worked his magic before with the cap. Perhaps they buy out Bryan Bickell’s contract, which would give the Blackhawks some breathing room. Maybe Shaw plays the part that Marcus Kruger did last offseason, taking a short contract with a small raise until the Blackhawks get more cap space.

There are options, but there aren’t many. Shaw has made his position clear: He wants to stay. Whether or not the Blackhawks can afford that remains to be seen.

“I want to be back here," Shaw said. "I’ve been in Chicago for five years now and I’ve made this place my home. We’ve got a lot of friends. I love the city; love the fan support here. Like I said, be patient and wait for that call.”

Andrew Shaw trying to find balance between toeing the line and not crossing it for Blackhawks

Andrew Shaw trying to find balance between toeing the line and not crossing it for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks brought Andrew Shaw back to Chicago because they lacked some bite to their game. He's already meeting expectations in the physicality department, leading the team with 23 hits.

But the other part of his game the Blackhawks have to live with is the amount of penalties he takes. Through six games this season, Shaw has taken at least one penalty in five of them and is tied for third among all NHL skaters with six minors. The only two skaters above him are guys who have played in two and four more games, respectively.

Because he plays on the edge, Shaw will occasionally cross it and he's trying to find that balance between toeing the line and not stepping over it.

"I find if I'm not playing on the edge, I'm not playing great," Shaw said. "I need to play physical. Even in preseason, I was just finishing checks — clean, shoulder-to-shoulder — and was getting penalty after penalty. Hockey still is a physical game. There's still hitting; it's still legal. So I'm going to go out there and play hard, make it hard on my opponents, make it hard on them physically, do what I do. Not going to change who I am now. I'm an old dog."

Shaw's reputation may also contribute to the matter. He's racked up more than 600 penalty minutes in his NHL career, including postseason, and the officials might be keeping a closer eye on him when he's on the ice.

"It's something he's got to be aware of, but I also think he's got a bullseye on him," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "If I go back through all the penalties he's taken, he probably earned a couple and he probably earned them five years ago. That's something he's got to deal with. We want him to play hard. I think we can handle the ones where he's running people over. We'll kill those off. Obviously the stick penalties and stuff we don't want. But he's playing hard for the team. That's a good thing."

Said Shaw: "The referees, no matter the history of the player, should call the game as it is. If there's a penalty, call a penalty. If there's not a penalty, you let it go. I mean, yeah, I might have been too vocal in my younger days. But the past three years I've been trying to clean it up a little bit. I just take my penalties when I get 'em. But I must have dug myself a really deep hole. Just trying to climb out of it since."

Still, Shaw knows he has to be smarter about the timing of his penalties and where they're happening. The ones that occur in the offensive zone are the penalties that must be eradicated from his game. The ones he earns from battling between the whistles and sticking up for his teammates, the Blackhawks can live with those.

"Obviously I don't want to take penalties, I don't want to put my team down," Shaw said. "I also don't agree with all of the ones I got. I think I got the short end of the stick on a lot of them. Bite my tongue, go to the box. Our PK's been working hard and competing and killing some penalties. Hopefully they start going my way, I guess."

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Robin Lehner to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights

USA Today

Robin Lehner to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights

Robin Lehner will start in goal for the Blackhawks when they host the Vegas Golden Knights at the United Center on Tuesday, coach Jeremy Colliton confirmed after morning skate. It will be his third start of the season.

Lehner is coming off a game in which he stopped 37 of 39 shots for a save percentage of .949, which earned him the No. 3 star of the game in a 3-2 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday. He was fantastic. 

Lehner is 1-0-1 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .931 save percentage in two starts this season.

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