Blackhawks

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.”

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”