Blackhawks

Blackhawks bracing for roster shake-up as NHL Draft nears

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Blackhawks bracing for roster shake-up as NHL Draft nears

The Blackhawks entered last week on the cusp of winning their third Stanley Cup in the past six seasons, and by the end of last Monday night, they did that.

One week later, the anticipation is no longer about what the Blackhawks are about to win. It’s about what they’re about to lose.

The NHL draft begins on Friday but it won’t be surprising if the Blackhawks start shaking up their roster before then. It wouldn’t be the first time the Blackhawks started dismantling a team prior to the draft; on June 24, 2010, the day before that year’s draft, the Blackhawks sent Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager to Atlanta in exchange for Jeremy Morin, among others, and first- and second-round picks for that draft.

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It’s doubtful there will be a blockbuster trade like that this summer but the Blackhawks will nevertheless part with some familiar faces. The Blackhawks currently have more than $64 million devoted to 14 players, and the salary cap isn’t expected to be much more than $71 million for the 2015-16 season. General manager Stan Bowman made it clear the Blackhawks want to re-sign Brandon Saad (and Marcus Kruger and probably Andrew Desjardins, too), so here we are.

Patrick Sharp’s name has been bandied out plenty because he and his $5.9 million cap hit are most likely gone. A source said Pittsburgh is a possible destination but there could be others. Bryan Bickell, who has two years remaining on his current contract and a $4 million/year cap hit, could be another casualty.

Sharp may have had a so-so 2014-15 but he’s otherwise put up strong numbers through the past few regular- and postseasons. The 33-year-old would be a great fit for a team with cap space looking for a top-six forward. Bickell earned his contract during the 2013 postseason but hasn’t really lived up to those numbers. Still, he brings a physical edge that some teams could covet.

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The Blackhawks will do their best to get a good return on whomever they trade, although it may not end up being a tremendous haul. Every other team is well aware of the Blackhawks’ plight and there may be some who try to lowball them. Hey, that’s the side effect of being in a salary-cap crunch.

Things are going to be changing very soon for the Blackhawks. They’ll have to say goodbye to some longtime friends who have been key in winning the last two or three Stanley Cups. They’ll see a different roster come autumn — maybe it won’t be 2010 different, but it will be different. But with loss will come gain: some Rockford players who have been working for years for an opportunity will finally get one. Some newcomers — Michael Paliotta, Kyle Baun and Artemi Panarin — will also get a shot. There are plenty of the core players remaining to keep the Blackhawks thinking success for some time to come.

Still, it will be bittersweet. It was only a week ago that the Blackhawks said hello to another Cup triumph. They’ll soon be saying goodbye to some who helped get them there.

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

He’s back.

Corey Crawford was officially activated from injured reserve on Thursday and will start in goal for the first time since Dec. 23, 2017 when the Blackhawks host the Arizona Coyotes.

"It’s exciting," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I’m sure he’s looking forward to it and we’re all excited about it as well. It’ll be a fun situation for the guys, seeing him back in the net as well. So we’re looking for everyone to be excited about tonight’s game."

The two-time Stanley Cup champion was medically cleared to practice from his concussion on Oct. 1, but the Blackhawks wanted to give Crawford as much time as he needed to get his conditioning and puck-tracking skills up to game speed before putting him into game action.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said on Wednesday. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. It was a pretty long process. ... Practices have been great, been getting timing a little bit more and getting up to speed and reading shots and all that, so it'll be nice to finally get in one."

To make room for Crawford on the 23-man roster, the Blackhawks have assigned forward Luke Johnson to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Brandon Saad, who wore a white healthy scratch jersey all week at practice, will take his spot in the lineup.

For now, the Blackhawks will hang on to Anton Forsberg and carry three goaltenders as insurance as they get ready to start a seven-games-in-11-days stretch.

Crawford was 16-9-2 with a 2.27 goals against average, .929 save percentage and two shutouts in 28 games last season. The Blackhawks were 17-30-8 without him and finished last in the Central Division.

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: