Blackhawks bracing for roster shake-up as NHL Draft nears


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.

NHL Draft Profile: D Adam Boqvist

NHL Draft Profile: D Adam Boqvist

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Adam Boqvist

Position: Defenseman
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 168 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"Boqvist is a finesse defenseman who is very skilled, possesses excellent vision and tons of talent. He is fun to watch and full of surprises on the ice. He often plays bigger than his size and skated in his first games with Sweden's Senior National Team in April."

NHL player comparable: Erik Karlsson

Fit for Blackhawks:

The Blackhawks would love to have Karlsson, who is probably being traded out of Ottawa this summer. Every team would love to have him. But that's not realistic for Chicago. So what if they drafted his potential mini me?

Boqvist is electric with the puck and has drawn comparisons to the Swedish defenseman as a best-case scenario.

There are two concerns, though. One is that he may need some time to develop at just 17 years old and his defense a work in progress. The second is that he's sustained head injuries over the course of his young career, which adds a little bit of risk to the equation.

If he can stay healthy and his development isn't rushed, there's major upside here. But are the Blackhawks willing to be patient? We're not so sure.

Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?


Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?

Here's an interesting development as we approach the NHL Draft: Artemi Panarin has informed the Blue Jackets that he's not ready to consider an extension "at this time" and because of that, Columbus is testing the market for the Russian winger, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen responded to the report shortly after in a statement released by the team:

"Artemi is an elite National Hockey League player. Our position has been that we want him to be a Blue Jacket for many years and that has not changed. He has a year left on his contract, so there is plenty of time to work towards that end. Should anything change moving forward, we will address it at that time and any decision we make will be in the best interest of our club.”

Ironically, Panarin was traded to Columbus on the afternoon of last year's draft as part of a blockbuster package that sent Brandon Saad back to Chicago. It shook up the hockey world, and has the potential to do so again.

Panarin is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2019, but is free to sign an extension with Columbus on July 1. Clearly, that doesn't seem to be in the cards right now and it's why the Blue Jackets have to put out feelers. They can't risk losing him for nothing.

On the flip side, Panarin has every right to test the open market. He has one year left on his contract that carries a $6 million cap hit. He's due for a hefty raise, will be 27 years old next summer — the prime of his hockey career — and will certainly be looking for a long-term deal after accepting a bridge contract with the Blackhawks.

Speaking of whom, should his former team explore bringing him back to Chicago now that he's on the market?

Every general manager should and will do their due diligence and call for an asking price, Stan Bowman included. Those conversations might start with Alex DeBrincat or Nick Schmaltz, and if that's the case, you say thanks but no thanks and move on. 

The Blackhawks have the Nos. 8 and 27 picks in this year's draft as possible ammunition, but the Blue Jackets are ready to take that next step. They were up 2-0 in their first-round series before losing four straight to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. It's unlikely they'd be looking to center a potential deal around draft picks. 

The only way you even consider it from the Blackhawks perspective is if Panarin is guaranteed to sign a long-term extension at a price you're comfortable with, but that's one of the main reasons why they traded him in the first place. 

To cap it all off, trading for Panarin wouldn't even address the Blackhawks' biggest need and that's a Top 4 defenseman. Those don't grow on trees. The Blackhawks will have the cap space to sign a player like James van Riemsdyk to patch up their top 6. You can't say the same for the free-agent blue line group.

So while it may certainly be fun for Blackhawks fans to come up with possible trade scenarios to get Panarin back in an Indianhead sweater, it just doesn't make great sense for a variety of reasons.