Blackhawks

Blackhawks mailbag: Shaw, Bickell and defensive options

Blackhawks mailbag: Shaw, Bickell and defensive options

The NHL offseason is officially upon us. The Blackhawks’ brass has had plenty to think about while the postseason played itself out. The buyout window opens on Wednesday, the draft is a little more than two weeks away and free agency begins on July 1.

So for the Blackhawks, what happens now? For the umpteenth summer they’ve got some decisions to make and a tight budget with which to deal. The 2017-18 salary cap hasn’t been released yet. But according to several reports it’s unlikely to go up much, if at all, from the $71.4 million cap of last season. The Blackhawks have been up against the cap for years now, so this is nothing new. Neither is their losing a key player due to the crunch. Yeah, it’s probably happening again his summer, too.

As one could predict, most of the questions for this mailbag are about Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw. So let’s get to it.

Steve Potts (@SPendHawk): Will Bickell get bought out? Seems like the best option with the cap vs. forcing a solid young asset into a trade.

Probably. The Blackhawks have tried to trade Bickell already and it’s not working, and I certainly wouldn’t give up a valuable asset in a package for him. So the buyout is very likely. Keep in mind if the Blackhawks do that they’ll be on the hook for $1.5 million in 2017-18. But what looms larger is the $3 million that would come off the books now. Considering the 2016-17 cap will go up very little, if at all, they need that money now, regardless of how the Shaw situation ends.

Speaking of that, Mike Fortier (@mike48007) asks, “If they buy out Bickell, does that save enough on the cap to sign Shaw?”

Not necessarily. Again, where does the cap settle? How much does Shaw and his camp ask for? Not only that, but the Blackhawks still have holes to fill on the roster. Saving $3 million is nice for a money-crunched team, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be enough to keep Shaw.

Steve Suffredin (@stevesuffonair): How do you believe the Hawks will address the blue-line deficiencies this offseason? Something has to give.

They’ll do what they can with the limited amount of cash they have. But let me play devil’s advocate for a second here: the Blackhawks’ blue-line situation isn’t horrible. You had three guys (Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson) who played a ton of hockey from 2013-2016. That was going to catch up, and I believe it did. Having those three back there would still be a dream for a lot of teams. I know some weren’t too happy with Trevor van Riemsdyk but getting that full season will help him going forward. Young guys will get better; not every player is Keith right out of the gate. The Blackhawks obviously have high hopes for recent signee Michal Kempny. Ville Pokka could get his chance. If anything, perhaps the Blackhawks find a serviceable veteran on the cheap but they can’t afford much more than that.

tems.zori_19 (@fatems_19): Who is the biggest priority for the Blackhawks to re-sign?

First is Shaw. After that, Artemi Panarin. If I’m them, I get that done as soon as possible. As of now the Blackhawks should have more wiggle room for 2017-18, which is when Panarin’s possible new deal with kick in (keep in mind, though, if the Blackhawks do buy out Bickell, it means a $1.5 million cap hit in 2017-18). Panarin has a nice little situation here: a fellow Russian teammate (Artem Anisimov) and a tremendous on-ice chemistry with Patrick Kane. As long as the Panarin camp doesn’t try to squeeze the Blackhawks for more cash than they already have, this needs to get done.

Marie Manning (@Marie_Manning): Thoughts on (Matt) Murray deserving Conn Smythe over (Sidney) Crosby?

There’s no doubt Murray’s work during the postseason was commendable and you could make the argument for him. You judge the whole postseason for a Conn Smythe candidate, but just to play devil’s advocate, look at the Penguins’ last few games vs. the Sharks. The Sharks were generating little to nothing – two shots in the third period of Game 6? Eek! I probably would have gone for Kris Letang, considering how much the Penguins leaned on him especially after Trevor Daley’s injury. The Penguins had a few worthy candidates.

Dom Palombo (@dompal88): Buffalo’s been a rumored trade partner for Shaw. Hawks could get McCabe or Slavin/Pesce from Carolina. Thoughts?

I’m always hesitant to address rumors, unless I’ve heard something or one of the best in our business have reported a possibility, and this is the first I’ve heard of this one. That being said, the Blackhawks have to try and get something out of Shaw if they can’t sign him, much like they did with the Brandon Saad trade to Columbus last summer.

Sally Daly (@DalySally): What is the grapevine saying about Calder Trophy odds for next week? Canadians are supposed to favor McDavid?

As Han Solo said, “never tell me the odds.” Seriously, I ignore all the odds stuff; just not my thing. Plus, I never talk to fellow writers about for whom they’re voting. None of my business. I wouldn’t just assume Canadian writers are automatically going for the Canadian playing in Canada. McDavid is a tremendous talent, and even with his injury he’ll be right up there in the voting. It was one hell of a rookie class this season. I still think Artemi Panarin has the edge but we shall see soon enough.

Austin Larson (@alarson2201): Do you think the Blackhawks will try to sign Brian Campbell to a deal?

Doubtful. Again, the Blackhawks don’t have much cash with which to work. Meanwhile, the Panthers have boatloads of it. Here’s another thing: would Campbell want to come back? Let’s go back to when Campbell was traded in the summer of 2011. At that time and again during his first season with the Panthers, Campbell talked of how much he enjoyed being back on a Dale Tallon team, that, “you’re not walking on eggshells around here.” Yes, those were his thoughts several years ago; things change. But long story short, mainly due to the money situation, I don’t see it happening.

Papa Bearfighter (@Papabearfighter): Any LA counterparts hearing anything about a Rob Scuderi buyout? All three teams have cap issues. Might make sense?

I didn’t answer this correctly the first time around, so Take 2. The Blackhawks, Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins are all paying portions of Scuderi’s salary. According to generalfanager.com’s buyout calculator, the annual buyout cost for Scuderi (over the next two seasons) would be $833,333 per season. That would be split among the teams, “equally, as per the retained salary amounts.” In related news, I still hate math.

Woods (@chicagofire44): Who you watching at Wimbledon men’s/women’s? And what do you see the Hawks looking for at the draft? Best available?

No massive rooting interest at Wimbledon, other than I’d love to see Roger Federer stay healthy and get at least one more title. As for the draft, we’ll see what the Blackhawks do. As of now they don’t even have a pick until the third round (83rd overall). I think they would go the defensemen route first, since they’ve lost more organizational depth there the last few years.

Froggy V (@PoolFroggy): Why do the Hawks get very few Saturday home games?

Will have to get back to you on this. But I can only assume that it’s because the United Center, between Blackhawks, Bulls and concerts galore, is a very busy building.

Angie Linton (@angielintonindy): Any summer vacation plans? Loved your Paris pics last year.

Very fortunate that I’ll be heading back there this summer again, although I’m probably going to keep the pictures at a minimum. But thank you!

Gettingthenumbersup (@Gettingthenumbe): 1. Don’t you hate getting unrealistic questions? 2. When is the press conference to announce (Dave) Bolland’s return?

1. Yes and, 2. I see what you did there.

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Corey Crawford’s season debut after missing nearly 10 months with a concussion.

Mayers talks about the Kitty system that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Vinnie Hinostroza probably dealt with in their returns to Chicago.

The guys also discuss what’s next for Crawford, the upcoming matchup against Artemi Panarin and the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Blackhawks’ biggest areas for improvement.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center on Thursday:

1. Return of the Crow

The Blackhawks got their man back between the pipes after a 10-month layoff due to a concussion. And he looked like same old "Crow."

Crawford stopped 27 of 30 shots for a save percentage of .900. He faced 12 shots and eight scoring chances in the first period, but nothing too out of the ordinary. The biggest save he made was on a Michael Grabner breakaway in the third period, bailing out a turnover in the neutral zone.

"I think I felt better in the second and third," Crawford said. "But they really didn’t get that many opportunities early. It was nice. I think they flipped one in for the first one, so that was kind of good just to get in it and feel one early. We were close in that one all game and we created a lot. I thought [Antti] Raanta played really well.

"It was a tough, tough break at the end. Still felt I should have stopped that one. We were right there, we were creating a lot and gotta try to come up with that one. Just gotta forget about it and worry about the next game."

2. Alex DeBrincat, Jonathan Toews extend point streaks

The hot start continues for the Blackhawks' two leading scorers, both of whom assisted on Erik Gustafsson's goal in the second period to stretch their point streaks to six games. DeBrincat and Toews each have 10 points this season.

3. Overtime streak ends

The Blackhawks made history by forcing five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team has ever done in the four major sports (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB). But they didn't have the comeback magic in them this time.

Entering Thursday, the Blackhawks were 1-0-1 when trailing after two periods. They were 5-28-2 last season for a win percentage of .143.

4. Familiar faces, new places

Five former Blackhawks took the ice for the Coyotes: Vinnie Hinostroza, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jordan Oesterle, Richard Panik and Antti Raanta.

It was Hjalmarsson's first trip back to Chicago since being traded in the 2017 offseason. He received a nice video tribute during the second TV timeout of the first period, which made him very emotional.

"I almost got emotional too seeing his reaction," Toews said. "He's one of those guys you'll never forget what he meant to this locker room. He was a quiet guy in the room but we all know how he played and put everyone else before himself. Pretty cool reaction from the fans too. I think we were all sad to see him leave this locker room, he did a lot of special things and was a massive part of our championship wins. Happy for him to get that reception. It's well-deserved and obviously we miss having him around."

As far as the game, Hjalmarsson logged a team-high 22:18 of ice time and blocked three shots. Oesterle registered a secondary assist on Arizona's first goal, which was its first 5-on-5 of the season.

Hinostroza, who was also part of the Marian Hossa trade over the summer, scored twice in his return to his hometown, beating Crawford with a wrist shot to make it 2-1 in the second period and an empty-netter in the third; his second goal turned out to be the game winner, the fourth of his career and first as a member of the Coyotes.

Panik recorded four shot attempts (three on goal). And Raanta improved to 16-0-3 in his career at the United Center, a remarkable record for any goaltender in any situation.