Blackhawks

Blackhawks mailbag: So many trade deadline questions

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Blackhawks mailbag: So many trade deadline questions

Ah, the trade deadline is approaching. The next week promises to offer a few deals around the league, some prognostication and way too many baseless rumors. We’ll gnash our teeth, and probably shoot down, at the thought of that last one.

I believe the Blackhawks absolutely will do something at the trade deadline, which is 2 p.m. next Monday. The question is, do they focus on just getting a left wing, just getting a defenseman or both? According to generalfanager.com, the Blackhawks are estimated to have approximately $4.76 million of salary-cap space on trade deadline day (please read the site to see the full explanation as to how it gets to that number). They’ll also have to be mindful of any season bonuses (among them, Artemi Panarin). So there is some wiggle room, but not a ton.

Of course, you all have questions on what could happen. Brandon Fisher (@BK_FiSH3R) asks, “Who else besides (Andrew) Ladd are the Hawks looking to acquire?” Ladd is on the Blackhawks’ list, but that doesn’t mean he’s the only guy on that list. Sure, it would be a great fit, a natural fit. But does he even leave Winnipeg? And if he does, what do the Jets want in return? Gary Lawless of TSN wrote of the interest Ladd is generating (that’s my way of telling you to read his story). Not surprisingly, there is plenty; Ladd is a proven winner in the final year of his current contract. He’s also playing very well lately. If the Jets part with Ladd, he’s going to the highest bidder. The Blackhawks have to be careful not to part with too much here. Leave the mortgaging-the-future packages to teams looking for their first Stanley Cup in a while, not their fourth in seven seasons.

Sean Fitzgerald (@Diesal3426) asks, “Do they acquire a defenseman at the deadline?” I still say the Blackhawks go the forward route. It all depends on what general manager Stan Bowman can swing. They got three players at last year’s deadline (Antoine Vermette, Andrew Desjardins and Kimmo Timonen), but they also had cap space from Patrick Kane going on long-term injured reserve.

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Related to that, Pamela (@pamela22427464) asked about the possibilities of acquiring Ladd or Mikkel Boedker. This falls into the same answer in terms of what the Arizona Coyotes would like in return. Boedker might not have the familiarity of Ladd to the Blackhawks, but he could certainly pick teammate Antoine Vermette’s brain. That turned out well last season, didn’t it?

Mark St. Lawrence (@Markamos43) asks, “Do you see the Blackhawks adding (Kris) Versteeg back if the return price is reasonable?” Anything that’s reasonable is possible, though I’m not sure if I see Versteeg doing a third go-around with the Blackhawks. Depends on if the Blackhawks want to make more than one move at the deadline or shoot for a higher-priced forward rental.

And one more from Artem Kanarin (@ThatSportzGuy88), who asks, “What are the odds the Hawks include (Teuvo) Teravainen in a trade package? I think it would be a mistake.” I agree. A few years ago, Bowman was asked about possibly trading Teravainen. There was no chance at that time. Even though Teravainen isn’t having the season he or the Blackhawks envisioned, I would absolutely keep him. There’s too much potential.

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Now, let’s get on to some other questions.

What do you think is ahead for (Andrew) Shaw? Does being such a fan favorite make him any more of a priority to keep? (Angelo Auriemma, @UhOhAngelo). Here’s one thing I can guarantee: How much fans love a player has nothing to do with whether he stays or goes. There’s a long list of Blackhawks favorites who have been traded. As of now, I see Shaw staying. Anything’s possible at the trade deadline, but I don’t foresee the Blackhawks packaging him in any deal. The Blackhawks certainly have offseason decisions to make and cap issues looming again, but Shaw’s proven his worth. He’s still one of the few guys willing to plant himself in front of the net — outside of Artem Anisimov now, of course — and he’s a guy coach Joel Quenneville will move up and down the lineup.

What changes do the Blackhawks alumni need to make to be more competitive? Do you blame Pat Foley for this loss? (Brian Morris @BMorris2711). Haha! I loved the alumni game. I could only imagine how heated those Blackhawks-North Stars games were back in the day, but to see these guys later in their careers, going out there and having a ball, was entertaining. I do not blame Mr. Foley for the loss. I just wish he was mic’d up for the entire game so we could have heard his call on Jimmy Waite’s third-period stop on Mike Modano.

Apologies if already known, but any news on return dates for (Marian) Hossa and (Marcus) Kruger? (Stu Haas, @stuhaas): The Kruger question has come up a lot. The Blackhawks said back in mid-December they’re not expecting Kruger (wrist surgery) back until the start of the postseason, and that hasn’t changed. As for Hossa (lower body), he’s also on schedule (Quenneville anticipated about two weeks from when he was injured on Feb. 13). When asked on Saturday if Hossa has started skating yet, Quenneville said, “I don’t think so.”

What was the most unbelievable Blackhawks comeback win you ever covered? (Hockey ebooks, @Hockey-ebooks). I wasn’t here for that ridiculous comeback over the Calgary Flames back in 2009, which I believe is the biggest comeback in franchise history. (Right?) So for me, it’s still the 17 seconds of Game 6 vs. the Boston Bruins. It might have just been overcoming a one-goal deficit, but the way it happened, the stage on which it happened and the speed in which it happened rank it my clear No. 1.

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On average, what is the reaction time between a loss and the sky-is-falling crowd calling to break up the team? (Brian Cook, @bcookin). OK, I know you’re asking this in half jest, but it really is something how quickly some lose their minds. I make fun of it a lot; the fact that some panic over this team, this team that wins constantly, cracks me up. Also, most of this reaction comes from Twitter which, love it or not, isn’t the most rational haven. So you take it for what it is.

Good red wine recommendation, one to drink and cook with? (Jessica Geraci, @TheRealJay_Gee). Oh, we could be here for a while. Here’s my deal with red wine: I am not a connoisseur by any means. I just know what I like, which is pretty much everything but Merlot. As far as cooking, just get a red that doesn’t cost too much. Seriously, most of it is going to get burned off in the cooking process (or so I’m told by people who get more of a chance to cook than I do).

How bad of a postseason threat are the Caps? How does their depth and experience compare to ours? (Kathryn Marie, @Kati1727). This is more of a concern for their Eastern Conference opponents, but the Washington Capitals look pretty damn good. Barry Trotz is a great coach, and now he has the right blend of offensive talent and defense. Mix that with Braden Holtby’s great year, and the Caps are intimidating. But how will they fare in the playoffs? They’ve had a few early-round exits, so will they have the right combination of physical readiness and mental fortitude in the postseason? Don’t underestimate the mental toughness necessary in the playoffs; ask the Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings, two of the best in that department. The Caps have a long way to go to get to the Cup. So do the Blackhawks, for that matter, just in case anyone was already penciling them in there.

Any stories on the Blackhawks’ public relations people? (Jenna, @brentseabs). I could tell stories, but then I’d probably meet the same fate as Luca Brasi.

Stan Bowman explains how Blackhawks may utilize extra cap space

Stan Bowman explains how Blackhawks may utilize extra cap space

The Blackhawks had cap space to use this summer but elected to shore up their depth rather than make a splash when free agency opened up on July 1. Perhaps a large reason for that was because Marian Hossa's $5.275 million cap hit over the next three years complicated what they could do exactly in the short term without jeopardizing the long term.

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman admitted Tuesday that they had had discussions about moving Hossa's contract for a year now. But it finally reached a point where they simply needed to get it off their hands, even if it meant giving up Vinnie Hinostroza as a sweetener.

"We tried to make that deal work in every other way possible but they obviously said he had to be in it," Bowman said of including Hinostroza.

That's how important it was to free up even more cap space. By trading Hossa's contract in a nine-piece trade with the Arizona Coyotes, it created more options for the Blackhawks and financial flexibility going forward.

"It was a difficult trade from a sentimental perspective, because we'd love to not have to do that," Bowman said. "But on the practical matter, it was becoming challenging to try to operate with that contract here. It necessitated us trying to make the move that we did make. You don't know when those opportunities are going to come to try and make that type of a move. ... When this presented itself, we talked it through and got to the point where we thought it was something we had to take advantage of."

The problem for the short term is, it's mid-July and the big-name free agents are off the market. There's not much the Blackhawks can do to improve their roster externally unless they make a trade, which would require dipping into the pipeline.

And it's unfair to put a grade on the Hossa trade as a whole without seeing how they utilize that extra cap space. Could that be before the 2018-19 season starts?

"It's an option if we can find the right player or the right situation," Bowman said. "We certainly have more options now than we did before. I wouldn't say we have to do something. Having cap space is an asset in and of itself, so things will come along maybe in the summer or maybe in the beginning part of the year where teams have a couple players that make their team unexpectedly and that makes some other players more expendable. In the past we probably haven't really been a good match for those types of situations because we didn't have the cap room at that time, so now we're going to be in the mix for those types of things.

"Whether we use it right away or whether we use it during the season, I think the nice thing is we have the flexibility now going in to the coming years where we're going to need cap room, all that and more, to sign the young players."

It doesn't sound like there's much urgency to pull something off between now and when training camp rolls around in September. At least for now.

That doesn't mean there won't be once the market picks back up again. 

"Each year teams have surprises, good and bad, in camp," Bowman said. "Our team’s the same way. You have ideas on how your lines are going to look or how your players are going to be ready. Sometimes guys surprise you in a good way, sometimes it’s not what you think. There’ll be some adjustments around the league, but probably not a lot of activity.

"If you look back the last couple of seasons, late July and August are quieter as far as transactions. But there are some arbitration cases coming up around the league; those may get settled ahead of time. But if they do go to arbitration, if the number's not the way the team likes it, they may look to do something. There’s the possibility of moves, but probably closer to training camp is more when changes may happen."

All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens

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AP

All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens

The second wave of Blackhawks defensemen is on the way. That's exactly where all the attention was when prospect camp opened up Monday at MB Ice Arena.

Nicolas Beaudin. Adam Boqvist. Henri Jokiharju. Ian Mitchell. Call it the Big Four. Where are they all at in their development? When will they be ready to make an NHL impact? Who's the most pro ready? 

Lots of questions. Those will slowly start to get answered and it begins now.

While there may not necessarily be an open competition among the group right away, there's certainly a desire to make a strong first impression in front of the upper brass that included Stan Bowman, John McDonough and Joel Quenneville watching on Day 1.

"Every NHL team has a lot of good defensemen prospects, so I mean obviously when you want to go out there you want to showcase yourself as best as you can," Mitchell said. "Obviously you want to be the best defenseman here so that's my goal going into this, I want to prove to everyone that I'm a good defenseman, I deserve to play at the next level. Obviously there's lots of good players here, but you're trying to all succeed."

Said Beaudin: "There's a lot of competition. There's a lot of good, young defensemen. I think you just need to be different when you play when you show what you can do."

Said Boqvist: "I'm trying to be better every day. Of course I will play in the NHL one day and win Stanley Cups, so that's my mindset."

The theme? Focus on your own game, take what you learn out of this week and apply those tools in your game when advancing your development next season. The rest will take care of itself.

Mitchell will go back to Denver for his sophomore campaign to continue his development. Beaudin is expected to return to the QMJHL with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Boqvist signed with the OHL's London Knights, where he will look to get accustomed to the North American style of play.

For Jokiharju, the goal is different. This is his second development camp. He signed an entry-level contract in June. Making the big club is a real goal and a legitimate possibility for a Blackhawks team looking for young, impact defensemen immediately.

"I think if Henri has a really good summer of training, comes into camp, I certainly thinks he gets a good look," Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley told NBC Sports Chicago last month.

Jokiharju showed poise and confidence with and without the puck during drills, like someone who knows this is only the first step towards that ultimate goal.

"Yeah," Jokiharju responded when asked if the expectation is to make it to the NHL this season. "You want to set the bar high, you don't want to set the bar too low. I want to dream big and that's the dream."

That's the dream for everyone. When that happens, it's up to them. This week is a chance to set an early tone.