Blackhawks mailbag: Trade-deadline questions abound


Blackhawks mailbag: Trade-deadline questions abound

We’ve hit the All-Star break, where Patrick Kane will ultimately be the Blackhawks’ lone representative this weekend in Nashville. Jonathan Toews, who’s been ill for several days, will not be attending. Because of that, he’s also suspended for Tuesday’s game in Colorado.

C’est la vie.

But in our latest mailbag the All-Star Game and all its glitz isn’t what’s on your mind. Nope, it’s the trade deadline, which hits at 2 p.m. CT on Feb. 29. Several of you asked if the Blackhawks acquire someone around that time. The Blackhawks have decent cap space right now ($2.49 million, via, so a move could be made.

Stan Bowman, talking about the deadline on Tuesday in Carolina and said it’s probably too early to say what the Blackhawks may do. They’re still working in some younger guys, and if things are going well over this last month, the Blackhawks won’t be devastated if they don’t make a move.

Also, a lot of teams are still vying for postseason spots, and who gets close to that and who falls further out of the race will determine potential trade partners.

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“There [are] still a large number of teams who aren’t at that point yet. You don’t know exactly what the pool of players who are going to be available, so we have some ideas on players that might become available, and we’re going to do our work over the coming weeks and follow them and have an idea of who we want to approach,” Bowman said. “And then it just becomes is there a match and does it work, do you have what they are looking for. So I can’t characterize it yet.”

And there’s one more trade-related question involving current roster players.

That I wouldn’t advise. Yes, the Blackhawks have dealt prospective defensemen in the past but those guys aren’t doing much elsewhere. You can still get an experienced guy for a pick or prospect — the Blackhawks got Johnny Oduya for a second- and third-round pick at the 2012 deadline. Not every guy in your defensive group is going to have years of experience. You need to keep some youth for the present and future.

Now, onto the rest of the mailbag:

This is probably a stay-cation more than a vacation, but nevertheless I don’t see much happening these next few days. Besides, moves never happen unless I’m at yoga — please see the news of Toews missing the All-Star weekend — or in the case of Toews and Kane’s signing a few summers ago, on an airplane.

Morning skates are pretty dull. It’s really just a chance for players to get their legs going in the morning and to roll the forward lines. A few teams did away with them this season and I wondered a few months ago if the Blackhawks would do the same. But since they never practice — and why would you with this schedule — the Blackhawks will continue having skates.

There’s a lot of time to figure this one out. As Bowman reminded us on Tuesday, Marcus Kruger is on schedule after December’s wrist surgery but that schedule still doesn’t have him returning until around the start of the playoffs. So Dennis Rasmussen and Phillip Danault are good for a while.

Yes, Andrew Shaw will be a restricted free agent this summer. Bowman, when asked about keeping Shaw, said, “we want to keep all our guys.” The GM is happy to see the year Shaw is having on that top line, too. A lot is going to depend on how much the salary cap rises, and the way the Canadian dollar is going, it probably won’t be much.

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It’s possible he gets lost in the cap crunch. Or perhaps the Blackhawks offer him something like they did Kruger this offseason: a little bit of a raise now, knowing a bigger deal could come later). I don’t foresee a Brandon Saad-type trade. No offense to the scrappy Shaw but they’re two different players commanding two different prices and, if that scenario plays out, trade packages.

I think Scott Darling is secure. Darling’s having a decent season (5-4-2 with a 2.61 goals-against average and .911 save percentage), winning three of his last four outings. The Blackhawks aren’t going to be trading for a backup goaltender. The schedule lightens following the break, so Corey Crawford’s going to be getting the bulk of the outings. Darling came in to save the day in the 2015 first round vs. Nashville but Crawford is obviously going to be the guy in the playoffs.

There’s no personal giddiness — again, fan of the game, not of the team — in seeing which players emerge from the minors. But there is curiosity on who will rise through the ranks. At some point, and by that I mean when he’s ready and when the Blackhawks have a legitimate spot for him to play ample minutes in, I’d like to see what Marko Dano can do. Again, I don’t think he’s ready yet and, more important, the Blackhawks don’t either. I’d also like to see Ville Pokka at some point.

I told you I’d answer this, Alex! Unfortunately I have never had the supposed goodness of Pizza 73. Considering how many times I’ve been in Western Canada, I don’t know how I haven’t had it. But you’ve talked me into it. I’ll report back following my next trip to Calgary.

All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens


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.

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread: