Blackhawks

Blackhawks offseason changes unlike ones in 2010

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Blackhawks offseason changes unlike ones in 2010

Key players from another Stanley Cup-winning season are gone. Some were traded due to cap issues. Some were not signed again for the same reason. And there are still changes to be made before the regular season begins.

It’s a lot like 2010. Or is it?

Yes, the Blackhawks’ purge seems similar, maybe not in terms of quantity lost but certainly in the quality players they’ve lost. But unlike 2010, when the Blackhawks entered training camp with plenty of unknowns, this year they have guys who know exactly what to do at the NHL level.

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Bickell, Versteeg tuning out trade rumors]

The Blackhawks still have work to do – we’ll get to that later – but they like what they’ve gotten in return thus far. There will still be openings for Rockford IceHogs to claim but other voids will be filled with those with NHL experience. And that has coach Joel Quenneville optimistic entering the fall of 2015.

“When we lost back in 2010, I don’t think we knew what we were getting into,” he said as the Blackhawks convention opened on Friday evening. “We got a lot of players that came in, more so the draft pick type of player, future types of players that projected down the road. Here, we’ve got something we needed in return where guys can play on our team and play big roles. We can find out a little more on how that plays out as we go along.”

Trevor Daley, Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano and Ryan Garbutt are a few of the players acquired in the Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad trades. The experience is there for all of them; Dano’s the youngest at 20, but he had a solid rookie season and has plenty of potential. Anisimov could be the next second-line center; Patrick Kane is already anticipating the possibilities.

“He’s a big, smart, two-way forward and a left-handed shot. That’s the ideal center for someone like myself,” he said. “You see the size and he’s also got the skill, too. He could be a really dangerous fit on our team, so I’m looking forward to the chance of playing with him, if that’s the case. Hopefully we develop some chemistry as quickly as possible.”

Right after acquiring Daley, general manager Stan Bowman said the Blackhawks were looking to get players, “who can help us now.” As far as how they fit into the system, Bowman said Quenneville and company usually figure that out.

“They’ve done a great job of finding out what works, what doesn’t work,” Bowman said. “We have some new players in, so when you look at it from that perspective, you get excited what the possibilities may be for next year. Change is good. I think we’ve embraced that in the past and we’ve been able to bring in players who now are household names. It’ll be the same for some of the new guys. They’ll be new to the fans and media, but I think you’ll fall in love with some of these guys.”

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Change was bound to come during the summer of 2015, much like it did in the summer of 2010. This time around, however, the new faces are just new to the Blackhawks, not the NHL stage.

“We’ve added some different pieces and tried to replace as best we could,” Quenneville said. “Stan has done a great job in a tight market. That’s today’s game. [There are] certainly a little bit more NHL ready players than we’ve seen in the past. That can help us.”

UPDATES

— Bowman said he continues to talk to Marcus Kruger’s camp about a new contract. “We’re still trying to get everything worked out,” he said.

— The Blackhawks had approximately $750,000 worth of bonus overages last season, which will be deducted from this upcoming season’s cap. So as of today, according to generalfanager.com, the Blackhawks have about $231,500 of cap space.

— Last year, the Blackhawks didn’t trade Nick Leddy until the fall. Bowman said he’s comfortable waiting again, if necessary, to make moves this offseason. “I know it looks like it’s been a long time since July 1 but it’s only been a few weeks,” he said. “There will be some moves around the league between now and the opening of training camp as well as the opening of the season. We’ll look at ways to improve our team. We have a few things we’re contemplating and we’ll see which way we end up going.”

 

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews: 'Our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs'

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews: 'Our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs'

Jonathan Toews watched a lot of playoff hockey this spring. 

"Quite a bit," he admitted Wednesday before making his Chicago Pro Hockey League debut at MB Ice Arena. "More than usual."

That's because the Blackhawks missed out on the postseason for the first time since his rookie year in 2007-08. It's obviously not a position he'd like himself or his team to be in, especially after experiencing three Stanley Cups in a six-year span.

But you have to find a way to take the positives out of it at this point and let it fuel you for the upcoming campaign.

"You always want to be there playing," Toews said. "But when you can maybe step away from the game a little bit and just kind of breathe and — at the same time, look back and realize you’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of success. Obviously there’s no satisfaction there, but you understand it’s not the worst thing to stop and smell the roses and appreciate what you’ve been able to experience, because I think failing to get to the playoffs makes you realize how difficult it really is and maybe it’s something you took for granted.

"But watching more hockey this spring, I think, is something that was really motivating and kind of inspiring and exciting to want to get back to that level again. You dream of playing in the NHL, but at the end of the day, you want to play playoff hockey. That’s what it’s all about."

There were plenty of things that went wrong for the Blackhawks last season and contributed to why they watched the playoffs from home, whether it's the Corey Crawford injury, the down season from Brandon Saad, or the inexperience on the blue line.

For Toews, who turned 30 in April, it's about regaining that old form that made him one of the top players in the NHL and hoping it can filter down the rest of the Blackhawks lineup.

"For me, it’s part of just recapturing that energy, that motivation, excitement and that mindset of a young player who takes nothing for granted, that you had in your younger days," he said. "But also carrying the experience with you and understanding the impact of what you say, what you do, how you carry yourself can impact your teammates, especially the young guys. For me, it comes down to knowing what to say at the right time. But letting my play be the thing that helps me lead by example. No better time than now to use that experience and that excitement trying to rebound off the season we had last year."

If there's any reason to have belief that the Blackhawks can turn it around quickly, look no further than the two teams that collided in the Stanley Cup Final: Vegas and Washington. 

The Golden Knights had the longest odds to win it all at the beginning of the season while the Capitals' championship window was perceived to be closed after they failed to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017 in the second round yet again with a loaded roster. But it's not about what's on paper.

"Watching that last series, you just knew it came down to who had the most, the deepest belief in themselves," Toews said. "I even had a hard time predicting who was going to win every series. It could’ve gone either way in a lot of situations. It’s not only motivating, seeing how fast that play was and to have missed out on playoff hockey this year and to have the drive to get back there, but knowing if you do sneak into the playoffs it doesn’t matter. You can go a long way.

"For us, thinking, 'OK, we're gonna back and win a Stanley Cup this year,' it sounds like a long shot. But as always, our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs and being ready to hit our stride when we get there."

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."