Blackhawks quiet on Day 1 of NHL Draft


Blackhawks quiet on Day 1 of NHL Draft

SUNRISE, Fla. — For teams with first-round selections, it was an active night. Some hoped they found players to help rebuild their teams while others selected those they hope are part of current success.

But for the Blackhawks, who have to do some dismantling at some point, it was very quiet.

General manager Stan Bowman said he had “a lot of talks” but nothing came to fruition in the first round of the NHL Draft on Friday night. The Blackhawks obviously have to part with a player or two — or more — to get under the $71.4 million cap that’s set for the 2015-16 season. They also want to re-sign Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger. But when the first round wrapped on Friday, the Blackhawks stood pat.

[MORE: Blackhawks 2015-16 schedule released, Stanley Cup banner to be raised Oct. 7]

“I really didn’t have expectations,” Bowman said of Day 1. “Things come up sometimes. We had a lot of talks and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. But we’re looking to tomorrow and we’ve got a number of picks and we’re going to do our best.”

Rounds 2-7 begin at 9 a.m. CT on Saturday. The Blackhawks have seven draft picks, beginning with the compensatory pick (54th overall) they received for not signing Kevin Hayes.

While Bowman said the Blackhawks are focused on the draft, there’s no doubt many are watching to see how and when they shed salary. The team currently has more than $64 million committed to 14 players. That’s not counting restricted free agents Saad and Kruger; Bowman said he’s had “good discussions” regarding both players and upcoming deals. But again, the Blackhawks have to clear some cash. Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell are two possibilities to be moved. Both have two years remaining on their current deals; Sharp has a $5.9 million cap hit and Bickell has a $4 million cap hit.

Despite nothing shaking out on Friday, Bowman said he’s not feeling a massive sense of urgency.

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“We have a plan,” Bowman said. “We want to do certain things, but you can’t always force the timing. It takes two to make a deal. We’ve had a lot of good discussions and we’re focused mainly on the draft. If other things come up, that’s fine.”

As we’ve previously written, the Blackhawks’ salary-cap woes are not a secret. Other teams know the situation they’re in and it’s possible the Blackhawks don’t get the return they truly want. Bowman, however, didn’t see it that way.

“If you’re looking to make a deal as a team, you have a lot of self-interest there" he said. "If you can get something that works for you, I don’t know that you’re worried about another team’s situation. Most of us are always trying to do what’s best for our team individually, so I don’t think that’s true.”

There was plenty of first-round action for a lot of teams on Friday. The Blackhawks weren’t among them. They’ve got plenty of work to do outside of those draft selections. Whether or not that current roster work begins tomorrow remains to be seen.

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.