Blackhawks

Evaluating Saturday's depth signings, and where Blackhawks stand after Day 1 of free agency

Evaluating Saturday's depth signings, and where Blackhawks stand after Day 1 of free agency

The Blackhawks are in what’s become a typical offseason situation for them: a few needs to fill, not a lot of cash with which to fill them. With four more signings on Saturday, however, the Blackhawks hope to give themselves some depth and options this season.

Wilmette native Tommy Wingels signed a one-year deal on Saturday, as did fellow forward Lance Bouma. The Blackhawks also signed goaltender Jean-François Bérubé and defenseman Jordan Oesterle to two-year contracts. The moves give the Blackhawks more options and all four players are in their 20s – Bérubé and Oesterle are both 25, Bouma is 27 and Wingels is 29.

Wingels brings that drive-to-the-net element that the Blackhawks had for most of the regular season but were sorely lacking in the playoffs. He said he talked with general manager Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville about his role. Whatever that may be, outside of going to the dirty areas, getting the chance to play for the hometown team is a thrill.

“Hearing from those guys meant a lot to me. When the offer did come, I spoke with my family and it was just a no-brainer. Such an unbelievable organization and what the Blackhawks mean to the city, I’m such a big fan of it,” Wingels said. “I’m a good bottom-six player, expected to bring energy, [play] a straight-line game and get into the dirty areas. Watching the team, watching how the team fared in the playoffs, that’s a piece that was missing. I’m sure they’re adding others but I think that’s an area I can help out and get to the net, score some dirty goals and be a difficult player to play against.”

Wingels can play either center or wing, and being a right-handed shot was also an asset.

[MORE: Blackhawks bolster depth with flurry of moves]

“Whether he’s full time in the middle, I’m not sure. That’s something Joel [Quenneville] will figure out. We definitely like having a right-handed shot to take faceoffs and [Patrick Sharp] is the same way. He played center long ago, but we see him more on the wing here. But Patrick certainly has the ability to take faceoffs, too,” Bowman said. “We don’t have a lot of right-handed centers here and we wanted to add to that area. It’s probably more on the wing for Tommy but he has experience in the middle and I think as things go along, he could end up there.”

Bouma, meanwhile, should bring a gritty element the Blackhawks have been lacking. This is also a welcomed fresh start for Bouma; the Calgary Flames bought out the final year of his previous contract on Friday.

“Anytime you end like that it’s tough… because you’re signed to a deal and you want to prove them right on what they signed you to. But I had a great run there, made a lot of great friends in the city and on the team,” Bouma said. “I’m just looking forward and obviously winning here and having fun here and meeting new teammates. It’s going to be a fun time for sure.”

With Bérubé the Blackhawks gain some depth at goaltending. Anton Forsberg is likely the Blackhawks’ backup goaltender but Bowman wanted another option. Last year when Corey Crawford was out with appendicitis, Scott Darling started all 11 games in his absence.

Bowman wouldn’t say what else the Blackhawks could add during this free-agency period. They’re currently a few million over the $75 million salary cap – teams are allowed to be 10 percent over it until the regular-season begins – and are expected to make another move. They’ll still also see what happens regarding Marian Hossa’s long-term injured reserve possibility; Bowman didn’t foresee that being a problem, and it’s likely to be applied early in the regular season.

The Blackhawks still have concerns at defense, where replacing Niklas Hjalmarsson will be difficult. Again, as said above, we’ll see if the Blackhawks make any more moves or, once Hossa’s LTIR can be applied, look at options then. Right now there’s a lot of youth there, from guys who have gotten some work with the Blackhawks (Michal Kempny, Gustav Forsling, Erik Gustaffson) to those who haven’t Jan Rutta, Ville Pokka and Oesterle).

“The opportunity will be there for the young guys to show which one belongs or if a few belong, that would be great,” Bowman said. “That’s what we’ll figure out in camp. It’ll be a competitive time for these guys to put their best foot forward and see who’s ready for the job.”

Blackhawks remember Dave Bolland for more than just '17 Seconds'

Blackhawks remember Dave Bolland for more than just '17 Seconds'

The Blackhawks are honoring one of their own on Friday, with Dave Bolland set to skate “One More Shift” with the organization. He will join the team on the ice during the anthem, and will be featured throughout the game commemorating his time in Chicago.

When you think of Bolland, the first thing that pops up into the minds of fans is his game-winning goal in Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins. Or, better known as the second goal of "17 Seconds."

But his former teammates remember him for more than that.

"He was awesome," Patrick Kane said. "He was one of those guys who played a third-line role for like his whole time here and just really did well with it. I remember the line with him, [Martin] Havlat and [Andrew] Ladd really took off in 2009 and obviously [Dustin] Byfuglien, him and [Kris] Versteeg were a good line in 2010. But just the way he played, he got underneath the other team's skin, especially their star players. Wasn't afraid to chirp, wasn't afraid to get into the mix, especially with his size and the way he was built.

"But yeah, some great moments, some big goals, a lot of big shorthanded goals, you can obviously remember his 17 seconds was unbelievable as well, that's a goal I'm sure he'll never forget. We'll never forget that celebration too, so it's awesome he's getting honored."

Bolland, who earned the nickname "The Rat," is perhaps best known for the role he played in the Blackhawks' playoff series battles with the Vancouver Canucks. His line frequently drew the defensive matchups against Daniel and Henrik Sedin, and he's the one player who really knew how to throw both twins off their game at the same time.

"I think he's kind of like Shawzy," Jonathan Toews said. "He's one of those guys that fans here in Chicago really like. Aside from scoring goals and the plays that he made over the years in the playoffs, he was one of those guys that you loved having on your team that other teams hated. He found ways to chip away at their best players and get them off their game. He was good at a lot of little things like that, so he was a big part of those winning teams."

Andrew Shaw was teammates with Bolland for only two seasons, but they won a Stanley Cup together and Bolland was one of the best and knowing his role and perfecting it.

"One of the best at his job," Shaw said. "He played that shutdown centerman. I always thought he had the shortest shifts. His shift lengths were so short just 'cause he would play so much against top guys that he'd want to be so well-rested while he was out there. ... He was skilled enough to chip in offensively as well.

"That's the type of player he was. He'd play against the top guys, he'd shut them down, he'd be that little rat himself, just try to get them off their game as well as outworking them."

Bolland spent seven of his 10 NHL seasons in Chicago, where he registered 168 points (70 goals, 98 assists) in 332 games. He was drafted by the Blackhawks in the second round (No. 32 overall) of the 2004 NHL Draft.

Friday will mark the first night honoring the 10-year anniversary of the 2010 Stanley Cup Championship, which ended a 49-year drought in franchise history. The first 10,000 fans on Friday will receive a Marian Hossa bobblehead.

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Robin Lehner to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Blue Jackets

robin_lehner_usa_today.jpg
USA Today

Robin Lehner to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Blue Jackets

Robin Lehner will start in goal for the Blackhawks when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, coach Jeremy Colliton confirmed after morning skate. It will be his second start of the season.

In his season debut against the Winnipeg Jets, Lehner stopped 30 of 33 shots for a save percentage of .909 in a 3-2 overtime loss. He gave up a 5-on-5 goal, power-play goal and overtime goal at 3-on-3. Overall, he was solid.

"Everyone wants to play all the time," Colliton said of the dynamic between Corey Crawford and Lehner. "Whether it's a goalie, forward or D, they play better when they play more. That's just the standard answer. But we've had a little bit of a lighter schedule. We're trying to make ... we want both guys going because we're coming up on a stretch where we're playing a lot of games, so we're going to need them both."

Lehner is 5-3-0 with a 1.97 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and one shutout in eight career appearances against the Blue Jackets. 

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