Blackhawks

Five Things: Again, Blackhawks give up too many goals in loss

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Five Things: Again, Blackhawks give up too many goals in loss

NEWARK, N.J. — The Blackhawks can deal with losing. Things happen in an 82-game season. What they have a problem with is how they’re losing right now.

The Blackhawks are giving up a lot of goals, more than they’re used to in recent seasons. It was another rough night in that department on Friday, when they suffered a 4-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils. So the Blackhawks will once again try to figure out how to tighten things up. While they do that, let’s look at Five Things to take from their loss to the Devils.

1. Too many goals once again. The Blackhawks have now allowed 20 goals in their last five games. We’re not used to seeing that number from this group. Yes, not having Duncan Keith hurts in that category. But the Blackhawks are all about team defense, and they’re not getting that right now. Corey Crawford hasn’t been good these last two games, either. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “too many (goals), and relatively easy goals are scored against us without being contested.” That is definitely not the Blackhawks’ way.

2. What’s up with the road? The Blackhawks have long been a good road team. They’ve talked about how they use those trips as bonding experiences. But that has not been the case thus far, as the Blackhawks fell to 1-5-0 on the road with Friday’s loss. Oh, and those are five consecutive road losses — they won their road opener in overtime against the New York Islanders. The good news: The Blackhawks have the Circus Trip coming up soon, and they’ve usually come away with a winning record on it. They could use that again.

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3. Artem Anisimov should be OK. Anisimov left in the second period with a lower-body injury and did not return. His absence certainly didn’t help a team already missing Keith and Marian Hossa, but it sounds like Anisimov could play again on Sunday when the Blackhawks host the Edmonton Oilers. That’s good because as much as the Blackhawks don’t want to use injuries as excuses, it would’ve hurt losing another guy who’s been great to start the season.

4. Scott Darling pulled with more than six minutes remaining. Somewhere, Patrick Roy is even surprised at that move. But that’s what Quenneville did on Friday. They got one goal back — Tanner Kero scored his first career NHL goal — but it wasn’t enough. The stranger part is that the Devils didn’t score in all that time. Quenneville said he’s only pulled a goalie that early one other time. “They scored right away,” he added.

5. Patrick Kane extends his point streak. Kane scored his ninth goal of the season on Friday and his nine-game point streak, during which he’s recorded six goals and seven assists, is the longest active one in the NHL.

Do the Blackhawks have room to sign John Tavares?

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USA TODAY

Do the Blackhawks have room to sign John Tavares?

The NHL Draft is over. Farm systems have been restocked and now the focus has shifted to free agency, where the fun is just beginning.

The biggest fish on the market is John Tavares, a franchise-changing center in the heart of his prime. For a little bit, it seemed like the loyal New York Islanders captain was ready to move on after they took another step back by missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

But then Lou Lamiorello became available and was snatched up by Long Island. His first order of business was relieving GM Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight of their duties, the first real sign that significant changes were coming. The next was securing Barry Trotz as head coach after he couldn't agree to terms on an extension with the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.

For the first time in a while, there appears to be structure in the front office and coaching staff.

Yet, Tavares has remained committed to visiting with reportedly five teams in Los Angeles during the free agent negotiating window that opened Sunday. And he's absolutely earned that right. San Jose and Toronto are believed to be two of the teams. The rest is unclear.

When asked by NBC Sports Chicago's Pat Boyle at the end of the draft on Saturday, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman wouldn't confirm nor deny that they were one of the teams scheduled to meet with Tavares.

"I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise, right?" Bowman said with a smile.

Whether or not they are, could the Blackhawks realistically even make it work?

They actually have the cap space to do it. Or at least they can make room without shuffling too many cards.

As of Sunday, the Blackhawks have $9.225 million in open cap space to fill out six roster spots. If you can find a trade partner for Marian Hossa's contract, that creates an extra $5.275 million, which brings the total up to $14.5 million. That's without subtracting any real bodies from the roster. 

Tavares is likely to command in the $10 million range for average annual value over the next seven years, and the latter part is key. While it would certainly be challenging to have three players eating up at least $10 million each in cap space — with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews at $10.5 million — they could make it work in the short term.

But signing Tavares to a seven-year deal would probably get in the way of the Blackhawks' longer-term goals, which includes re-signing Alex DeBrincat and Nick Schmaltz when their entry-level deals expire and even Vinnie Hinostroza when his new two-year contract ends.

Are the Blackhawks willing to risk that?

For Tavares, maybe. But Toews is 30, Kane is 29 and Tavares will be 28 by the time this upcoming season starts. At some point, an infusion of youth would be required to remain competitive for the long term.

Stan Bowman plays coy when asked about pitching free agent John Tavares

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USA TODAY

Stan Bowman plays coy when asked about pitching free agent John Tavares

The unrestricted free agent market opens up for the NHL on July 1. Five-time All-Star John Tavares is will reportedly be meeting with five different teams to talk about the possibility of leaving the only team he's played for his entire career, the New York Islanders. 

After a highly disappointing 33-39-10 finish to the 2017-18 season, many expect Chicago general manager Stan Bowman to be very aggressive this offseason. When asked by NBC Sports Chicago's Pat Boyle if the Blackhawks would be one of the five teams going after Tavares, Bowman gave a very reticent answer.

"I woudn't want to spoil the surprise, right?" Bowman said with a smile. 

"No, I'm not going to comment on that, but I know we're gonna have a lot of discussions over the next five or six days and we'll see where it goes."

Reports indicate that the Islanders and Tavares had been trying to work out the terms of a long-term extension, but with so many attractive options out there, it will be a tough decision for him. There are several teams coming off of playoff runs expected to go after Tavares, including Tampa Bay, Las Vegas and San Jose. In addition to those teams, his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs are expected to be in play as well.

But Chicago's rough year was so out of place for a team so used to winning consistently, that one can imagine their pitch will be enticing.

Elliotte Friedman of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada had this to say about the Blackhawks potential pursuit of Tavares: "They're not going to tolerate being that bad again, they're going to try something. I think they'll make a run at John Tavares too. I do, I think they'll ask, is there any way we can get him here?"

When taking all of this into account, it is sure to be an extremely exciting free agency period for the Blackhawks. The team is in full "re-tool" rather than "rebuild" mode, and there have been discussions that Kane may be becoming the more vocal leader of the team. But the addition of Tavares to a core of Kane, Jonathan Toews and Corey Crawford could boost the Blackhawks back into Stanley Cup contention.