Blackhawks

Five Things from Hawks-Avs: Penalty kills and pages turned

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Five Things from Hawks-Avs: Penalty kills and pages turned

DENVER — Well, it was looking like the Blackhawks could finish this regular season with a victory. But with a few seconds remaining they fell, with Jarome Iginla’s power-play goal giving the Colorado Avalanche a 3-2 lead.

But that’s all done now. The Blackhawks, whether they won this game or not, were taking third in the Central Division and facing the Nashville Predators in the first round. It was a good opportunity for the Blackhawks to rest a few players, namely Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford.

[MORE: Now Blackhawks turn their attention to Predators]

Still, we write this particular story for a reason. So before we get ready for the most wonderful time of the (sports) year, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ loss to the Avs.

1. Take the penalty kill for what it was tonight. Yes, the Blackhawks’ kill hasn’t been that good down the stretch, and it gave up the game-winning goal with 39 seconds remaining in regulation on Saturday night. But keep this in mind: no Toews, no Keith and no Marian Hossa, who played the game but did not play on the penalty kill. Toews has been off the kill for a few days. Joakim Nordstrom missed several games with an upper-body injury. So with a full group for the postseason, we expect the kill to be better.

2. Hossa is still pretty damn great. We wouldn’t have been surprised if Hossa had taken tonight’s game off, and if the Blackhawks had more reserves on hand, perhaps he would have. Instead he played a tremendous game, once again showing that great skill, with or without the puck. Hossa, who certainly deserved a goal or two with his outing, did assist on Brandon Saad’s 23rd goal of the season.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up for the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Kyle Baun impresses. The forward drew rave reviews from coach Joel Quenneville for his three regular-season games, including Saturday’s. “He showed a lot of good things,” Quenneville said. “He showed he has NHL pace and he has a great mind for the game. He picks up quickly on his responsibilities, offensively, defensively, pace. It was a good start for him.” Baun is ineligible to play in the postseason but this audition certainly bodes well as he enters training camp in September.

4. Michael Paliotta had a nice game, too. The defenseman got his first NHL game in on Saturday night and got his first NHL point in the second period, adding the secondary assist on Patrick Sharp’s goal. Paliotta played just under 13 minutes and had two blocked shots.

5. Turn the page. The regular season is over. The Blackhawks would’ve liked to have won the Central Division, get home ice but they didn’t do either. They can’t think about that anymore, as a hungry Predators team waits. We talk a lot about flipping the switch. After a lackluster end to the regular season, will the Blackhawks do that as soon as the postseason begins? 

2019 NHL free agent focus: Five potential targets for Blackhawks

2019 NHL free agent focus: Five potential targets for Blackhawks

Stan Bowman has had a busy last couple weeks. He pulled off a pair of trades, landing defensemen Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan from the Eastern Conference. He drafted center Kirby Dach with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft that could turn into a franchise-changing player. And now he’s in the middle of negotiations with pending restricted and unrestricted free agents.

With the defensemen group starting to take shape, it appears free agency will be used to fill out the forward group. That could come via trades, also, but it really depends on the market.

So let’s identify five potential UFA targets for the Blackhawks ahead of Monday, when players are officially able to sign contracts:

1. Ryan Dzingel, LW

When Dzingel was with the Ottawa Senators, he was playing top-six minutes and earning power-play time because the Senators weren’t very deep. After getting traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the deadline, he struggled to be a fit there, didn't play much on the power play and was healthy scratched for one game in the playoffs.

But he still has value, although it may not be in an area that the Blackhawks need (penalty kill).

Dzingel, a Wheaton native, set a career high in goals (26), assists (30) and points (56) in 78 games this past season with the Senators and Blue Jackets. He can play in the top-six but might be more effective as a middle-six winger on a good team.

According to Evolving Wild, Dzingel is projected to earn a contract of four years with a $4.25 million cap hit. 

2. Anders Lee, LW

It’s a little surprising that the New York Islanders and their captain haven’t made any progress on a long-term extension. At the same time, it’s pretty clear that Lou Lamoriello is looking to make a big splash this summer in his pursuit of Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin, and needs financial flexibility to negotiate.

Lee is a perfect complementary top-six left winger who would look great next to Jonathan Toews or opposite Patrick Kane. He’s got size at 6-foot-3, 231 pounds, is reliable, scored 40 goals in 2017-18 and has a strong work ethic. Those qualities check a lot of boxes the Blackhawks are looking for.

Where it gets tricky is what his contract may look like. He's projected to receive in the range of a seven-year deal that carries a $6.5 million cap hit. The dollar amount is doable, but the term could scare the Blackhawks away as they prepare to sign Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome to long-term extensions next summer.

3. Gustav Nyquist, LW

The Blackhawks have been interested in Nyquist's services in the past, so they'll certainly look into him as a possibility now that he hits the open market.

Nyquist has scored at least 20 goals in four of his past six seasons, with 28 being his career high. But he's not known to be a goal scorer. He's a pass-first, playmaking-type winger and makes players around him better because of it. Nyquist is a consistent 45-55-point player.

His next contract is projected to be in the six-year, $5.6 million range, which — like Lee — is a fair dollar amount but the term may not be something the Blackhawks are crazy about. Bowman appears to be focused on free-agent forwards who can be signed on shorter-term deals.

4. Joe Pavelski, C/RW

Perhaps the most intriguing player on the free-agent market for the Blackhawks is Pavelski, who’s served as the San Jose Sharks captain but may not fit into their plans going forward because of their cap crunch.

Yes, he will turn 35 in July. And yes, he has a ton of mileage on his body. But he’s showing no signs of slowing down. 

Pavelski is a five-time 30-goal scorer who’s coming off a 38-goal season, can play both center and wing, and is an absolute gamer, a leader on and off the ice who shows up when the lights are shining brightest. He’s also not afraid to go to the dirty areas and is widely considered to be one of the best at deflecting pucks, which comes in handy on the power play.

What makes him an attractive piece is that Pavelski could be a player that makes an immediate impact but wouldn't require a long-term deal. He's projected to earn a three-year contract with a cap hit of $7.4 million. If the Blackhawks can get him at two years, that would be ideal. But like Patrick Marleau a few years ago in Toronto, his camp is probably looking for that third year.

5. Corey Perry, LW

Days after he was bought out by the Ducks, Perry’s name surfaced as a possibility for the Blackhawks. And it makes sense because the Blackhawks aren't looking to hand out long-term contracts.

Perry is 34 years old, a former Hart Trophy winner and 50-goal scorer, and is still a productive player when healthy. But that's the biggest concern. He missed 51 games this season with a knee injury, returned ahead of schedule and never looked the same on the ice.

Per the CBA, Perry can sign a one-year, bonus-laden deal and it appears that's what he'll do. A one-year contract in the $2-3 million with bonuses would be a low risk, high reward move for the Blackhawks.

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: What will be Stan Bowman's next move?

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: What will be Stan Bowman's next move?

Gabe Ramirez, Vinnie Duber, and Jay Cohen join Kap on the panel to discuss game two of Cubs vs. Braves and the battle of the Soxes.

Plus with the start of free agency coming up, what will be Stan Bowman's next move?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

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