Five Things: Kane keeps point streak going vs. Sharks


Five Things: Kane keeps point streak going vs. Sharks

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Building blocks: The Blackhawks will assemble as many of them as they can as they try to find consistency and, more importantly, victories on this Circus Trip.

Wednesday proved to be a good outing for them, as the Blackhawks rebounded from a disappointing loss in Vancouver for a 5-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks. After warning against the Sharks’ likely hot start, the Blackhawks were the ones who got out to it.

But enough of the lead-in. You are all tired, and you’ll have a house full of relatives on Thursday. So before we start carving into birds, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over the San Jose Sharks.

1. Kane’s point streak continues. Once again we’re back to the one consistent item the Blackhawks have had in the lineup. Kane said he wanted to play better and not think about the point streak too much from here on out — “if it ends, it ends,” he said. Well, on Wednesday it didn’t end. It continued, as Kane recorded two assists to run his point streak to a career-best 17 games.

2. Andrew Desjardins breaks through. We don’t have to tell you how happy Desjardins was to score his first goal of the season. Just watch the highlights. As much as it was an individual moment, it was also a big help to the Blackhawks. Patrick Marleau had just cut the Blackhawks’ lead to 3-2 about a minute prior, but Desjardins’ goal gave the Blackhawks the momentum back and took the excitement out of the SAP Center. “It looks like (the Sharks) are coming, and that line scores a huge goal for us,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Very timely.”

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3. Penalty kill bends, doesn’t break. The Blackhawks’ penalty kill has been strong the past few seasons. On Wednesday there were plenty of harrowing moments. Credit the Sharks’ power play, which looked pretty darn good, for some of that. But for all the close calls, the Blackhawks gave up just one power-play goal (by Brent Burns) on the Sharks’ five advantages.

4. Duncan Keith’s latest milestone. Well, he’s moving up the charts on one, anyway. Keith’s goal on Wednesday was the 78th of his career, putting him fourth all-time among Blackhawks defensemen (he passed Pierre Pilote). The Blackhawks are obviously a better team, on both sides of the puck, with Keith back in the lineup. There’s no doubt his offensive contributions, be it scoring or helping to set someone else up, were missed.

5. Happy Thanksgiving! Yes, we’re cheating, going with just Four Things and the shameless holiday cheer item. Seriously, a safe and happy Thanksgiving to you all. May all your turkeys be well cooked and the Bears game tolerable.

Do the Blackhawks have room to sign John Tavares?


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


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.