Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Teammates in awe of Keith's sacrifice

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Hawk Talk: Teammates in awe of Keith's sacrifice

Tuesday, May 25, 2010
3:36 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO When Duncan Keith took a puck to the face during the second period of Sundays Western Conference finals-clincher over the San Jose Sharks, it seems he didnt flinch. His teammates didnt, either.

When he got hit, I knew hed be back, fellow Chicago Blackhawks alternacap John Madden said. He reacted the smart way. Most guys would just lie on the ice, bleeding. He went to the dressing room to get taken care of as soon as possible.

As it turns out, the procedure to get seven lost teeth taken care of isnt anything youd wish on your most hated enemy.

Duncs told us he had 30 shots of Novocaine in his gums in order to come back, Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane said. I hate needles in the first place, so just hearing that made me squirm.

The young scoring star was clearly in awe of Chicagos leading defenseman, a finalist for the 2009-10 Norris Trophy: Thats the definition of playoff hockey, right there.

Naturally, Keith didnt see his actions as particularly courageous.
My teammates would have done the same thing, he said. Im fine, really. Im eager to get back on the ice.

In fact, its off the ice that, as usual, poses a bigger challenge for the defenseman: I always have trouble getting through interviews, and now its even harder.

Oddly enough, Keith actually feels fortunate that his only injury was some lost chiclets.

In a lot of ways, I was lucky, he said. I didnt break my lip or nose or anything of that magnitude. I feel lucky it wasnt a lot worse.

Of course, when it comes to chides and barbs in the dressing room, the veteran isnt quite so fortunate. As a reward for his valor, Keith is now having to withstand tweaks from his teammates, many of whom already teased him about everything from is low-key demeanor, to his rustic Canadian appearance, to his voice.

He could barely talk before, said a smiling Kris Versteeg. The injury adds to his great face and very, very poor voice.

Hes got a little bit of a lisp now, Kane said. And a million-dollar smile.

Keith admits hes been re-learning to speak without his teeth, and initially, between the Novocain and the lost chiclets, he was pretty hard to understand when he returned to the ice on Sunday.

He was trying to talk to me, but I couldnt understand him, so I just kind of skated away, Kane said, laughing. Sharp told me he did the same thing. So finally Duncan just gave up.

So, what was it Keith was trying to communicate to his teammates?

Said Sundays hero, laughing through his newly-formed gap: Gimme the puck!

Brett Ballantini isCSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnikon Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawksinformation.

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.