Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: There will be more of Morin

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Hawk Talk: There will be more of Morin

Monday, Oct. 4, 2010
9:18 PM

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

So it looks like there will be just one 19-year-old helping the Blackhawks begin defense of their Stanley Cup Thursday night in Denver after Jeremy Morin was sent back to Rockford of the AHL for a little more seasoning. Nick Leddy may have been there along with him if not for Brian Campbell's sprained knee, but that injury created more of a need to fill what Campbell usually brings to the blue line.

Both Leddy and Morin showed their capability of playing at the highest level the last two weeks. It's now the former Golden Gopher's task to prove he has staying power going against a full NHL lineup, gameplanning against the Hawks' style in hostile environments, and under the great expectations when the champs are in their very own building.

Morin's game seemed to plateau a bit during the second week of games, but it was still pretty solid. If, in fact, a roster spot came down to him against Viktor Stalberg, the latter seemed to gradually pick up his game toward the end of camp. Provided Morin, Kyle Beach and a couple of others on the cusp take care of business in Rockford, they're a phone call away, something the 3rd- and 4th-line guys here will be well aware of.

How quickly and effectively the new faces mesh into their roles will be the ongoing storyline to watch the next six months. There are sure to be bumps in the road, and I think most Hawks fans are smart enough not to expect the kind of franchise-record regular season numbers their team put up last season. While this team wants to - and believes it can - win every night, the bigger picture will be about how effective that depth will be by the time April rolls around. By then, Morin could very well be a part of that mix.

Alright, so now it's time to get those preseason predictions on the record that we can all look back on in April and laugh at:

The Hawks will at least finish in the top four in the West for home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

I see Detroit gunning for it all this year, and edging the Hawks out in the Central. To do that, their deep but aging roster must stay healthier than last season (it has to, right?), and sophomore goalie Jimmy Howard can't slump. The others in the top four will again be San Jose and Vancouver. The Sharks still haven't replaced Rob Blake (though they tried with Niklas Hjalmarsson) and have their share of post-season ghosts. Speaking of which, the Canucks have playoff skeletons in their closet, too, courtesy of the Hawks. We'll give them the regular season conference title based on the moves they made to improve their defense and depth. We'll even crown them Stanley Cup favorite in the West based on their roster. They then have to convince us that crown isn't too heavy, and Roberto Luongo has no excuses for any playoff flameouts now that he's not wearing the "C" and now that Dustin Byfuglien won't be standing in front of him for an entire series. I'm not sure if he - and they - can, once the Real Season begins. All bets are off, and if the Hawks are healthy and found answers for all four lines, I don't believe any team would want to face the defending champs.

For my other four playoff teams in the West - once the annual mad scramble for seeding and spots settles April 10 - I'll go with the Kings, Blues, Predators, and....hmmm...OK...Avalanche. I won't bother with a specific order, but that should be enough to put on record. It was between Colorado and Phoenix. Ilya Bryzgalov or free agent-to-be Craig Anderson? What leaned me in the Lanche's direction was their young core (where have we heard that?) that was key to their surprising success last year, taking the next step. I like St. Louis' young talent that took a dip last year (ya listenin', Colorado?) to rebound and start to grow into their potential while Jaroslav Halak guards the net. And I'm thinking Barry Trotz coaches around the continued lack of offensive firepower in Nashville to get his team in behind Pekka Rinne and that pesky Preds "system." Yes, four teams from the Central in the West's top eight.

So there it is. Now, never go back and look at this again.
Remember: "Stanley's Summer Vacation" Saturday night at 6 on CSN for some yet-to-be-seen footage from our coverage of Jonathan Toews's and Patrick Kane's days with the Cup this summer. Then, an hour-long "Chevy Blackhawks Pregame Live," beginning at 6:30 from the United Center concouse, ahead of the banner-raising ceremony and the home opener against Detroit

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.