Blackhawks

Jimmy Vesey chooses to sign with Rangers over Blackhawks

Jimmy Vesey chooses to sign with Rangers over Blackhawks

The Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes are officially over as the coveted Harvard forward has chosen to sign a two-year, entry-level contract with the New York Rangers over the Blackhawks.

Vesey is a two-time Hobey Baker Award finalist and was named college hockey's top player last season after accumulating 46 points (24 goals and 22 assists) in 33 games.

While the scenarios slightly different, a similar occurrence happened in 2014 involving both the Blackhawks and Rangers when Kevin Hayes, Chicago's first-round pick in 2010, hit the free agent market after failing to come to an agreement with the Blackhawks. The Rangers came out on top as the team to sign the former Boston College standout Hayes.

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Originally drafted by the Nashville Predators with the No. 66 overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, Vesey's negotiating rights were traded to the Buffalo Sabres in June after he informed the Predators he wasn't interested in signing with the team.

Vesey turned down the opportunity to play for his hometown Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, where his father Jim works as a scout and brother Nolan was drafted in 2014.

The Blackhawks were reportedly among the top-two finalists, but Vesey ultimately elected to sign in the Big Apple.

Blackhawks release 2019-20 schedule: Notes and five games to circle

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks release 2019-20 schedule: Notes and five games to circle

The Stanley Cup Final is over. The NHL Draft is in the books. Free agency still looms, but Chicago can officially start looking ahead to next season.

The Blackhawks, in conjunction with the rest of the league, released their 2019-20 schedule on Tuesday so it's time to get out the sharpie and mark your calendars. 

Some quick notes:

— The Blackhawks' longest homestand of the season is seven games, from Oct. 10-24. They also have a five-game homestand from March 22-31.

— The longest road trip of the season is five games, from Feb. 9-16. They also have two four-game road trips from Oct. 29-Nov. 5 and Feb. 23-Feb. 29.

— The Blackhawks have 16 back-to-back games. They had 14 last season.

— Single-game tickets for the team's regular-season home games will go on sale Tuesday, Aug. 20 at 12 p.m. on blackhawks.com. The Blackhawks are currently accepting deposits for groups, 21-Game Mikita Plans and 9-Game Hull Plans. Any fans interested can visit blackhawks.com/tickets or call 312-455-7000.

— NBC Sports Chicago is now the exclusive carrier for all local game broadcasts. The complete broadcast schedule will be announced at a later date.

Here are five dates to circle for the 2019-20 season, in order of how they appear on the schedule:

1. Friday, Oct. 4 at Philadelphia, 1 p.m. — Season opener in Prague

As part of the 2019 NHL Global Series, the Blackhawks play an exhibition game in Berlin on Sept. 29 before heading to Prague, where they will kick off the regular season against the Philadelphia Flyers. It's the first time the Blackhawks are beginning a season overseas since the 2009-10 campaign when they were in Helsinki, Finland. They went on to win the Stanley Cup that season.

2. Thursday, Oct. 10 vs. San Jose, 7:30 p.m. — Home opener

After a five-day break to get reacclimated to the North American time zone, the Blackhawks will take the ice at the United Center for the first time against the Erik Karlsson-led Sharks on Oct. 10. The Blackhawks are 5-2-1 in their last eight home openers.

3. Monday, Dec. 2 vs. St. Louis, 7:30 p.m. — First look at defending Stanley Cup champions

The Blackhawks-Blues rivalry has always felt a little one-sided, but that's not the case anymore. The Blues ended a 52-year championship drought by defeating the Boston Bruins and planted their mark in the Central Division as the team to beat. Expect there to be a little more juice to this rivalry as the Blues look to keep their flag planted in the ground and the Blackhawks aim to make their presence felt within the division again.

4. Tuesday, Jan. 21 vs. Florida, 7:30 p.m. — Joel Quenneville's return to Chicago

This is the game everyone is waiting for. It will be the first time Chicago will get a chance to welcome Quenneville back to Chicago after he helped bring the city three Stanley Cups, and became the second-winningest NHL coach of all-time in the process. 

What could make this game even more interesting: If former Blackhawks winger Artemi Panarin joins Quenneville's team in South Florida this summer. The Blackhawks will make their visit to Florida on Saturday, Feb. 29 for a 5 p.m. puck drop.

5. Saturday, April 4 at N.Y. Rangers, 12 p.m. — Closing out at The Garden

For the first time in a while, the Blackhawks will be wrapping up the season on the east coast. And there could be some real playoff implications at stake here, for both teams. The iconic Madison Square Garden isn't a bad place to end things off.

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What Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan trades mean for future of Blackhawks defense

What Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan trades mean for future of Blackhawks defense

After finishing 30th in goals against average (3.55) and 31st in penalty kill percentage (72.7) this past season, the Blackhawks are clearly making it a priority to patch up their defense this summer. And that's been evident with the acquisitions of defensive-minded defensemen Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta.

But it raises some interesting questions about the future of the Blackhawks blue line.

With the de Haan and Maatta additions, the Blackhawks now have five defensemen under contract through at least the 2021-22 season: Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million cap hit), Duncan Keith ($5.538 million), de Haan ($4.55 million), Maatta ($4.083 million) and Connor Murphy ($3.85 million). That's $24.8 million tied up to five guys.

The money isn't the primary concern, though. It's the limited amount of roster spots available. The Blackhawks don't have to immediately figure out how it's going to work a year from now and beyond, but it makes you wonder how the cards may eventually be shuffled.

Let's run through the situations:

— Erik Gustafsson had a breakout season and is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He's obviously not part of the five current players under contract after next season, putting the Blackhawks in a spot where they have to consider trading him or be comfortable with letting him walk for nothing if he isn't re-signed. (They could always trade his negotiating rights after next season and pull off a sign-and-trade as well, if it came to that).

And even if Gustafsson is re-signed, the Blackhawks would then have six players locked up for the 2020-21 season and on, and that's enough to submit a lineup.

— Henri Jokiharju, who was drafted No. 29 overall in 2017, is probably ready to take the next step and become an everyday player. Where does he fit into the long-term plans?

— Adam Boqvist, who was taken No. 8 overall in 2018, likely needs one more year in the OHL before making the jump to the NHL, which would put him on a timeline to become part of the Blackhawks next season. Does he occupy that sixth spot if another one isn't opened by then?

— Nicolas Beaudin, who was drafted No. 27 overall in 2018, is expected to start the upcoming season in Rockford after four years in the QMJHL but might be NHL-ready by the 2020-21 campaign.

— And then there's Ian Mitchell, who's returning to Denver for his junior season and will serve as the team's captain. He's said all along that he intends to sign with the Blackhawks once he's finished with college, but does the organization value him enough to create a spot for him when he's ready?

To make things a little more complicated, the Seattle expansion draft is set to occur in 2021 and the same rules will apply as Vegas in 2017.

The Blackhawks have the option to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or eight skaters and one goaltender. All players with no-movement clauses at the time of the expansion draft (and who decline to waive them) must be protected; Keith and Seabrook have a NMC. And all first- and second-year pros are exempt; Jokiharju would have to be protected.

As of this moment, the Blackhawks are likely to use the eight-skater option, but they will also have valuable forwards to protect. They're going to lose a good player one way or another, and it's probably going to come from the defensive group. All of this comes into play when weighing roster decisions for next season and beyond.

As stated above, the Blackhawks do not have to make an immediate decision on the future of their blue line corps. They can play out the 2019-20 season with the group as currently constructed. But the decisions the Blackhawks have to face next season could impact how Stan Bowman operates the rest of this summer and throughout the upcoming campaign.

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