Blackhawks

Recapping Day 1 of Blackhawks free agency

hawksday1fa.png

Recapping Day 1 of Blackhawks free agency

We’re just about through Day 1 of free agency. Here’s how things broke down for the Blackhawks:

Center signed

General manager Stan Bowman said on Tuesday that he wanted to sign the team’s newest acquisition, center Artem Anisimov, to an extension as soon as possible. That came on Wednesday morning when the Blackhawks signed him to a five-year deal worth a reported $22.75 million. All those second-line center questions go away...for now.

Another Russian added

Viktor Tikhonov, grandson of the coach who led those tremendous Soviet teams in the 1970s and 1980s, signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks. Tikhonov spent the last several seasons playing in the KHL but wanted another opportunity in the NHL. Where he fits in the Blackhawks lineup is uncertain at the moment; he’ll be another forward vying for a job at training camp in September.

Au revoir, Mr. Richards

Brad Richards came to Chicago for $2 million last summer in search of another Stanley Cup. He got it. And while he initially kept options open to possibly return to Chicago (if the money was right), he signed a one-year deal for $3 million with the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday. Richards’ chances of coming back dimmed considerably when the Blackhawks acquired Anisimov. Still, Richards had a great postseason and proved he still has some hockey left in him.

You too, Mr. Vermette

We always knew Antoine Vermette was unlikely to sign with the Blackhawks again. He was going to get paid again, his heart belonged to Arizona and not surprisingly he signed a two-year deal with the Coyotes on Wednesday night. Still, his short stint here was a memorable one: after some frustrating healthy scratches, Vermette scored four postseason goals, three proving to be game winners. Vermette got to hoist his first Stanley Cup in Chicago. He’ll take that experience with him back to the desert. “This is very special whenever you have a chance to win the Cup. I’m truly happy to have [had] a chance to do that,” he said on Wednesday night. “This is an experience you want to be part of. It helps down the road. Hopefully I can bring some experience in and make a positive impact on this [Coyotes] team.”

What's left to do

Plenty. The Blackhawks didn’t do anything on the trade front on Monday but they’re still going to have to ship out a player or two. Marcus Kruger’s extension should get done – “We’re getting closer to completing something there,” Bowman said on Tuesday. But even without Kruger’s completed deal, the Blackhawks (including Jeremy Morin and Corey Tropp, also acquired in the Columbus deal) have $71 million devoted to 17 players.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Patrick Sharp is still the most likely to be moved, but where? Pittsburgh, once thought a strong option for a trade, is highly unlikely now after the Penguins acquired the very pricey Phil Kessel on Wednesday afternoon. A source said Boston has interest. The Bruins signed Matt Beleskey ($3.8 million cap hit) and acquired Jimmy Hayes (who needs to be re-signed) but they still have cap space; according to generalfanager.com, the Bruins are at approximately $62.4 million. Florida has its share of former Blackhawks. But on Wednesday the Panthers acquired Reilly Smith, as well as Marc Savard’s contract – Savard hasn’t played since February 2011 due to concussion issues – and may not have the cap space now to handle Sharp.

There is certainly still time to get trades done. Day 1 of free agency is usually a whirlwind of signings, and that was true again this year, although the typically insane money didn’t accompany most of those signings. There are still teams out there with needs and one way or another the Blackhawks will get something done.

Andrew Shaw trying to find balance between toeing the line and not crossing it for Blackhawks

Andrew Shaw trying to find balance between toeing the line and not crossing it for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks brought Andrew Shaw back to Chicago because they lacked some bite to their game. He's already meeting expectations in the physicality department, leading the team with 23 hits.

But the other part of his game the Blackhawks have to live with is the amount of penalties he takes. Through six games this season, Shaw has taken at least one penalty in five of them and is tied for third among all NHL skaters with six minors. The only two skaters above him are guys who have played in two and four more games, respectively.

Because he plays on the edge, Shaw will occasionally cross it and he's trying to find that balance between toeing the line and not stepping over it.

"I find if I'm not playing on the edge, I'm not playing great," Shaw said. "I need to play physical. Even in preseason, I was just finishing checks — clean, shoulder-to-shoulder — and was getting penalty after penalty. Hockey still is a physical game. There's still hitting; it's still legal. So I'm going to go out there and play hard, make it hard on my opponents, make it hard on them physically, do what I do. Not going to change who I am now. I'm an old dog."

Shaw's reputation may also contribute to the matter. He's racked up more than 600 penalty minutes in his NHL career, including postseason, and the officials might be keeping a closer eye on him when he's on the ice.

"It's something he's got to be aware of, but I also think he's got a bullseye on him," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "If I go back through all the penalties he's taken, he probably earned a couple and he probably earned them five years ago. That's something he's got to deal with. We want him to play hard. I think we can handle the ones where he's running people over. We'll kill those off. Obviously the stick penalties and stuff we don't want. But he's playing hard for the team. That's a good thing."

Said Shaw: "The referees, no matter the history of the player, should call the game as it is. If there's a penalty, call a penalty. If there's not a penalty, you let it go. I mean, yeah, I might have been too vocal in my younger days. But the past three years I've been trying to clean it up a little bit. I just take my penalties when I get 'em. But I must have dug myself a really deep hole. Just trying to climb out of it since."

Still, Shaw knows he has to be smarter about the timing of his penalties and where they're happening. The ones that occur in the offensive zone are the penalties that must be eradicated from his game. The ones he earns from battling between the whistles and sticking up for his teammates, the Blackhawks can live with those.

"Obviously I don't want to take penalties, I don't want to put my team down," Shaw said. "I also don't agree with all of the ones I got. I think I got the short end of the stick on a lot of them. Bite my tongue, go to the box. Our PK's been working hard and competing and killing some penalties. Hopefully they start going my way, I guess."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.

Robin Lehner to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights

robin_lehner_usa_today.jpg
USA Today

Robin Lehner to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights

Robin Lehner will start in goal for the Blackhawks when they host the Vegas Golden Knights at the United Center on Tuesday, coach Jeremy Colliton confirmed after morning skate. It will be his third start of the season.

Lehner is coming off a game in which he stopped 37 of 39 shots for a save percentage of .949, which earned him the No. 3 star of the game in a 3-2 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday. He was fantastic. 

Lehner is 1-0-1 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .931 save percentage in two starts this season.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.