It’s free agency again, when we see what pre-July 1 conjecture comes to fruition, when we either give pickups a nod of approval or a vehement shake of the head and when we make fun of teams overspending because someone always does.
It’s always interesting to see what a team will or won’t do and how much they’re willing to spend to find the answers. What will free agency mean for the Blackhawks? As of Friday morning the Blackhawks are still $3 million in the red and, while they can be 10 percent over the $75 million cap from now until the start of the season, they still have voids to fill and little-to-no cash with which to do it. It’s still very likely they Marcus Kruger to free up some space. Will the league give the Blackhawks the go-ahead to use Marian Hossa’s cap hit for long-term injured reserve and, if so, when do they apply it?
Time will tell on that. Free agency isn’t just one day and much can change between now and the fall. Before we hit this July 1, however, let’s look at how the free agency period has treated the Blackhawks the last few years:
2010: After spending June of that year going through their Stanley Cup salary purge, the Blackhawks started the rebuild attempt the following months. They signed John Scott on July 1 but didn’t make other additions until later in the summer. Unable to afford Antti Niemi – he had been awarded $2.75 million in arbitration in late July – the Blackhawks signed Marty Turco to a one-year deal on Aug. 2. Fernando Pisani signed a one-year deal later that month.
Results: Scott spent two seasons with the Blackhawks, playing a total of 69 games. Pisani played 60 games and wasn’t the depth signing the Blackhawks hoped he would be. Turco struggled early and by the turn of the year Corey Crawford was emerging as the Blackhawks’ No. 1 goaltender.
2011: In another attempt to restock the depth they lost in 2010, the Blackhawks sign five veterans on July 1 of that year: Jamal Mayers, Daniel Carcillo, Andrew Brunette, Sean O’Donnell and Brett McLean.
Results: McLean didn’t make the Blackhawks out of camp, played part of the season with the Rockford IceHogs before returning to Switzerland, where he had played the two previous seasons. Brunette and O’Donnell each spent one season with the Blackhawks; Brunette had 12 goals and 15 assists in 78 games and O’Donnell had seven assists in 51 games. Mayers continued on with the Blackhawks and was part of their 2012-13 Stanley Cup-winning team. Carcillo was on the 2012-13 Cup team, spent the next season with the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers, then rejoined the Blackhawks in the fall of 2014. He earned his second Cup with the Blackhawks later that season.
2012: We wouldn’t have hockey until January 2013, but that offseason the Blackhawks addressed defensive depth needs. Sheldon Brookbank was signed on July 1 and in September, the Blackhawks added Michal Rozsival.
Results: Rozsival’s been part of two Stanley Cup teams here. He hoisted his first Cup in 2013 – “Oh my God, how heavy is it? Oh my God!” – and was coming off a strong Western Conference semifinal series against Minnesota in 2015 when he fractured his ankle. Rozsival is still here, having signed a one-year deal last season. Brookbank played two seasons with the Blackhawks, including on the 2012-13 Stanley Cup-winning team. He played in one postseason game that year, filling in for a suspended Duncan Keith against the Los Angeles Kings.
2013: You know how we’ve recently talked about the Blackhawks bringing back former players? Well, we forgot one: on July 5, 2013 they signed Nikolai Khabibulin to a one-year deal. His first stint with the Blackhawks was from 2005-09.
Results: Khabibulin played in just four games that season before suffering a hip injury. He would have season-ending shoulder surgery later. Soon after, Antti Raanta got his opportunity as the Blackhawks’ backup goaltender.
2014: The Blackhawks’ seemingly subtle moves this offseason proved pivotal. On July 1, 2014, they found their second-line center, signing Brad Richards to a one-year deal. Richards had become an unrestricted free agent in late June when the New York Rangers bought out what was left of his nine-year, $60 million contract. The other signing? Lemont resident Scott Darling, who was coming off a solid outing with the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville’s AHL affiliate) the previous season.
Results: Yeah, these two did alright. Richards had a pretty good regular season, recording 37 points in 76 games and finding good chemistry with Kris Versteeg and Patrick Kane. But he saved his best for the playoffs; his primary assist to Kane sealed the Blackhawks 2-0 Game 6 victory over the Tampa Bay Lighting, earning Richards the second Stanley Cup of his career. As for Darling, he battled with Antti Raanta for the Blackhawks’ backup goaltending job, winning it in February 2015. Darling was critical to the Blackhawks’ postseason, replacing a struggling Corey Crawford in the first-round series against the Predators.
2015: After getting Artemi Panarin a few months earlier, the Blackhawks signed Panarin’s friend and KHL teammate Viktor Tikhonov to a one-year deal on July 1. On July 10 the Blackhawks parted with Patrick Sharp and Stephen Johns in exchange for Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt.
Results: Offseason acquisitions, we hardly knew ya. Tikhonov was here until December of 2015, when he was placed on waivers. The two players the Blackhawks got in the Sharp deal were soon gone, too. In December 2015 Daley was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for longtime defenseman/one-game wing Rob Scuderi. In January, Garbutt was dealt to Anaheim for Jiri Sekac, who was with the Blackhawks for a month before they placed him on waivers. Daley won two Cups with the Penguins. Garbutt is headed to the KHL this season.
2016: It was Blackhawks-Cup-days-revisited time again. Looking to add depth at defense, the team brought Brian Campbell back on a one-year deal last July 1. A few days later the Blackhawks picked up gritty forward Jordin Tootoo.
Results: Campbell was fine with the Blackhawks last season but the move didn’t have the overall desired effect on a defense that, following a first-round sweep to the Predators, had to get younger and faster. Campbell is not expected back this season. Tootoo, who was in and out of the lineup in 2016-17, will enter his second season with the Blackhawks.