Blackhawks

Stan Bowman expects trade talk to increase as NHL Draft approaches

stan-bowman-wirtz-excited-about-future-insider-slide.png

Stan Bowman expects trade talk to increase as NHL Draft approaches

So far, it’s quiet out there.

Yes the league’s general managers, including the Blackhawks’ Stan Bowman, are talking. The Blackhawks will be sellers, and considering the winning pedigree of players they’ll likely be dangling, there will be buyers.

When the dominos start falling, however, remains to be seen.

Bowman said that trade talk has been “typical” for this time of year, but he expects the chatter to increase as we approach the NHL Draft, which begins on Friday in Sunrise, Fla. It promises to be an active time for the Blackhawks. They already have $64 million committed to 14 players and have to shed salary to sign others (Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger) and hit the $71.4 million salary cap set for this coming season.

[MORE: Blackhawks bracing for roster shake-up as NHL Draft nears]

Patrick Sharp is most likely headed elsewhere. Bryan Bickell could be gone, too. Bowman wasn’t getting into specifics on who was leaving or how talks were going on any trades, but he said the Blackhawks have plans.

“We’ve been preparing some scenarios, some lower, some higher [than the announced cap number.] This was one,” Bowman said via conference call on Wednesday. “We have a lot of plans we’ve been thinking of at that number. It’s not something that’s good or bad; it’s something we’ve been preparing for. We’re just going to move forward now.”

When does the moving forward begin? The Blackhawks could start making deals prior to the draft, especially if they want to add picks. They currently have seven, but their first isn’t until later in the second round – No. 54 overall, their compensatory pick for not signing Kevin Hayes. Bowman said the Blackhawks are always looking to get more selections heading into the draft, and this year is no different.

[MORE: NHL, NHLPA announce salary cap of $71.4 million in 2015-16]

“If we can acquire additional picks, which we’ve been able to do in previous years, that’d be great. If not, we still have seven picks and we’ll make our decisions and hopefully add some players we’re really excited about,” Bowman said. “It’s really the same procedure as in previous years: we’re always trying to acquire additional draft picks. It comes down to whether there’s a fit to do that or not.”

That fit extends to any trade packages the Blackhawks accept, too. Of those players the Blackhawks are likely to part with, Sharp should draw considerable interest. He may not be coming off his greatest individual season but he’s had plenty of great ones and he’s a three-time Stanley Cup winner. Sharp has been part of a core that knows how to win; and for teams that are trying to achieve what the Blackhawks have, acquiring a player with that pedigree is enticing.

“Each team is unique in terms of what [its] needs are at certain positions and where they’re at. Some teams are looking for players to step in and help immediately and take a step as an organization. Others are rebuilding or looking for experience and winning. That’s what we’ve had a lot of, players who have been in a winning environment,” Bowman said. “People understand it’s nice to bring players in who have been part of winning cultures. That’s something that’s been a common theme in some of my discussions. You keep working through it. There are still a lot more discussions to have but at this point, things are going along well.”

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Get your Stanley Cup Champs gear!]

The upcoming changes are coming for the Blackhawks, whether anyone wants them or not. Bowman, however, is optimistic about the immediate and long-term future. It’s not hard to see why: despite all the changes the Blackhawks have gone through since the summer of 2010, they’ve still won two more Cups since then. The Blackhawks have found ways to adjust and keep winning in the salary-cap world. They believe they can do that again.

“There’s so much talk about players leaving but I’m excited about next year,” Bowman said. “We’re going to have a lot of the main pieces back. We’ve got guys ready for bigger roles and some exciting new faces coming to the organization. This is an exciting part of the year to find the future Blackhawks. There’s lot to be optimistic and excited about next year and the years to come.”

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

usatsi_9256612.jpg
USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”