Blackhawks

Tomas Fleischmann quickly adjusts to Blackhawks

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Tomas Fleischmann quickly adjusts to Blackhawks

When a player joins a new team it usually takes a little time to adjust. There are new teammates and usually new systems. You don’t fall into place easily.

Tomas Fleischmann did, however. The forward, who the Blackhawks got from the Montreal Canadiens before the trade deadline, looked like he needed no adjustment time whatsoever. Part of the Blackhawks’ third line with Andrew Desjardins and Teuvo Teravainen, Fleischmann was noticeable right away and scored his first goal with the Blackhawks against the Boston Bruins on Thursday night.

Fleischmann said the Blackhawks made his transition easy.

“Actually I could say I felt pretty comfortable from the beginning because I felt guys on the team and every trainer and everyone was welcoming me,” he said following Saturday’s practice. “I felt, right away, part of the family. So that makes things easier.”

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Coach Joel Quenneville said Fleischmann adjusted immediately to his new linemates.

“I thought quickly he fit in with Teuvo on that line. He seems very useful in a lot of ways: positionally aware, he’s strong on the puck, sees plays, makes plays and good patience with it,” Quenneville said. “We used him on the penalty killing right off the bat. Looks good, so we have another penalty killer we can use, so he’s versatile in a lot of ways, can play all three forwards as well. We’re very happy with his contribution.”

That third line has looked much improved since Teravainen was moved to center. For Fleischmann, Teravainen’s good hockey sense was noticeable when he first teamed with the young Finn.

“He’s really good and a smart center man who can shoot and move the puck pretty well,” Fleischmann said. “So it’s easier for a winger, like myself, to play with him.”

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Fleischmann has made a few moves already in his career — this is the sixth NHL team with which he’s played. Perhaps that makes transitions easier when you’ve been through them previously. Whatever the reason Fleischmann has made an immediate impact with the Blackhawks.

“He’s one of those players who plays tenacious. He’s really good with the puck he has that sense with the puck: he makes really good plays but he’s also simple and smart,” Desjardins said. “He’s just an all-around player, really responsible defensively as well, which is good.”

UPDATES

- Marian Hossa skated after the Blackhawks ended practice. Quenneville said Hossa is out for Sunday but could play Wednesday against the St. Louis Blues.

- Marcus Kruger (wrist) also skated after practice. Regarding when Kruger could return, Quenneville said, “we expect him to be playing some games” before the end of the regular season.

- Corey Crawford will start vs. the Detroit Red Wings.

- Brandon Mashinter did not practice on Saturday due to illness.

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.