Which 'new' Blackhawks could return next season?


Which 'new' Blackhawks could return next season?

Brad Richards recalled the talk he had with Joel Quenneville last summer, the one on which the Blackhawks coach kept interrupting his soon-to-be center.

“The last thing Joel said when I hung up was, ‘Come to Chicago. We’ll win a Cup.’ He said it like three times in that conversation,” Richards said a few minutes after lifting the Stanley Cup for the second time in his career. “I kept thinking, ‘How does he know that?’ I don’t know how he knew, but he knew we had a chance and here we are.”

Richards came to Chicago for one year and $2 million. It wasn’t about the money; it was about another chance at winning that Cup. Now he’s got it, he’s enjoying his time here and he won’t rule out the possibility of coming back.

We already know the Blackhawks have to part with several players, be it unrestricted free agents due a raise they can’t afford to give or those whose contracts will no longer fit under the upcoming salary cap. But what about the other side: Which players could the Blackhawks possibly bring back?

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Blackhawks know roster changes are coming in wake of Cup win]

The Blackhawks will work to re-sign Marcus Kruger, who has now been here for two Cups. Andrew Desjardins and Richards could also be on the radar. Obviously it all depends on where the salary cap falls — most forecasts have it settling around $71 million — but the possibilities are there.

For Richards, it’s a thought he won’t completely rule out right now.

“I haven’t talked about anything. My attitude is, everything’s wide open now,” Richards said. “I know the situation here. I knew it before I signed here. But obviously it was an amazing year. So if they want to discuss something I’m obviously going to discuss it.”

It won’t be about money for Richards. It’s more a chance to return to this successful team, on which he eventually found his niche and had a very nice postseason.

“I’m in a fortunate position, financially, where I’ve done all that stuff and hit my big contracts. Now it’s really all about what just happened this week. You can’t replace that with anything, so we’ll see,” Richards said. “It’s a lot different feeling than last summer, I tell you that. I won’t care who calls right now. I’m just enjoying this every day.”

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks Stanley Cup champs gear right here]

Patrick Kane, who was Richards’ line mate for some of the regular season and again in the postseason — Richards set up Kane’s goal in Game 6 against Tampa Bay — Richards possibly returning was a nice thought.

“He’d be a guy you’d love to see come back here and play in that second-line center role,” Kane said. “He’s a good player. He’s a good guy but a good hockey player. You’ve seen what he’s done in the past; his numbers speak for themselves. It was a pleasure playing with him. I hope we can do it again.”

That situation is up in the air. So let’s go back to the fairly certain part of this story: The Blackhawks will find a way to sign Kruger. The center has been an important part of this team for two Cup victories now, and general manager Stan Bowman has re-signing him near the top of his list.

“Absolutely, we want to bring him back, make it known he’s going to be a part of this going forward,” Bowman said. “He’s another one of those guys who doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. He’s a penalty-kill guy who matches top centers on other teams, face-offs; he does all the important details that coaches appreciate. Joel would tell you he’s a big part of why we win.”

There was little fanfare when the Blackhawks picked up Desjardins at the trade deadline. More of the focus was on Antoine Vermette, who also wouldn’t mind returning to Chicago but probably won’t be affordable. Desjardins, who made $750,000 this season, was a great addition, giving the Blackhawks a dependable fourth line with Kruger and Andrew Shaw. Desjardins talked on the Cup-winning night of the chemistry he had with Shaw and Kruger. Bowman liked it, too, and would like to see Desjardins here again next season.

“We would love to bring him back. That’s a discussion we’ll have,” Bowman said. “It’s up to him and his agent; hopefully he wants to come back. We were pleased with his contribution.”

All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens


All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens

The second wave of Blackhawks defensemen is on the way. That's exactly where all the attention was when prospect camp opened up Monday at MB Ice Arena.

Nicolas Beaudin. Adam Boqvist. Henri Jokiharju. Ian Mitchell. Call it the Big Four. Where are they all at in their development? When will they be ready to make an NHL impact? Who's the most pro ready? 

Lots of questions. Those will slowly start to get answered and it begins now.

While there may not necessarily be an open competition among the group right away, there's certainly a desire to make a strong first impression in front of the upper brass that included Stan Bowman, John McDonough and Joel Quenneville watching on Day 1.

"Every NHL team has a lot of good defensemen prospects, so I mean obviously when you want to go out there you want to showcase yourself as best as you can," Mitchell said. "Obviously you want to be the best defenseman here so that's my goal going into this, I want to prove to everyone that I'm a good defenseman, I deserve to play at the next level. Obviously there's lots of good players here, but you're trying to all succeed."

Said Beaudin: "There's a lot of competition. There's a lot of good, young defensemen. I think you just need to be different when you play when you show what you can do."

Said Boqvist: "I'm trying to be better every day. Of course I will play in the NHL one day and win Stanley Cups, so that's my mindset."

The theme? Focus on your own game, take what you learn out of this week and apply those tools in your game when advancing your development next season. The rest will take care of itself.

Mitchell will go back to Denver for his sophomore campaign to continue his development. Beaudin is expected to return to the QMJHL with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Boqvist signed with the OHL's London Knights, where he will look to get accustomed to the North American style of play.

For Jokiharju, the goal is different. This is his second development camp. He signed an entry-level contract in June. Making the big club is a real goal and a legitimate possibility for a Blackhawks team looking for young, impact defensemen immediately.

"I think if Henri has a really good summer of training, comes into camp, I certainly thinks he gets a good look," Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley told NBC Sports Chicago last month.

Jokiharju showed poise and confidence with and without the puck during drills, like someone who knows this is only the first step towards that ultimate goal.

"Yeah," Jokiharju responded when asked if the expectation is to make it to the NHL this season. "You want to set the bar high, you don't want to set the bar too low. I want to dream big and that's the dream."

That's the dream for everyone. When that happens, it's up to them. This week is a chance to set an early tone.

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread: