Duncan Keith

Blackhawks finalize 2019 Opening Day roster

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USA Today

Blackhawks finalize 2019 Opening Day roster

PRAGUE — The Blackhawks have officially finalized their roster ahead of Opening Day.

Collin Delia was reassigned to the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs, hours after Carl Dahlstrom was claimed off waivers by the Winnipeg Jets.

Connor Murphy (groin) and John Quenneville (right hip) will begin the season on injured reserve while Kirby Dach (concussion protocol) will start the season on injured/non-roster designation.

Here's what the final product looks like, which consists of 21 players:

Forwards (13):
— Drake Caggiula
— Ryan Carpenter
— Alex DeBrincat
— David Kampf
— Patrick Kane
— Dominik Kubalik
— Alex Nylander
— Brendan Perlini
— Brandon Saad
— Andrew Shaw
— Zack Smith
— Dylan Strome
— Jonathan Toews

Defensemen (6):
— Calvin de Haan
— Erik Gustafsson
— Duncan Keith
— Slater Koekkoek
— Olli Maatta
— Brent Seabrook

Goaltenders (2):
— Corey Crawford 
— Robin Lehner

The Blackhawks open the 2019-20 campaign on Friday in Prague, where they will take on the Philadelphia Flyers at 12 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago.

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Blackhawks mailbag: Trade assets and free agent speculation

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks mailbag: Trade assets and free agent speculation

Every Friday this offseason, Charlie Roumeliotis will look to answer your Blackhawks and hockey-related questions. Be sure to chime in using the hashtag #HawksMailbag on Twitter for a chance to have your question answered in the next edition.

Are there any pending free agents in particular that the Blackhawks have their eyes on? Obviously people will say Panarin, but that's pretty unrealistic. I was just wondering if there are any realistic options that the 'Hawks seem to have their sights set on.

It's been reported that the Blackhawks have been doing their due diligence center Kevin Hayes, giving us a good indicator of which kind of players they're targeting — the middle tier, not the upper. 

Hayes was a first-round draft pick in 2012 by the Blackhawks but did not sign a contract with the team. He went to free agency and inked an entry-level contract with the New York Rangers.

Where he would fit in is the interesting question, especially if the Blackhawks draft a center at No. 3 overall. There are only four spots available, so it would require moving things around.

To what degree do you think the Hawks' third overall selection will influence who we target in free agency? i.e. If we draft Turcotte, we won't pursue someone like Kevin Hayes.

We touched on this in last week’s mailbag, but should clarify or expand a little bit: Who the Blackhawks select at No. 3 will not and should not directly affect who they target in free agency. But there could be some ripple effects. 

The example used was that if the Blackhawks draft one of the top available centers, they will be adding that player to a group that already includes Artem Anisimov, David Kampf, Dylan Strome and Jonathan Toews. And if Hayes is a potential target, as mentioned above, then there needs to be some maneuvering — i.e. a trade or a center moves to wing. 

It’s a good problem to have when you have an overload at the center position, but it's still somewhat of a problem because you can't keep everyone happy. 

If the Blackhawks don't make the playoffs next year and end up in the same draft spot this year (12th), do you think Stan Bowman will trade the pick for immediate help?

https://twitter.com/Vis23089/status/1133797644231499785

If the Blackhawks don't make the playoffs next year, a strong argument could be made that Bowman may not be the one making that pick. The organization can't go three straight years without making the playoffs and five years without winning a playoff round. Progress needs to be made next season in the form of a postseason berth.

But to your actual question: The reality is, it’s easier said than done to trade a first-round pick for an immediate impact-type player. It just doesn’t happen frequently if you look at the history. The Blackhawks would only explore that option if they feel they’re filling a hole both in the short term and long term. They’re committed to their vision of building a contender for years to come, not just the next one or two.

Who do you think is the biggest trade asset this summer?

Duncan Keith and Brandon Saad are probably the two players that could fetch the biggest return, but Keith has a full no-movement clause and isn't going anywhere unless he wants out. And the only way Saad is moved is if the Blackhawks are filling other holes on their NHL roster by doing so. Draft picks and prospects won't cut it at this stage of the "reload," and a team that would be interested in Saad's services likely won't be interested in subtracting from their roster either because it means they're looking to make a playoff run.

The one player that is worth monitoring this summer is Artem Anisimov. He has two years left on his contract that carries a cap hit of $4.55 million. He’s still a useful player, but maybe not at the price anymore.

There are two things that could make him expendable: 

1) Anisimov's no-trade clause will be lifted on July 1, giving the Blackhawks full control on where he could potentially be moved to.

2) More importantly: the Blackhawks owe Anisimov a $2 million signing bonus on July 1. After they pay that, his actual salary owed over the next two years is only $5 million total. That could be a relatively attractive piece for a smaller market team looking to add some center depth but not pay the full price for one.

Do you think the Hawks will have the depth/consistency next season to compete for a playoff spot in the Western Conference?

Hi Jeremy Colliton's burner,

We will obviously have a better idea by July 2 after we see what the Blackhawks do at the NHL Draft and how Day 1 of free agency unfolds, but they will have every opportunity to fill out their depth this summer, particularly up front.

The consistency part is unknown. It doesn’t matter how the roster looks on paper. Next season will be about execution. Fortunately for the Blackhawks, they will be going into training camp knowing exactly what to expect from Colliton and will have several weeks of practice to hit the ground running come October.

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Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Defensemen

Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Defensemen

The Blackhawks’ defensemen group was dealt a tough hand this season. There wasn’t much done in the offseason to bolster the most glaring need on the roster and a coaching change one month into the season forced them to play a new defensive system on the fly.

In going from a zone coverage under Joel Quenneville to man-on-man under Jeremy Colliton, the transition took a little longer than expected and was more difficult for the veteran players that had spent 10-plus years playing one way.

“I think we definitely got better the second half of the year,” Brent Seabrook said. “Jeremy coming in, changes some things up, especially defensively. For myself, I played for Joel for 10 years and the system that he wanted to play and as a defenseman, it definitely took me some time to adjust for sure.”

The Blackhawks gave up the most 5-on-5 high-danger chances per 60 minutes (13.66) this season and also ranked 31st in expected goals against per 60 minutes (2.68), according to naturalstattrick.com. Last year they were 28th in 5-on-5 high-danger chances allowed (12.09) and 26th in expected GAA (2.46). So they trended in the wrong direction.

The one bright spot was the emergence of Erik Gustafsson, who finished third among defensemen with 17 goals and sixth with 60 points. He changed life for the Blackhawks by generating offense from the back end and was a huge reason the team turned around their power play.

But the Blackhawks need to address their defensive unit this summer. A full training camp to get everyone on the same page will be crucial, but the personnel must get better as well.

"I think you need a mix," Colliton said. "We can’t all play like Gus, you know? But at the same time, we want guys who can transition the puck. If you’re able to break out clean and once you win the puck back, if you can make a tape-to-tape play and break out clean and get going the other way, then it helps you defensively, too. So if we’re looking to improve, again, it’s defending hard whether that’s up the ice at their blue line or at our blue line or getting out of D-zone, that’s probably the No. 1 priority for us now.

"And I think it’s the easiest to improve on, too. It’s just bearing down and finding a way, whether it’s defending the rush, defending the line, forcing a turnover, or in D-zone coverage, finding a way to get a stop, finding a way to create a loose puck and then winning the battle going the other way."

Grade: C-

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