Stan Bowman

Why the Blackhawks may not be done making moves this offseason

Why the Blackhawks may not be done making moves this offseason

Since the offseason started, the Blackhawks have made five player acquisitions (Calvin de Haan, Olli Maatta and Andrew Shaw and prospects John Quenneville and Aleksi Saarela) and two free-agent signings (Ryan Carpenter and Robin Lehner). Their 2019-20 Opening Day roster is starting to take shape.

But GM Stan Bowman may not be done making moves just yet.

According to Cap Friendly, the Blackhawks have 10 forwards, eight defensemen and three goaltenders slotted into their structure for a roster size of 21 and projected remaining cap space of $1.036 million. With the signing of Lehner, Collin Delia is likely going to start the season in Rockford, which opens up a roster spot and $1 million.

That leaves the Blackhawks three roster spots and just over $2 million to fill out the final three positions, although they're not required to carry the maximum of 23 players on the NHL roster. The minimum is 20 but the ideal situation is 22 (one extra forward and defenseman).

But Bowman likes to have in-season financial flexibility for transactional purposes and right now the Blackhawks don't exactly have that. 

Brendan Perlini remains an unsigned restricted free agent and is likely to command at least $1.5 million. Dominik Kubalik appears to have a strong chance at making the Blackhawks out of training camp and his cap hit is $925,000. Dylan Sikura, whose cap hit is $750,000, was also singled out by Bowman recently as someone who could take on a larger role. 

That's three forwards right there who all figure to be part of the four-line rotation but mathematically and financially, it doesn't work without salary being moved out.

If we're trying to identify potential trade candidates, Artem Anisimov comes to mind as someone who's probably become expendable, given his diminishing role over the past couple seasons. The Blackhawks paid his $2 million signing bonus on Monday, the same day his modified no-trade clause was removed. His cap hit remains $4.55 million, but his actual salary owed over the next two years is $5 million total. All of that could open up new trade possibilities for the Blackhawks that are certainly worth exploring.

Brandon Saad's name has also been lightly tossed around over the past few months, but that's not a move you make for cap clearance. He has value and the Blackhawks would only consider it if they felt they were getting something of equal value — or close to it — in return.

If the Perlini negotiations unexpectedly go sideways, is he someone that could be the odd man out? Or could his extension potentially squeeze somebody else out? What about somebody on the blue line, which has suddenly become crowded? The Blackhawks have options but they don't want to subtract too much from the current roster. They've spent the last month trying to build around it.

While Bowman is comfortable with his financial situation in the long term and has been careful not to hand out long-term deals in the last two summers that could potentially get in the way of the second contracts for Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome, there are still some decisions to make before the Blackhawks can start figuring out what their Opening Day line combinations and pairings could look like.

"I think we’re in a good position with the cap," Bowman said. "We've really got sort of a pretty full roster now. Whether this is the way we start camp or tweak a few things, I think we’ve come a long way in the last month. If you look at where we were a month ago and where we are today, we’re a much, much better team and we’re well positioned to have a good season."

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Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Front office

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AP

Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Front office

If we're evaluating Stan Bowman's moves as a whole, we have to go back to July 1 when the 2018-19 season really started.

On that day, the Blackhawks announced three signings: Chris Kunitz (one year, $1 million), Brandon Manning (two years, $2.25 million cap hit) and Cam Ward (one year, $3 million). Not exactly splashy additions after missing the playoffs for the first time in 10 years — although, to be fair, it wasn't a great market to throw money around.

Eleven days later, the Blackhawks traded Marian Hossa and his $5.275 million cap hit to the Arizona Coyotes in a seven-player deal that included top-nine winger Vinnie Hinostroza. Bowman acknowledged after the trade that he tried exploring every possible avenue before surrendering that the financial flexibility became more valuable.

But the trade might've put the team in a better position going into free agency had it been executed before July 1. Because of all that, Bowman's grade isn't looking great so far.

Then we get into the actual regular season.

The biggest move Bowman made was the coaching change on Nov. 6 in going from future Hall of Famer Joel Quenneville to Jeremy Colliton, which was a controversial decision in and of itself, especially the timing of it.

“There’s no perfect way to do things," Bowman admitted. "I think we made the best of it at the time. It’s one of those things where you’ve just gotta get through it. I think he’s gonna benefit from not only having a training camp next year but also we had this whole long stretch of a season. ... We’ve got a lot more things we want to get to, and I think we did a good job of — it’s a good start, but I’m sure Jeremy will tell you that we want to be way better next year and we’re gonna push our players to be better. We’re gonna try to do things differently. It’s not just taking this exact same program and we’ll start that. We want to do different things as well and enhance our team. I think there’s reason for hope there.”

Where did Bowman start to earn high marks? The roster tinkering, beginning in late November.

Perhaps recognizing that Nick Schmaltz wasn't progressing the way the team would have liked in a contract season, Bowman dealt him for a potential future second-line center in Dylan Strome and replenished the top-nine forward they lost in Hinostroza with Brendan Perlini, who showed flashes down the stretch. That's turned out to be a win-win for both sides.

The trade that was very clearly one-sided is the one Bowman pulled off with Peter Chiarelli, who was later relieved of his GM duties with the Edmonton Oilers.

Not only did Bowman acquire rugged winger Drake Caggiula, who became such a valuable part of the Blackhawks' second-half turnaround because he was a perfect complement for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the top line, but he unloaded the contract of Manning without having to retain salary or giving up an important piece of the roster. It essentially gave the Blackhawks an extra $2.25 million to work with this summer, which shouldn't go unnoticed when you look at how deep the 2019 free agent class is.

Bowman essentially undid the mistake he made and put the Blackhawks in an even better position going into this offseason by adding a useful player on top of it. So he certainly upped his overall grade.

Now it's time to spend the money he cleared in getting rid of the contracts of Hossa and Manning, and continue building around the current core.

"We're not going to bring the same group back," Bowman said. "That's clear. We don't do that really any year. There's changes to every team, even a team that ends up winning the Cup this year will have some different players. We're going to have some new players next year. What we're going to do is try to improve in the areas where our team needs some help and the way that looks isn't completely clear right now, but we have time over the next couple months to dive in and look at our team in greater detail and figure out how we're going to make that happen.

"There's obviously free agent signings, there's trades, there's growth from within. Those are the ways that your team improves from year to year and we're going to do that. So we're going to have some new players here next year for sure but we have a lot of players that are going to be back and I think a lot of the key guys who had good seasons they're coming back for sure, so we don't need across the board changes but we do need some new players."

Front office: B-

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Hawks Talk Podcast: Emergency reaction to Blackhawks landing No. 3 overall pick

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Emergency reaction to Blackhawks landing No. 3 overall pick

They only had an 8.2% chance at a top 3 pick, but the lottery balls bounced the Blackhawks way and they landed the third overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic break down what this means for the franchise, what options they might have now in adding a top asset and what players might be available for the Blackhawks at the third overall pick. Plus, we’ll hear directly from GM Stan Bowman on whether he had any good luck charms with him and how this is changes the outlook of the Blackhawks going forward.

Plus, we’ll hear directly from GM Stan Bowman on whether he had any good luck charms with him and how this is changes the outlook of the Blackhawks going forward.

0:30 – Holy crap the Blackhawks got a top-3 pick!

2:45 – The Blackhawks now have a lot of options

6:30 – Stan Bowman addresses the media on the #3 pick

9:15 – This should add some “juice” to the organization

13:00 – Who are the top prospects in the draft?

17:00 – Importance of adding depth at center

19:20 – Could the Hawks trade up to #1 or #2?

28:45 – Was the draft lottery rigged?!?!

30:45 – Would you rather have the #3 pick or make the playoffs?

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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