Trading D would benefit Hawks' free agent plans


Trading D would benefit Hawks' free agent plans

The Chicago Blackhawks enter this free agency period much the same way the went into July 1 of last summer: they need to make some moves to get back to their serious Cup-contending ways.

Question is, what do they do?

The Blackhawks have about 8 million in cap space the projected cap, at least right now, is around 70 million heading into free agency. Sources said before the NHL draft that defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador will probably be shopped -- or Montadors contract could follow the same path that Cristobal Huet and Rostislav Oleszs did. Those are still strong possibilities, which would free up an extra 6 million of cap space.

But as weve stated in this space before, as much as it is about having money to spend, its about how you spend it. The Blackhawks will have options, but they have to choose wisely. Make a play for Ryan Suter? Sure, its worth a shot. But the bidding war for him will probably be ridiculous, and theres always a danger in paying too high of a price.

Word is the Blackhawks inquired about Calgary defenseman Jay Bouwmeester recently. No, hes not an unrestricted free agent; hes got two years left and a hefty 6.8 million cap hitper year of it. The Flames are chock full of defensemen, which now includes recently signed Dennis Wideman and Corey Sarich. And while Bouwmeester hasnt been the lights-out defenseman that most figured hed be when he signed with Calgary out of Florida, hes still a strong player. Calgary GM Jay Feaster, however, told Calgary media yesterday that hes not trading Bouwmeester right now. Still, that could change in the coming weeks.

Jason Garrison wouldnt be a bad fit, either. The Florida Panthers defenseman earned just 675,000 last season; but considering his talent and being a free agent during a summer with few great options at defenseman, Garrison is going to get a big raise. Garrison has a cannon of a shot. Even more alluring for the Blackhawks: he had nine power-play goals last season. The Blackhawks had 20 power-play goals as a team last season.

Earlier today I threw out my opinion on Sheldon Souray. Yes, he has an awful injury history and hes not fleet of skates. He never was the latter. But hes another one with a rocket shot; wouldnt offer him a big wad of cash, but hed be a more frugal option to add to blue-line depth.

The Blackhawks may also look for a center or help between the pipes. As intriguing as it would be to see Shane Doan in a Blackhawks uniform, it seems unlikely. Doan could still sign with the Coyotes the guys been loyal to that franchise through thick and thin. If he doesnt, hell have some choice offers coming his way. Martin Brodeur? We covered that yesterday.

Whatever the scenarios, its crunch time for the Blackhawks. They need the right pieces to get them past the first round, get them back to seriously competing for the Cup. Its all about choices. The Blackhawks hope they make the right ones.

Bears still have much to prove after disappointing loss to Patriots

Bears still have much to prove after disappointing loss to Patriots

 Beating the, arguably, best coach and quarterback pairing in NFL history is a difficult enough task. Trying to do it while allowing two touchdowns on special teams? Good luck. 
The Bears will leave Soldier Field frustrated with their 38-31 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday for a number of reasons, but top of the list will be Cordarrelle Patterson’s 95-yard kickoff return score and a blocked Pat O’Donnell punt that was raced into the end zone by Kyle Van Noy. A special teams unit that had been solid all year — and forced a fumble on a Patterson kickoff return in the first quarter Sunday — suddenly became a disaster, allowing an uncharacteristically undisciplined Patriots side back into the game, and then ahead in it. 
Add in an inaccurate game from Mitch Trubisky — who completed 26 of 50 passes for 333 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions — and an uneventful afternoon for Khalil Mack and the pass rush, and the Bears had to scratch and claw to hang with New England. 
Interestingly, after all week hearing from Bears coaches and players about how they couldn’t let the Patriots take them out of their own game, it felt like Bill Belichick and Tom Brady did exactly that. Mack frequently dropped into coverage — but so did Leonard Floyd, so maybe it wasn’t all about Mack’s injured ankle. While Brady frequently got the ball out quick, when he didn’t he was rarely pressured. 
And on offense, Taylor Gabriel had the same number of targets (one) as offensive lineman Bradley Sowell until midway through the fourth quarter. Trubisky dazzled with his legs, covering over 70 yards on an eight-yard touchdown run and dancing his way to a 39-yard scramble that set up a touchdown in the third quarter. 
But Trubisky’s struggles were clear, with the second-year quarterback throwing two ill-advised passes that should’ve been picked off in the end zone and then underthrowing Anthony Miller in the fourth quarter, allowing Patriots safety Jonathan Jones to make a tremendous interception. New England drove 96 yards after that pick into the end zone, with Brady taking apart a defense that missed two tackles on a 55-yarder to Josh Gordon, extinguishing any hope the Bears had of a comeback.
While Trubisky did lead a scoring drive after Adrian Amos assisted Kyle Fuller for an interception, cutting the deficit to seven. And Trubisky nearly pulled off a miracle with a Hail Mary to Kevin White, which was completed just shy of the end zone. 
The loss dropped the Bears to 3-3 and heaps plenty of pressure on Matt Nagy’s side to win seemingly-winnable games in the next three weeks: At home against the New York Jets, on the road against the Buffalo Bills and at home against the Detroit Lions. But then again: When the Jets come to town next weekend, it’ll have been nearly a month since the Bears’ last win. How the Bears fare over these next three games will be a clear window into if this team is a legitimate contender or one that faded after a strong start. 

WATCH: Mitchell Trubisky runs like Michael Vick for 8-yard touchdown

WATCH: Mitchell Trubisky runs like Michael Vick for 8-yard touchdown

The New England Patriots defense wasn’t giving Mitchell Trubisky many options through the air, so he decided to take matters into his own hands at Soldier Field.

The young quarterback’s legs were the Bears’ most-effective weapon in the first quarter, as Trubisky led the team with 35 rushing yards on four carries in the opening period of play.

He capped it off with an eight-yard touchdown scramble that had him looking like Michael Vick on the field.

The Bears will need to have a more well-rounded offensive attack to keep up with teams like the Patriots, but Trubisky found what was working in the first quarter.

Perhaps most importantly, he’s been smart and safe with his running, opting to slide and go to the ground on his big plays to avoid any big hits.

His legs continue to make this offense more dynamic, to keep up with top-notch opponents like New England.