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Season preview: Chicago Blackhawks

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Season preview: Chicago Blackhawks

To get you ready for the 2015-16 season, we will be previewing all 30 NHL in 30 days, division by division. Check the bottom of the page for a schedule of each preview.

Today’s team: Chicago Blackhawks

2014-15 record: 48-28-6, 3rd in the Central

How they finished: Won the Stanley Cup in six games against Tampa Bay

Coach: Joel Quenneville (8th season)

Notable additions: C Artem Anisimov, RW Marko Dano, D Trevor Daley, LW Ryan Garbutt

Notable subtractions: LW Brandon Saad, LW Patrick Sharp, D Johnny Oduya, C Brad Richards

RELATED: Projecting Caps who could play in the World Cup

Schedule against the Capitals: Thu. Oct. 15 in Washington, Sun. Feb. 28 in Chicago

Outlook: Few teams, if any, lost as much as the Blackhawks did this summer though that was largely by design. Chicago faced a major salary crunch and did what they had to do to get under the cap, but it still came at a cost.

The Blackhawks did the best they could in getting equal return for Brandon Saad, grabbing four players and a draft pick from Columbus in what turned into a seven-player deal. Two of those players, Artem Anisimov and Mark Dano, will have an immediate impact this season for Chicago. The same cannot be said for the Patrick Sharp deal.

In exchange for the veteran winger and a defensive prospect, the Blackhawks received defenseman Trevor Daley and LW Ryan Garbutt. I have heard some analysts praise the Sharp deal as a steal for Chicago and I could not disagree more. They could have gotten much more for a player of Sharp's caliber despite his price tag. That's not to say they should not have traded Sharp, they had to. Even with his $5.9 million cap hit off the books Chicago is still right up against the salary cap, but there had to have been better deals out there.

If you believe the Blackhawks received a top-pair defenseman in Daley you are sadly mistaken. Daley is 31-years-old and is a highly flawed defenseman who will be better suited for the third pair in Chicago than the first. Garbutt, 29, can generate shots, but is not a major point producer. His career high is 32 set in 2013-14 to go along with his 106 penalty minutes.

Having said all of that, this is still the Blackhawks. They still have Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Kris Versteeg, Marion Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook plus a rising Teuvo Teravainen. Obviously there is a very serious investigation regarding Kane which may cast some doubt on his availability for next season, but no charges have been filed as of yet. Barring some kind of suspension for Kane, Chicago will be just fine.

Expectations: When comparing the players lost to the players gained this summer, you can't really say the Blackhawks got better, but they did what they needed to do to stay under the cap. Their offseason moves will put them in a better position for the future, but for right now, they are not as good as they were last season.

Obviously, the Kane situation could dramatically change their outlook for the year and for the future, but as of right now you can never count count out the Blackhawks. There is no doubt they will reach the playoffs and with players like Toews and Keith they are always capable of a deep run, but they should not be seen as head and shoulders above the rest of the West.

With three Cups in six years, are they still the team to beat? Of course, but this roster looks eminently more beatable than the team that hoisted the Cup in June.

MORE CAPS: Hershey Bears release preseason schedule

See more team previews:

Pacific Division 
Anaheim Ducks 
Arizona Coyotes 
Calgary Flames 
Edmonton Oilers 
Los Angeles Kings
San Jose Sharks
Vancouver Canucks

Central Division 
Colorado Avalanche 8/9 
Dallas Stars 8/10 
Minnesota Wild 8/11
Nashville 8/12 
St. Louis Blues 8/13 
Winnipeg Jets 8/14

Atlantic Division 
Boston Bruins 8/15 
Buffalo Sabres 8/16 
Detroit Red Wings 8/17 
Florida Panthers 8/18 
Montreal Canadiens 8/19 
Ottawa Senators 8/20
Tampa Bay Lightning 8/21 
Toronto Maple Leafs 8/22

Metropolitan Division 
Carolina Hurricanes 8/23 
Columbus Blue Jackets 8/24 
New Jersey Devils 8/25 
New York Islanders 8/26 
New York Rangers 8/27 
Philadelphia Flyers 8/28 
Pittsburgh Penguins 8/29 
Washington Capitals 8/30

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D.C. artist turns her love for the Washington Capitals into works of art

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@tkopaintings on Twitter

D.C. artist turns her love for the Washington Capitals into works of art

Local artist Taylor Kampa has taken her love for the Washington Capitals and turned it into works of art. 

You can find paintings done by Kampa of Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, John Carlson and Braden Holtby on display at Circa Chinatown – a restaurant neighboring Capital One Arena – along with other D.C. celebrities.

A professional artist for the last decade, Kampa told NHL.com that the pictures were "passion projects," and took about eight hours to finish. She became a fan of the Caps after she began dating her now-husband back in 2009.

Her work has even caught the eye of The Great Eight. After posting a video to Instagram of her painting Ovechkin hoisting the Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner liked and commented on it. 

"I almost died," Kampa said.

"It has been amazing sharing something that I am excited about that resonates with the people in my city," Kampa said. "I've been painting these portraits for a long time, so it's awesome to have them seen by so many people."

Kampa will also create paintings for the Capitals foundation's annual Casino Night fundraiser next year. 

MORE CAPS NEWS: 

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Key Caps questions: Who will play center on the fourth line?

Key Caps questions: Who will play center on the fourth line?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals correspondent JJ Regan is here to help you through the offseason doldrums as he discusses key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: Who will be the team's primary fourth line center?

With the departure of Jay Beagle, there is a spot open at center on the fourth line. There appears on the roster to be three clear candidates to fill that position: Chandler Stephenson, Travis Boyd and Nic Dowd.

To find out why you should cross Stephenson’s name off the list, you should read yesterday's Key Caps Question about whether or not Stephenson is a wing or a center. To summarize, Washington sees Stephenson as more of a wing which explains why they both re-signed Boyd and brought in Dowd.

So who will it be between those two?

Both players seem to fit the mold as effective centers in the AHL where they were both productive. Dowd has an edge in NHL experience with 131 NHL games as compared to Boyd’s eight.

But Barry Trotz clearly had faith in Boyd at center which is why we saw him fill in on the top line on March 18 in Philadelphia. Boyd rewarded that faith with a spin pass to Alex Ovechkin for an assist, his first career point.

Trotz is now gone and Todd Reirden is in charge, but there is at least a level of familiarity there with the coaching staff and Boyd, more so than with Dowd who is new to the organization.

Second, the Caps may have tipped their hand a bit when you compare the two contracts. Center is an important position and Brian MacLellan has frequently referenced the team’s strength in center depth as a major reason for their Cup run.

Both Boyd and Dowd were signed over the offseason. Both contracts are one-way, suggesting both will be in the NHL, but Boyd’s cap hit is $800,000 while Dowd’s is $650,000. Of course, that will not matter when the players get on the ice. If Dowd outplays Boyd, he will start over him. Plus, the market ultimately dictates price. Even if the Caps wanted Dowd for their top line, if you can get him for $650k, you sign him for $650k.

Considering how important a position center is, however, even on the fourth line, it seems telling that the team was willing to give Boyd, a player with eight games of experience to his name, $800k while Dowd was signed for the minimum. That seems to suggest the Caps at least foresee Boyd having a bigger role which, for two players penciled in for the fourth line, would mean playing him at center.

Other key Caps questions: