Boden: Blackhawks know their potential

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Boden: Blackhawks know their potential

Ken Hitchcock and the Blues had been, deservingly, receiving league-wide praise for how the teams performed the past month since he took over behind the bench. Hes the Point-B-to-Point-C Cup-winning coach brought in to mold a young, talented group of Blues into realizing their potential. So far, hes been doing just that. And quickly. Without being totally healthy.

But Saturday night, Hitchcock could only praise the team that cooled off his up-and-comers.

They (the Blackhawks) treated it like a playoff game, Hitchcock told reporters. Because that was as hard and competitive a game as weve had since Ive been here. They really came to play.

While St. Louis is still discovering its potential, the Blackhawks know theirs. And so do fans. The core, and all the pieces around it, should still be in the Stanley Cup discussion deep into next May. This was confirmed in their fast start, but it was a pace no team can realistically keep up for six months. Every game they dont look that way brings another dose of panic outside the locker room, wondering why they cant copy their best games, night in and night out.

Theres no perfect team in this league thats as competitive as its ever been. The Blackhawks are still among the best, but figuring out what itll take to get as close to that as possible. Theyve swallowed some medicine the past three weeks by underestimating opponents, and not being as ready for the puck-drop as guys in the other sweaters. The times they do, they can only hope it doesnt make them even more uncomfortable when its time to count points the first weekend of April.

But Saturday in St. Louis was Exhibit A of what this teams capable of doing. Joel Quenneville will keep tinkering. Stan Bowman will be tweaking when he senses he needs more than what he has in place. Itll happen sooner if he senses there are more efforts like last Tuesdays than the one he saw Saturday night. It could be a hungry kid from Rockford wholl add some energy, or a veteran or two, now that the GM enjoys some salary cap flexibility. And hell probably know a lot more based on how his team responds to the heavy home schedule these next six weeks. Monday could be a nice barometer about how long their memory is, since that same Phoenix team they looked so bad against pays a return visit, just six days later.

Ripple Effects in Pebble Beach
Elliotte Friedman of the CBC shared an interesting nugget Saturday night about NHL Realignment options thatll be discussed, perhaps proposed, at the Board of Governors meetings that begin Monday in Pebble Beach. I like the idea, but its unbalanced and probably wont stand a chance of surviving.

In it, the Blackhawks get to keep all their big rivals in an eight-team division thatll also include Detroit, St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus, Minnesota, Winnipeg, and Dallas. The other eight-team division includes all the other teams in the Mountain and Pacific time zones. But the top four in each division would advance to the playoffs, and with the two other Eastern time zone divisions containing just seven teams each, you can hear the yelling now from those fifth-place finishers in the eight-team divisions. What if the Blackhawks wound up fifth in that division in the future? On top of that, the only way to balance it geographically would be the same scenario thats being discussed now sending Detroit, Nashville or Columbus to the East. And that still leaves unbalanced divisions. Itll be interesting to see if they reach a final decision on it as soon as this week, with the most likely scenario being Detroit to the East, Winnipeg to the West. And probably no one except those two teams real happy.

Blackhawks among teams in contention to land Jimmy Vesey

Blackhawks among teams in contention to land Jimmy Vesey

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said at the ninth annual Blackhawks Convention that he's prepared to enter the 2016-17 season with the roster as currently constructed, but there could be one more addition coming, and an impactful one at that.

Coveted free agent forward Jimmy Vesey will hit the open market on Aug. 15, and the Blackhawks are reportedly among the short list of teams set to meet with him when he's eligible to speak with other clubs next month.

"Chicago will be a team we want to talk to on Aug. 15," Vesey's agent Peter Donatelli told Scott Powers of The Athletic over the phone Monday. "Chicago will be on the list, but it shouldn't be read as they're ahead of anyone else.

"He really has no idea where he's going to be. It's going to be up to the teams to sell him. ... Yes, [we have criteria], but we're interested in what the teams say rather than telling the teams what they have to say."

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Vesey is currently property of the Buffalo Sabres after the Nashville Predators, who originally drafted him with the No. 66 overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, traded the 23-year-old left winger's negotiating rights in June for a 2016 third-round selection when it became apparent the two sides wouldn't be able to hammer out a deal.

What makes Vesey and Chicago a perfect match for each other is there's a legitimate spot open in the top-six to potentially play alongside Jonathan Toews, and because Vesey would be signing an entry-level contract, the maximum allowable salary is $925,000 per year, which benefits the cap-strapped Blackhawks.

Vesey is a two-time Hobey Baker Award finalist, and captured the award as the best player in college hockey last season after scoring 24 goals and adding 22 assists in 33 games with Harvard University, where he played four years.

The previous two Hobey Baker Award winners are Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames (2014) and Jack Eichel of the Sabres (2015), so the possibility of Vesey landing in Chicago could immediately give the Blackhawks another dynamic scoring option.

CSN to air five Blackhawks preseason games

CSN to air five Blackhawks preseason games

The Blackhawks announced their 2016 preseason television broadcast schedule on Tuesday, and you can catch five of the six total contests here on Comcast SportsNet. 

The Blackhawks will open their preseason slate on Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. on CSN Plus when the reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins come to town. Their six-game slate comes against just three opponents as they will face the Penguins, Blues and Red Wings twice over the span of two weeks. 

Ticket information for the 2016 preseason will be announced at a later date. 

Here is the Blackhawks' full preseason television broadcast schedule:

David Rundblad, Blackhawks mutually part ways

David Rundblad, Blackhawks mutually part ways

The Blackhawks and David Rundblad have mutually agreed to terminate the defenseman’s contract, as generalfanager.com reported on Monday night.

With the contract terminated, the Blackhawks will not carry any type of Rundblad-related cap hit. If the Blackhawks had bought out Rundblad, they would have carried a $133,333 cap hit this season and a $183,333 the next season.

Per generalfanager.com, the Blackhawks now have approximately $2.3 million in cap space.

Rundblad was placed on waivers on July 1. The defenseman spent part of the 2015-16 season playing in Switzerland. He returned to the Blackhawks last spring and played in three of the team’s seven playoff games against the St. Louis Blues.

But Rundblad could never find a consistent place in the Blackhawks’ lineup. General manager Stan Bowman talked in July of Rundblad wanting a fresh start.

“He’s still a young guy, wants to get back to playing a lot of hockey and that’s why he wanted to go to Europe mid-season. We were willing to honor that request. We’ll let him find a spot where he knows he’ll be a regular player every day,” Bowman said in July. “He has a bright future. We wish him well. But it’s hard as a guy trying to establish yourself in the NHL if you don’t play a lot of minutes. But I think we’ll see David back in the NHL in a few years. I think he wants to find a better fit where he’ll play a lot.”