When the Blackhawks brass arrive in Pittsburgh for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft on Friday, part of their job is grabbing the best players for the future. But the other, more critical part, is what the Blackhawks can do to improve their team now. The draft is as much a trading ground as it is a prospect gathering one, and the Blackhawks will be one of many teams exploring the former options as well as the latter.
General manager Stan Bowman broke down every potential scenario during a conference call on Tuesday. They could make a big move if its the right fit. They could get a few pieces. Or, since they have a full roster already in place, they could just tweak.
Its hard to say at this point, if our team going to be the same as it stands, if well make additions or switch out players. Were always talking and considering different opportunities, Bowman said. If something makes us a better team well pursue it. I guess to answer, its possible well make moves, but we dont have to.
Well, that last sentence is true. And its not so true. Yes, as far as having enough bodies on the roster, enough players to fill each spot, the Blackhawks have that. But as it stands, they would enter 2012-13 regular season with the same team that fell in the first round of the 2011-12 postseason. And for a team thats determined to get back to Stanley Cup contention, status quo is a no-no.
The Blackhawks dont need a major overhaul - lets remember this team is on a four-season playoff roll. But they do need to make changes to bolster what has become a predictable team. They need a stronger supporting cast. They need size on defense. That may mean giving up a player or two -- a source indicated that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador, who have a combined 6 million cap hit this coming season, could be possibilities. That may mean giving up a prized prospect and draft picks. Its the price of winning - and attaining impact players.
And, no, by impact were not talking about acquiring every break-the-bank superstar player out there. While the cap could increase to as much as 70 million, the Blackhawks have plenty of star status and big-money contracts. Its more about finding those great characters, those great role players who have more than one year left in their NHL career. And its about finding them now.
From this weekend until late July, the Blackhawks need to be proactive and more aggressive than last season. For an organization that was going up, up, up en route to claiming the Cup, the first-round exits wont be tolerated much longer.
Bowman said on Tuesday that he loves this time of year, from drafting those prospects to finding the right pieces for the team now. The Blackhawks need to be proactive. If they are, theyre the ones who will be having fun again during the season.