Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Eight draft picks in about 3 ½ hours. It was a busy Saturday for the Blackhawks, and when general manager Stan Bowman talked that afternoon about the team’s Day 2 haul, he came prepared.

“I have my little cheat sheet,” Bowman said of the paper on which he had written the Blackhawks’ eight newest prospects.

After a few days’ worth of moves the Blackhawks focused on the future, taking nine players over two days at the NHL Draft. It was a successful weekend for the Blackhawks, who hosted the draft for the first time and built up assets, especially on the blue line. Five of the Blackhawks’ nine selections were defensemen.

“One of the things we talked about was looking at the market. There’s a high value on defensemen. We’re not necessarily looking at the draft but our team this year and over the next couple of years; those are the assets that are valuable around the league,” Bowman said. “Look at the trade Calgary made [for Travis Hamonic], defensemen are a valuable commodity. That was a priority coming in and we were able to accomplish it.”

What comes next

The Blackhawks got what they wanted at this weekend’s draft but the focus will soon shift, as free agency opens on July 1. It remains to be seen what the Blackhawks will have cap-wise come a week from now. Currently, according to CapFriendly.com, they’re $1.445 million over the $75 million cap. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks apply the long-term injured reserve tag on Marian Hossa during the offseason. It’s possible they could still trade Marcus Kruger to gain some space. Bowman said, one way or another, “there will be some movement.”

“We’ll bring some players in, I don’t know how many, what position or what level,” he said. “This is where there’s a lot of activity, the couple weeks in the middle of June until the middle of July. That’s when the most changes happen. We’ll go to work, now that we’re past this.”

Wait for it

The Blackhawks also have to decide whether or not to qualify restricted free agents Dennis Rasmussen and Tomas Jurco. Bowman said that’ll be decided by Monday.

“I’ve had discussions with both agents,” he said. “I don’t have an answer right now but we’ll have that worked out in the next day and a half.”

Ben Zobrist doubtful for Nationals showdown and where things stand with banged-up Cubs

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USA TODAY

Ben Zobrist doubtful for Nationals showdown and where things stand with banged-up Cubs

MIAMI – As their World Series MVP continues to deal with a lingering wrist injury, the Cubs aren’t expecting Ben Zobrist back for a showdown against the Washington Nationals. 

“Not yet,” manager Joe Maddon said Saturday at Marlins Park.

Dusty Baker’s Nationals are on pace for close to 100 wins and have the kind of elite power pitching – Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg – Zobrist has shown over and over again that he can handle in the postseason.

The Cubs will roll out a young, inexperienced lineup on Monday at Nationals Park, the beginning of a four-game series and a potential playoff preview. Zobrist injured his left wrist with an awkward swing on Memorial Day weekend and tried to play through it and now might be back closer to the Fourth of July.

The Cubs aren’t even at the point of finalizing the logistics for a Zobrist rehab assignment in the minors.

“We’ve talked about it, but we haven’t said: ‘This is the date,’” Maddon said. “It’s still not in that planning stage yet: ‘OK, this feels good, worked out a couple days and now we’re going to go there on Tuesday.’ We haven’t said that.”

A look at where things stand with the rest of the banged-up Cubs:

• The Cubs expect Kyle Hendricks to test his right hand (tendinitis) and throw by the end of this weekend, with Maddon keeping the door open for a potential return before the All-Star break. 

• The Cubs sidelined Jason Heyward because they could only play shorthanded for so long, but they expected the cut on his left hand to heal before the end of his 10-day stay on the disabled list, which could put him in play for the last game in Washington. 

• Remember Brett Anderson? The talented, injury-prone lefty who made the rotation out of spring training and put up an 8.18 ERA in six starts – before going on the disabled list with a low back strain – will begin his rehab assignment on Sunday at Double-A Tennessee.

• In the middle of an 11-games-in-11-days road trip, Maddon is looking forward to the possibilities with a healthy Zobrist and a productive Ian Happ and what it would mean to have two switch-hitters with defensive flexibility.       

“He’s his Mini-Me right now,” Maddon said. “When you get them both back, it really opens up a lot on a daily basis, regarding giving guys a day off, where do you want to play them, batting-order construction. They’re very versatile players and there are a lot of similarities.”