It’s been a long summer, hasn’t it? This is what a brief postseason run will do to you: by July you’re feeling antsy, you’re missing hockey and you’re counting the days until the puck droppeths again. We feel your pain, people.
The offseason continues but, for the time being, it looks like the Blackhawks are done tinkering with their lineup. It’s been a jaw-dropping summer for the Blackhawks. General manager Stan Bowman said on April 22 that there would be changes, and he wasn’t kidding. Still, a lot of questions remain about this roster as the season nears.
As you can imagine, what happens with Marian Hossa’s cap hit is still a hot topic. We’ll take Sandra Muer’s question on that front.
#tradar do you think Hossa's contract gets traded? What need(s) do(es) the Hawks address with Hossa cap space (assume LTIR/trade)?— Sandra Muer (@SandraMuer) July 10, 2017
I joked with an Arizona-based scribe that if the Coyotes didn’t take Hossa’s contract, who would? All kidding aside, I don’t think the Blackhawks are going to find any takers on this one. Arizona is looking to improve and not just be a place where bad contracts go to die. The most likely option is still the Blackhawks putting Hossa on long-term injured reserve soon after the season begins.
They absolutely have to address defense, as far as I’m concerned. That’s where they’re feeling the loss the most. My question is, who will they find at that point to help them? I wasn’t surprised they didn’t land any of the big free-agent fishes; they were all going to demand too high a price for the cash-strapped Blackhawks to pay. Come early October, maybe they find someone who didn’t fit into another team’s plans. If they decide to go with what they have in the system, giving some young players an opportunity, this could be a season of blue-line growing pains.
Now, onto the rest of the mailbag:
Why move Panarin if we end up getting full relief on Hossa's contract? I'm still in disbelief that we traded him.— Johnny-_utah (@bears_blackhawk) July 11, 2017
Artemi Panarin’s trade has nothing to do with Hossa or the relief his LTIR will likely provide. It has everything to do with the Blackhawks wanting and needing to get a power forward back in the lineup, especially one who can bring stability to that top line with Jonathan Toews. You want to acquire Brandon Saad? You have to give up something, so here we are. And on paper, I still say this deal is a smart one.
#Tradar Most improved position of Blackhawks after the craziness of free-agency?— teems.zoro (@fatems_19) July 10, 2017
I’m not sure there’s much improvement anywhere. Just based on their recent history, the Blackhawks have done well in finding backup goaltenders the past few seasons, so if they think Anton Forsberg is ready, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt right now. They’ve added bodies at forward but let’s see who makes an impact.
Do you think the Hawks are set at their #2 goaltender, or go out searching for a vet? #Tradar— Dr. Awesome, PDh (@DrAwesomeTweets) July 11, 2017
The Blackhawks added to their goaltending depth this summer with Anton Forsberg and Jean-Sébastien Bérubé, so they’re set there. General manager Stan Bowman sees Forsberg as the backup right now. Going for a veteran doesn’t always yield great results. Look at the Blackhawks’ goaltending acquisitions since the summer of 2010. Unproven coming in: Antti Raanta and Scott Darling, and both did well. Veterans: Ray Emery (great), Marty Turco and Nikolai Khabibulin (neither worked).
Chances they use DeBrincat as a LW (if he makes the team out of camp that is)? #tradar Need some more right-handed shots on the LW.— Sean Mc (@seanmcirish) July 10, 2017
If Alex DeBrincat makes the team he can play anywhere, but left wing is his natural position. As former Erie Otters coach Kris Knoblauch told me this summer DeBrincat, “was voted first all-star team right winger, and probably played five games on right wing.”
Contender or pretender next season? #trader— Richard Pacella (@RFIPRAM) July 10, 2017
As of right now, I think the Blackhawks are a bubble team. Again, the biggest concern is at defense. The Central Division is going to be tough. We all saw what the Nashville Predators did. Is this the start of something for them or do they have a hiccup coming off that long postseason run? I’m very interested to see what the Dallas Stars do; this isn’t the first time they’ve done major offseason tinkering but they made a significant (and necessary) upgrade at goaltending. If they can stay healthy this season, they could be the Central’s team to beat. And while we’re on the subject of where the Blackhawks potentially end up in the standings…
#tradar Let's say the Hawks miss the playoffs next season. Is a full-on rebuild imminent?— Luke Stanbery (@lukestanbery) July 10, 2017
Roster-wise, I’m not sure how full on a rebuild can be done with this team. No matter what happens this season, the Blackhawks have the same contract issues next summer as they do this one: a lot of full no-movement clauses. But if the Blackhawks miss the playoffs there will be changes. They would more likely be front office or coaching.
#tradar How close are the Hawks to being under the cap to start the season?— Gregg Petersen (@greggpetersen75) July 11, 2017
According to Capfriendly.com (again, a valuable resource that should be bookmarked by every hockey fan), the Blackhawks are approximately $35,000 over the $75 million salary cap. They can spend 10 percent over the cap as long as they’re at/under the cap by opening night.
#tradar how soon do you think the NHL will look to add a 32nd team to even up the divisions. And who may be getting a team?— Bryan Meeker (@Meeksauce33) July 10, 2017
No idea when it will happen but I would think Seattle would be a good possibility. Plus, it’s a selfish wish on my part: the only time I’ve been in Seattle is at the airport, connecting between Vancouver and Chicago.
Not that I know of, outside of YouTube of course. Although with rare exception I was never into watching full games from the past. Always felt if I did, I should probably play “Glory Days” faintly in the background.
Have you heard if the Hawks will be returning to Notre Dame for training camp this season ? #tradar— Brent Phillips (@bphillips3600) July 10, 2017
The Blackhawks haven’t announced anything on that yet but yes, I expect them to be there at some point during training camp. Last year they scrubbed it due to half the team being at the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto.
No, I don’t. It was a worthwhile shot to take last season, especially with Campbell taking a significant pay cut to come back here. But it didn’t have the desired effect on the ice. The Blackhawks need to get younger on defense, so I don’t see him returning.
#trader Which Hawk needs to take a big step forward next year? Who's the most likely breakout player? Which D is Stan signing?— Gettingthenumbersup (@Gettingthenumbe) July 10, 2017
We addressed the last question above (either they find someone later this summer/early fall or go as is). I’d pick Nick Schmaltz as a guy who needs to take a big step forward. He did alright for a rookie, especially once he got back from a midseason stint in Rockford. But he should be stronger this season. With holes in the lineup, expectations will grow for everyone remaining, him included. As for the breakout player, it would be easy to say Alex DeBrincat because everyone wants it to be DeBrincat. But surprises usually come out of training camp. Alexandre Fortin had a good one last fall and was on the bubble. Does he take bigger strides this camp?
If you’ve been a fan for any amount of time you’ve had to adjust to watching the Blackhawks without Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Antti Niemi, Brian Campbell, Bryan Bickell, Teuvo Teravainen, Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp, among others. All former-player reunions aside, losing guys has been part of pretty much every Blackhawks season since they started winning Stanley Cups again. It is what it is. You’ll be OK.
#tradar. Would you care to say what region you're going to in August? I'm going to Italy in November--Rome, Florence, and Amalfi Coast😊🇮🇹— Sally Daly (@DalySally) July 10, 2017
I’m off to Paris again, for sure. Past that I haven’t decided yet. That’s the beauty of train travel in Europe: you can decide last minute and still probably find a good deal.
#tradar do you feel the need to clap to the friends theme song when the cue in the music hits?— Sean T Rohacik (@SeanRohacik) July 10, 2017
Truth be told, I never liked that show. I always thought it was overrated. Watched the first season, got bored, and outside of the random times it’s on while I’m awaiting an appointment, I never watched it again. That’s a very long answer to your very short question, but there you go.https://twitter.com/TJLynch6/status/884414249002573824
It’s probably faster to answer which wines I haven’t been sampling. It’s summer, so if I’m eating outdoors it’s rosé time. I highly recommend Cote des Roses, a wonderfully light rosé in a gorgeous bottle. I’ve been sampling Malbecs again because I never stray too far from them. Don Miguel Gascon is a favorite. I’ll still enjoy an Old Fashioned now and then but that seems more a fall/winter option.
Glad you brought that up. A huge thank you to all of you who gave recommendations when I asked earlier this summer. The ones I’ve read thus far have been outstanding. I highly recommend “Shadow of the Wind” and “Finding Jake.” Just finished reading “Proof of Heaven.”
Don’t make me choose.