Blackhawks mailbag: On trades, TvR and travel destinations

Blackhawks mailbag: On trades, TvR and travel destinations

And now, the end is near…

The Blackhawks’ bye week is just about done. While I sit and wonder how the heck it went this quickly, another “end” doth approacheth: the trade deadline.

We’re less than two weeks away from the March 1 deadline, and not surprisingly, there are some questions about that.

https://twitter.com/alarson2201/status/831947870324588549

When Stan Bowman talked to us prior to the Blackhawks’ game in San Jose on Jan. 31, he said he’d be perfectly fine going ahead with this team the way it was. Asked specifically about acquiring a left wing for the top line, he said, “I’m not expecting a big addition like that.”

He said the same thing to Elliotte Friedman in Friedman’s recent 30 Thoughts column. Bowman likes how the Blackhawks’ younger players are progressing and has confidence in them. Since we talked to Bowman, the Blackhawks have gone 5-1. Their four-line rotation is coming together. They played better defense as they went. Corey Crawford is returning to form. Does he stand pat? Tweak? Splash? I’m saying no to a big-splash move. That costs you a lot and the Blackhawks want to hang on to draft picks (they’re hosting the 2017 NHL Draft and it’s no secret they want it to be their showcase). I still won’t be surprised if there’s a tweak, just a little something to bolster the forward depth. Anything more than that is too costly and runs the risk of disrupting chemistry, which I believe is as good as it’s been in several seasons.

Now onto the rest of the mailbag:

This is a question better answered in the offseason, but I’ll give it a shot. Darling is one more player who has said he wants to stay with the Blackhawks. Unlike the others, he grew up around here. BUT, let’s remember something else: if Darling keeps having a great season, he may want to get a shot at a No. 1 job elsewhere. It would be understandable, and I’m sure the Blackhawks will try and do something that works for both parties. Again, we’re a few months away from anything happening there so let’s revisit later.

UPDATED ANSWER. This is the beauty of the internet: you can refresh parts of the mailbag easily. On Thursday evening the Blackhawks recalled Nick Schmaltz and Tanner Kero from the Rockford IceHogs. No surprise on Schmaltz. As I said in my original answer prior to the moves, Schmaltz is finding his game and that top line with he, Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik was playing well before the bye week. Also as previously said, not a shock that Gustav Forsling stays in Rockford, too. Blackhawks have seven defensemen now and the previous attempts at rotating eight just weren’t working. According to CapFriendly, the Blackhawks currently have $3.226 million in cap space and will have nearly $4.2 million in cap space at the trade deadline.

I once thought that myself. Now I’m not so sure. Maybe they’d like a Marcus Kruger, who brings a lot of two-way ability to the table. Let’s also remember that Ryan Hartman is now exposed to the expansion draft. A young kid having a surprising rookie season, can mix it up if necessary (although he’s moving away from that) and is good at getting under opponents’ skin. That could be tempting for Vegas.

I’ll be curious to see what he does with the pairings, mainly with Michal Kempny. I’m going to assume Kempny will play more down the stretch. Maybe Michal Rozsival gets in now and then coming off his injury, but you’ve got to move forward with Kempny. As far as pairings, unless there are issues down the stretch I don’t see him changing much. As much as coach Joel Quenneville does change things up when things aren’t going well, he stays put when they are.

Lot of good ones. I’m a sucker for a great view, which is why I miss Rexall Place and still love Bell Centre and yes, the Scotiabank Saddledome (sorry, Laz). I’m also a huge fan of Madison Square Garden since it’s renovation. Not too high up, not too far back. The worst view is Prudential Arena. I joke that you’re so far up in the arena that you’re above the tree line. Seriously, there’s going to come a day when I see clouds below me in that arena.

I’m convinced he already knows English and is just avoiding us. Remember earlier this season when Panarin came out of the penalty box to score the overtime winner against the St. Louis Blues? I was talking to Patrick Kane about Panarin following that game and Panarin referred to himself as a “ninja” before leaving the room. I’m just waiting for the day I find out he speaks better English than I do.

Pokka is part of a deep pool of defensemen. He’s in Rockford right now because other guys are ahead of him, and that’s all there is to it. The Blackhawks don’t have to do anything with him other than let him keep playing with the IceHogs.

I would absolutely love to attend one of the Slams, although not sure I’d want to cover it. I’d want to be part of that excitement as a spectator. So much of my enthusiasm over sports has been killed out of me because of this job, that I’d like to rekindle some of it.

I haven’t gone to many out there but one I still love is Imagery Winery in Sonoma. Their labels are works from local artists and their wines are outstanding. Big fan.

First, it’s all about the food. It’s always all about the food. The sports in most of the stops is awesome, as are the people. Especially in Canada. Those people freeze their tails off for nine months out of the year and yet are the friendliest people on the planet. But I’m digressing. Montreal and Vancouver will always be two of the favorites for all of those categories you list. I love sushi, and Vancouver with sushi restaurants is like a U.S. city with Starbucks: there’s one on every corner. The differences are the sushi places aren’t overpriced and the product is good.

I’ve been to France twice, Italy once and haven’t been to Spain yet. And likely going to France again. So there it is.

It’s wine and hockey, man. Whatever your preference!

Blackhawks Notes: Coaching changes and Marcus Kruger’s status

Blackhawks Notes: Coaching changes and Marcus Kruger’s status

Coach Joel Quenneville didn’t mince words. Finding out his good friend, former assistant coach Mike Kitchen was fired not long after the Blackhawks’ postseason ended, frustrated him.

“That day, I was not happy. I was a little disappointed,” Quenneville said on Thursday. “We lost a great coach and somebody I had been working with for a long time. It was tough and we’ve moved on now, but I wasn’t excited at the moment.”

In moving on the Blackhawks have revamped their coaching staff, adding another old friend and teammate of Quenneville’s in Ulf Samuelsson and a former member of his St. Louis staff in Don Granato. Quenneville said Samuelsson will take over Kitchen’s responsibilities while Granato will handle a number of tasks.

“Whether he’s pre-scout, helping Kevin [Dineen], helping Ulfie, helping me. He’s helping the young guys like Stan [Bowman] said,” Quenneville said. “We have input with all areas and all coaches and it’s a fun thing, drawing up practices or talking to guys, preparing meetings and evaluating performances. But I think he’s excited to be a part of that as well and Ulfie, he’ll be doing something he’s been doing and he’s excited to work with some of our defense as well.”

As far as the Blackhawks’ defensive style, Quenneville doesn’t foresee it changing.

“I think there are some areas how it ended or after a playoff series, there’s always some tweaks we like to do in games, in playoffs or in series," Quenneville said. "It’s obviously disappointing. But I think there’s a lot of positive things we accomplished last year and how we played without the puck, I don’t think that was too much of an issue.

"But we have a defense that can play both ways and we still want offense from our defensive part of our game. That’d be one of our strengths. But when it’s time to defend, how we want to play in our own end without the puck is something that’ll be very close to how we play.”

Kruger’s situation

There’s been plenty of talk regarding Marcus Kruger, and whether or not he’ll remain with the Blackhawks. Whatever the future holds for the center, general manager Stan Bowman wouldn’t say on Thursday.

“Yeah, there have been a lot of these rumors around, but Marcus is no different than any other player. I’m not going to comment on rumors out there, but people are stating it as if it’s a fact,” Bowman said of Kruger being at the center of trade rumors. “There’s a lot of speculation, but it’s not fair to the players for me to be commenting on what’s been rumored out there. I don’t really have anything to add on that front.”

Trevor van Riemsdyk was Vegas’ selection in Wednesday night’s expansion draft. But a source said it’s still possible the Blackhawks trade Kruger to the Golden Knights.

Why placing Marian Hossa on long-term injured reserve wouldn't help Blackhawks' cap issues

Why placing Marian Hossa on long-term injured reserve wouldn't help Blackhawks' cap issues

When the news came down that Marian Hossa would miss the 2017-18 season, most first thoughts were about his health. But it was only natural to look at the business implications, and the possibility of Hossa going on long-term injured reserve (LTIR).

That would solve the Blackhawks’ cap issues, right? That would give them more money to spend, right? Well, not exactly. See, the LTIR can be a bit complicated. It can also be tricky to explain. And right now, even Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman is trying to figure out how this all develops for the team.

“I think there’s a little bit of a misconception on the LTI provision in the salary cap, and understandably so. It’s very complicated. It’s not as simple or as easy as people think it to be,” Bowman said on Thursday, the day before the Blackhawks hosted the 2017 NHL Draft. “I don’t want to get into too many details because it’s hard to explain it all, but there’s a couple different ways it can work.

"You can use offseason LTI and in-season LTI and there’s drawbacks to both, and there’s limitations the way that the league handles those things. It’s not as simple as people might think that we just have this ability to suddenly replace Marian with another player. It’s way more involved than that.”

Here are two basics about the cap: a team can be 10 percent over it during the summer, and a team must be at or below it the day the regular season begins. If the Blackhawks place Hossa on LTIR, it wouldn’t take effect until the second day of the regular season. So on Day 1 of the season, the Blackhawks would still be carrying Hossa’s $5.275 cap hit.

Once the LTIR would take effect, though, the Blackhawks would have wiggle room. If they spent to the $75 million cap, they could utilize Hossa’s entire $5.275 million cap hit on other players.

It’s not about the Blackhawks finding a guy this summer that makes an equal cap it.

“If you did that you would be essentially starting the year with an inability to make any transactions," Bowman said. "And that’s why, it’s a harder discussion to have because you’ve got to give you examples of if this happens. But it just doesn’t work that way. I wish it were that simple, but it’s not. It’s a much more complicated provision than people think. It’s not some easy cap solution where we just go sign a player for the same amount and off we go. It’s much more problematic than that.”

The NHL will be looking at the situation, although there doesn’t seem to be anything that would keep the Blackhawks from putting Hossa on LTIR. Bowman wasn’t concerned about it.

Still, the Blackhawks will still be doing their share of offseason math.

“I know how it works. What’s going to happen is a different question," Bowman said. "You don’t make those decisions overnight, but I think that understandably there’s probably a lot of confusion, because it’s not your job to run the salary cap for a team. So, I can get why you don’t know all the little details, and it is a very intricate provision in the CBA. So, we understand it. We’ve used LTI before, so it’s not like it’s something we’ve never been faced with. It’s just a factor that we’ll get through.”