Hawk Talk: Q's game of roster 'Q & A'

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Hawk Talk: Q's game of roster 'Q & A'

Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010
6:10 PM

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

Rejoining the hockey world didn't seem quite right over the past week. After all, the season just ended, like yesterday...it still felt like summer...and my car was just getting used to not driving itself to the United Center.

But Saturday night, a week after the Blackhawks took the ice for training camp, it started feeling normal again. A little chill was in the air walking into the UC. Once inside, the guys with the winged wheel on their chests prompted the usual chants from Hawks fans, even if their roster was more K-Wings than Red Wings. And there were a preseason franchise-record 20,000-plus in the house, booing even the announcement of a Chris Chelios Heritage Night. Hey, he's a member of Detroit management now.

Two more roster moves came Sunday to chop the camp body count to 35, as defenseman Shawn Lalonde and forward Chris DiDomenico were sent to Rockford. We're essentially halfway through what's a two-week minicamp, because after next Sunday's final warmup, it's time for the defending champs to crank it up. That phrase applies to the roster wanna-bes this week.

These exhibitions are an inexact science, occasionally grading prospects against other prospects, and other times against vets who'll teach 'em a lesson or two. Joel Quenneville has an interesting pool of candidates to choose from ahead of the puck-drop a week from Thursday in Denver. Some eye-openers in early scrimmages have quieted down in exhibitions. Others have stepped up. A year ago, Viktor Stalberg led the NHL in preseason scoring. Has he been doing enough other things to get noticed, even though he hasn't scratched the scoresheet yet? Does the same apply to Igor Makarov despite this being his first NHL camp, and the fact he found himself with a few good looks Saturday night? Is what we're seeing thus far out of perhaps the Next Jeremy Who Wears 27 transferable to a six-month NHL grind, 19 years young or not?

Not only is Jeremy Morin's skill (and production to this point) impressive, but he added an eye-opener for me with about four minutes left Friday night in Detroit. He lined up the Wings' Jonathan Ericsson along the boards, and knocked him on his padded pants to create a turnover. I don't know if the kid's making Quenneville's decision easy or tough if there's more of that Morin the final four games.

The other 19-year-old in camp has also played like he wants to skip the Rockford part, and his teammates are saying Nick Leddy shouldn't be settling for that, based on the speed and poise he's showing.

Time is on their side, but with that in mind, the braintrust has to weigh whether the best menkids win roster spots against specific roles that may need filling. Do you give all the guys who've been working and waiting in Rockford some extra rope, and the benefit of the doubt? How important is - and what options are there - filling the need for physical presence? Did Ryan Potulny show he can provide some of the same things as the guy who used to wear number 16, whether as a wing or a fourth-line center?

Well, at least we're not talking about goalies. That'll certainly come along sometime over the next six months, but Marty Turco's home deut as a Blackhawk was a good one. Sure, Detroit was without its snipers, but he showed a quickness, confidence and good glove. There will be times he'll skip hearts a beat with his aggressive puck-handling, but it inspired a positive buzz, even some applause from the crowd, saving his teammates some skating. Every athlete reaches a stage where public (and sometimes personal) doubt about the quality of their game increases with age. Turco wanted "in" here, proven by the contract he signed. Saturday night, at least, he played - and carried himself - like a goalie looking to take charge and make people look elsewhere for any concerns.

After all, it seems like his head coach has more pressing decisions to make.

A final note: If you're not able to make it to the United Center for the home openerbanner raising against Detroit, we'll have some 90 minutes of pregame programming on Comcast SportsNet October 9th, starting at 6 p.m. with "Stanley's Summer Vacation," a half-hour journey of the Stanley Cup's time with individual players. It includes our trips to Winnipeg and Buffalo for the days Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane spent with the Cup in their hometowns. At 6:30, we'll be on the concourse again for an hour-long edition of "Chevy Blackhawks PreGame Live," which will include the banner ceremony.

Saad Day: Blackhawks deal Artemi Panarin for familiar face

Saad Day: Blackhawks deal Artemi Panarin for familiar face

When the Blackhawks found Artemi Panarin, they found a talent who was NHL ready from the start, who found instant chemistry with Patrick Kane and earned a Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. It was also a tremendous panacea for a team that couldn’t pull off a deal to keep Brandon Saad, who was the power forward that fit in beautifully in the Blackhawks’ top six.

On Friday, the Blackhawks brought Saad back and dealt Panarin to do it.   

Saad returns to the Blackhawks, who also acquire goaltender Anton Forsberg, in exchange for Panarin and Tyler Motte. The Blackhawks also get the Blue Jackets’ fifth-round pick in the 2018 NHL draft and the Columbus gets Chicago’s sixth-round pick from this weekend’s draft. Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the deal. The Blackhawks inherit Saad’s deal, which has four years remaining at a $6 million cap hit. Panarin was about to enter his current deal, which is two years with a $6 million cap hit. This is key for the immediate future; when Panarin’s latest deal is up, if he keeps up at his current pace, he’ll likely sign for a lot more.

[MORE: Blackhawks deal Hjalmarsson to Arizona]

The Blackhawks have missed Saad terribly since his departure. The team has struggled to find consistent line mates with Jonathan Toews, especially at that left-wing position. They did fairly well with Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik flanking Toews this season but it wasn’t as strong as the Saad-Toews combination. So it looks like the Blackhawks’ top line will be solidified again.

Now, what about the second line? As good as Toews and Saad’s chemistry was, Panarin’s and Kane’s was dynamite. The two had their respective skill, which they flashed often, and their ability to read each other was evident from the start. The Blackhawks’ second line was as consistent and steady the past two seasons as the top line was during Saad’s time here.

So, there are changes. The Blackhawks will absolutely miss what Panarin brings. But as far as bringing back a former Blackhawks player who could help in the present, getting the 24-year-old Saad back will be very beneficial. 

Blackhawks pull off stunner, trade Niklas Hjalmarsson to Coyotes

Blackhawks pull off stunner, trade Niklas Hjalmarsson to Coyotes

Niklas Hjalmarsson has been part of the Blackhawks’ renaissance since the rebuild began in the mid-2000s, a longtime steady presence on the blue line who has had some clutch moments in the Blackhawks’ three Stanley Cup runs. But on Friday, the player with one of the Blackhawks’ best contracts was sent packing.

Hjalmarsson was traded to the Arizona Coyotes for defenseman Connor Murphy and center Laurent Dauphin on Friday morning. With Hjalmarsson, the Blackhawks give up a tremendous defenseman with a winning pedigree.

“Niklas’ contributions to the three Stanley Cup championship teams are well known but his dependability as a teammate, selfless attitude and the way he represented the Chicago Blackhawks on and off the ice are what made him such a beloved member of the organization,” said Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said in a statement. “He made his debut in Chicago in 2008 and quietly established himself as one of the toughest competitors in franchise history. We wish he and his family continued success.”

The 30-year-old defenseman has two years remaining on his current contract, which carries a $4.1 million cap hit. The 24-year-old Murphy has five years remaining on his current contract ($3.85 million cap hit). Dauphin is in the final year of his current entry-level contract ($745,000). According to CapFriendly, if Dauphin plays for the Rockford IceHogs this season, the Blackhawks can save $250,000 in cap space.

But this isn’t about money as much as the Blackhawks needing to get younger on defense. Murphy has played all four of his NHL seasons with the Coyotes. Last season he had two goals and 15 assists in 77 games.

Still, giving up Hjalmarsson is a tough one. Hjalmarsson has been a strong, steady presence for the Blackhawks. He once again led the team in blocked shots (181). Plenty of bumps, bruises and pain come with that job description but despite that, Hjalmarsson hasn’t missed much time. Since the 2012-13 season Hjalmarsson has missed just 12 games, and just four of those have been due to injury (suspected back injury last season).

The Blackhawks’ defense looked older and slower in their brief postseason run against the Nashville Predators, and they certainly have to start moving toward the future. But with Hjalmarsson playing at the level he has the past few seasons, his absence will hurt.