Hawk Talk: Salary cap issues forced Buff's departure

Hawk Talk: Salary cap issues forced Buff's departure

Thursday, June 24, 2010
1:57 AM

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

Stan Bowman had to start somewhere. And the Blackhawks general manager told the media on a 12:30 a.m. conference call that whomever he chose, debate would follow. In this case, it's one of their highest players of impact the last two postseasons.

Speculation already was that Brent Sopel and Ben Eager wouldn't be back, but the salary cap situation requires a couple of bigger-money contracts to be moved out. Dustin Byfuglien's is one. Another may follow at this weekend's draft in Los Angeles. Bowman's made it clear the route the Hawks are going is to restock the roster with high draft picks, if possible, in order to acquire more assets for down the road, who will hopefully be ready to step in and contribute with what is sure to be an annual rite of early summer. That's the cost of having high-end "core" commitments on your roster like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Duncan Keith -- who, unfortunately, had his big night as the deserving Norris winner overshadowed. There are no easy decisions, and the team has to start somewhere.

Byfuglien's 10-goal, 15-point post-season might be missed 10, 11 months from now. Atlanta will try to get more out of him during the regular 82-game campaign where his inconsistencies sometimes frustrated fans, as well as Hawks brass. For now, Bowman says he'll look to the Bickells and Kopeckys to step into more prominent roles, and feels they're ready for that. Troy Brouwer's also capable of playing big, and don't rule out the Hawks' top pick from two years ago, Kyle Beach, who's progressed nicely. When the GM says there are other options they'll look into over the next day or two, don't be surprised if that includes another swift deal. That could bring another early pick or two in addition to the ones he acquired in this trade and the restocking of the farm system will be in full swing while taking care of the cap issues that require immediate attention. Andrew Ladd will have suitors, but being able to re-sign him will keep more veteran grit in the lineup. Niklas Hjalmarsson's and Antti Niemi's financial futures need addressing. The thought here is if there's one more significant move to be made and if management decides to go the route of keeping Cristobal Huet's contract in the minors if they can't wing a trade so he's not counted against the cap, most of this season's heavy lifting, financially, will be done.

Bowman seemed especially excited about the upside of Jeremy Morin -- a second rounder just a year ago who had 47 goals in just 58 games for Kitchener of he OHL. He'll be the biggest asset of this deal right now to keep an eye on until they see what they get from the 24th and 54th picks this weekend.

Two weeks to the very night the Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in 49 years, the necessary reconstruction of the roster because of the salary cap was under way.

Blackhawks trade Scott Darling to Hurricanes for draft pick

Blackhawks trade Scott Darling to Hurricanes for draft pick

The Blackhawks have traded goaltender Scott Darling to the Carolina Hurricanes for a third-round draft pick in 2017, the team announced Friday. The third-rounder was previously acquired from the Ottawa Senators.

"We could count on Scott in any situation as he was always reliable," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said in a statement. "We appreciate his contributions to the Blackhawks organization — including a Stanley Cup Championship team — and we wish him well as he continues his career in Carolina."

In three seasons with Chicago, the 28-year-old Lemont native had a 39-17-9 record with a 2.37 goals against average, .923 save percentage and four shutouts. He was also a key member of the 2015 Stanley Cup-winning team, helping the Blackhawks get out of the first round against the Nashville Predators.

His best year came during the 2016-17 campaign when he set a career high with 18 wins and ranked tied for fifth in the league with a .924 save percentage. He's earned the opportunity to become a full-time starter. It was always unlikely that it would be in his hometown with Corey Crawford under contract through 2019-20, but Friday confirmed that.

"I feel like I've paid my dues as a backup," Darling said at the end of the season. "And when I've had a chance to play in consecutive games I feel like I've shown that I can do it."

He also reflected on his last three years with the Blackhawks "just in case," and had nothing but great things to say about his tenure in Chicago.

"If that does happen, I wouldn't change a second of my time in Chicago," Darling said at the time. "It's been bar-none the best three years of my life. Loved every second. They've been so great to me, my teammates, coaching staff, front office, everybody's been amazing. I wouldn't change a minute."

The Blackhawks will likely look externally for a backup option next season with minor-leaguers Mac Carruth and Lars Johansson due new contracts, and 31-year-old Jeff Glass, who was the No. 3 netminder in the playoffs, having no NHL experience.

The Hurricanes currently own Darling's negotiating rights, and have until July 1 to sign him to an extension when he could hit the market as an unrestricted free agent. Contract talks have not yet started, according to TSN's Pierre LeBrun.

They have two goaltenders (Eddie Lack and Cam Ward) under contract for one more year, meaning a corresponding move could be coming before the expansion draft. One (or both) of them would have to be exposed, assuming Darling signs before then and is protected.

The Blackhawks, who host the NHL Draft from June 23-24, now have 10 draft picks this year: a first, second, fourth, three fifth's, two sixth's and two seventh's.

Blackhawks agree to terms with Nathan Noel on entry-level contract

Blackhawks agree to terms with Nathan Noel on entry-level contract

The Blackhawks strengthened their organizational depth Thursday, announcing the signing of forward Nathan Noel to a three-year entry-level contract that kicks in next season and runs through the 2019-20 campaign. 

Noel, a fourth-round draft pick (No. 113 overall) in 2016, tied a career high with 24 goals — including six game winners — and added 26 assists for 50 points in 52 games during his fourth regular season with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He was sidelined for a little more than a month in December and January due to an upper-body injury.

The 19-year-old center has raised his game in the postseason, racking up eight goals and 18 assists in 33 games from 2015-17, including six assists in 12 contests so far during the 2017 QMJHL playoffs. Across four years at Saint John, he amassed 208 points (85 goals, 123 assists) in 242 career regular-season games.

Noel is teammates with forward Matthew Highmore, who leads the Sea Dogs in scoring and was signed by the Blackhawks in March to a three-year deal as an undrafted free agent.

Noel is an undersized forward at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, but he's a fast skater with offensive upside. He'll likely start the 2017-18 season in the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs, who desperately needed scoring last year.