Olesz ready to do whatever it takes for Blackhawks

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Olesz ready to do whatever it takes for Blackhawks

Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011Posted: 6:45 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com Blackhawks InsiderFollow @TraMyersCSN
Rostislav Olesz is just looking for his opportunity.

The new Chicago Blackhawks forward is fully healthy after having right knee surgery six months ago. Hes not sure what line hell be on, whether or not hell be a net presence guy or what role hell have on special teams. It doesnt matter.

Anything. Ill do anything the team needs me to do, he said. Whatever it takes.

The word that comes up with Olesz a lot is potential. Hes had his injuries, including that knee and a sports hernia in early 2009. Hes had two 14-goal seasons, including 2009-10 when he played in 78 games.

But hes been skating for a while now, passed his physical on Friday and said hes way past the struggles he had immediately after surgery.

It was really tough because my right leg was not healthy, not 100 percent with the strength, Olesz said. But I feel comfortable on the ice now. Ive got the new brace and theres no limitation at all.

So now, the 6-foot-1, 214-pound Olesz has to tap into that potential. Joel Quenneville said he watched Olesz on Saturday and didnt mind him. It should also help Olesz to have fellow Czech and former Florida Panthers teammate Michael Frolik here with him.

He has familiarity from the Florida days here and hopefully that can help his transition quickly, Quenneville said. This guy can play. Hopefully he can elevate his game where hell be a big part of our team.

Olesz has talked plenty with Frolik, who came here last February and completed his transition with a strong postseason. Frolik said Olesz could be advantageous with his strength.

Hes a big body. Hes very strong and hes hard to get off the puck in the corners, Frolik said. The injuries have stopped him (in the past). So far hes been good and he can play 100 percent again.

Defenseman Steve Montador, who also played with Olesz in Florida, echoed that sentiment.

He has a lot of skill mixed with a very strong body, Montador said. He can control the puck, work the puck along the walls. He may not be the biggest height-wise but hes a thick guy. You put all that together and if hes comfortable here, can get it going, hell have a lot to offer.

Oleszs time is now. General manager Stan Bowman said Friday it was just a matter of figuring out where Olesz fits into the lineup. If he can find his niche, the potential could turn into consistent performance.

Yes, its coming. My best hockeys coming, Olesz said with a smile. Everything will be new for me and Im really looking forward to it.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information

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.”

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson heard some of the rumors, but not to a large degree. The former Blackhawks defenseman wasn’t spending a lot of time on the internet reading up on his potential fate. He figured he’d still stay put in Chicago.

“But when my agent called me about the 10-team list, I understood it was serious. Stan [Bowman] wouldn’t ask for that unless they made up their mind already,” Hjalmarsson said via conference call on Saturday. “That’s when it hit me that I’m probably not going to put the Hawks jersey on anymore.”

Indeed, Hjalmarsson’s next jersey will be that of the Arizona Coyotes, who acquired him in exchange for defenseman Connor Murphy on Friday. Hjalmarsson’s departure marks the end of the line for another Blackhawks core player, and this one is jarring in how it will change the team’s defense.

Speaking of change, Hjalmarsson faces a lot of it himself now. Sure, there’s the obvious change for a guy who’s played his entire career in one place. It’s new surroundings and a new team, on which he knows former Blackhawks teammate Antti Raanta and fellow countryman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

But the Coyotes have dealt with a lot of upheaval lately. Goaltender Mike Smith is gone. So is veteran Shane Doan. On Thursday, head coach Dave Tippett and the Coyotes parted ways.

“They’re on a rebuild, a lot of new faces, lot of changes,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s tough to know what to expect but I think they’re a hungry organization that wants to win like other teams. I’m looking forward to try to contribute with playing my game, just try to get the organization back in the playoffs.”

Hjalmarsson should find chemistry with Ekman-Larsson – the two were teammates in the Winter Olympics in Sochi – and Hjalmarsson will likely play a bigger role with the Coyotes. Arizona will probably look to Hjalmarsson a lot during its rebuild, given his Cup-winning history.

The first 24 hours were full of mixed emotions of Hjalmarsson. With his limited no-move clause, he was always a likely candidate to be moved from a Blackhawks team laden will full no-move clauses. He’s turning a page, but he won’t forget his time in Chicago anytime soon.

“I’m trying to always be a positive guy,” Hjalmarsson said. “I spent my whole 20s in Chicago, 10 unbelievable years. I didn’t think I’d win three Cups. Hopefully I can get one more before my career is over. I had the best time in Chicago, enjoyed every single year, playing in front of the best fans in the league. I’ve been spoiled. Now it’s time for me and my family to move on and seize the opportunity in Arizona and create some new fond memories.”