Offseason heating up for Fire as draft's second phase nears

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Offseason heating up for Fire as draft's second phase nears

The Fire was the only club to make a selection in last weeks first stage of Major League Soccers re-entry draft. More of the circuits 19 teams are sure to participate in Fridays second phase.
Maicon Santos, a forward for D.C. United, was picked by the Fire last week. Clubs picking in the first phase must give the selected player a 5 percent pay raise over this current contract. In the second phase clubs and players can negotiate a contract and teams can even draft the players they put on the original list.
That means the Fire could still keep goalkeeper Jay Nolly, midfielder Corben Bone or defender Dan Gargan. They werent claimed in the first stage, Gargan being a last-minute addition to the list of available players announced by the league.
Thirteen of the 52 players on the leagues initial list withdrew from the re-entry process just before the draft began. Some, most notably the Fires Gonzalo Segares, reached a contract agreement with their former team just before the drafting began.
Among the players still on the list for the second phase are Juan Pablo Angel and Danny Califf of Chivas USA, Conor Casey and Tyrone Marshall of Colorado, Julian DeGuzman and Kevin Hartman of FC Dallas, and Ramiro Corrales and Khari Stephenson of San Jose. Former Fire players Chad Barrett (Los Angeles) and John Thorrington (Vancouver) are also available in the draft.
MLS started conducting a re-entry draft in 2010, and the Fire acquired defender Cory Gibbs that time. A starter until knee injury sidelined him last March, Gibbs announced his retirement last month. The Fire has the No. 11 pick in this years second phase of the re-entry draft.
While that draft is in progress the Fire will begin its fifth annual open tryout at the Bridgeview Sports & Soccer Dome. About 150 players will participate on Friday, and the clubs technical staff will invite the most promising ones back for another session on Saturday. After Saturdays selection the staff will name one player to participate in Januarys first phase of preseason training.
Pari Pantazopoulos, winner of the open tryout in 2011, survived three stages of preseason training and spent the full season on the roster. He made his debut with the first team in a U.S. Open Cup match against Rochester and also got playing time in an international friendly against Englands Manchester United. Pantazopoulos, however, didnt make the roster for the 2012 campaign.
Red Stars names coaches
The Chicago Red Stars, preparing for a return to the new, still unnamed womens professional league, will retain Rory Dames as head coach. He joined the Red Stars after their first venture into a womens major league but helped the club to the Womens Professional Soccer League finals in 2011 and the WPSL Elite Finals last season. The Red Stars also won the 2012 U.S. National Cup.
Dames first assistant will be Stephanie Foster, a former Northwestern star who coached her alma maters team from 2006-11. Also on the staff will be second assistant Christian Lavers and goalkeeper coach Trae Manny.
Soul elevates Marojevic
Manny Rojas was replaced as head coach of the Chicago Soul, a new team in the Major Indoor Soccer League, this week after his team got off to a 2-7 start. Novi Marojevic, a mainstay with three Major Indoor Soccer League clubs the Chicago Storm, Rockford Rampage and Chicago Riot has replaced Rojas.
Marojevic will make his head-coaching debut on Friday when the defending MISL champion Milwaukee Wave visits the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates. Milwaukees visit will mark only the second home game for the Soul.
MLS names SuperDraft hopefuls
The MLS SuperDraft will be held Jan. 17 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis and the players up for selection there will participate in a combine Jan. 11-15 at Central Broward Regional Park in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., prior to the selection process. The combine is again being held in conjunction with the National Soccer Coaches Association Convention.
MLS announced 54 collegiate players who will participate in the combine. They include goalkeeper Luis Soffner of NCAA champion Indiana and two Notre Dame mainstays midfielder Dillon Powers and forward Ryan Finley.

Steve Larmer reflects on Blackhawks days prior to 'One More Shift'

Steve Larmer reflects on Blackhawks days prior to 'One More Shift'

Steve Larmer took the pregame spin, part of the Blackhawks’ “One More Shift” series on Friday night. High above him at the United Center hang several retired Blackhawks numbers.

As of now, Larmer’s No. 28 isn’t among them, but he’s OK with that.

“I think that really is reserved for very special people,” Larmer said.

OK, but isn’t he one of those in the Blackhawks’ history?

“Thank you, but I think that Bobby Hull and Tony Esposito and Denis Savard and Keith Magnuson and Pierre Pilote are kind of in a league of their own,” he said.

Many would say the same about Larmer, who ranks fourth in Blackhawks history with 923 points, third in goals (406) and fifth in assists (517). Over his entire NHL career Larmer played in 1,006 regular-season games, recording 1,012 points. But whether or not his number is retired by the Blackhawks, coming back for events, including Friday’s, is a treat.

“It’s nerve-wracking and it’s going to be fun,” Larmer said prior to his spin on the ice. “It’s really quite an honor and a surprise to me to be able to do this and I just, it’s a great organization and they’ve always been great to me. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Larmer put together a stellar career. Many believe it deserves a retired number here – and maybe more. Blackhawks play-by-play man Pat Foley, when accepting the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Foster Hewitt Memorial Award in November of 2014, spoke immediately on how Larmer should be in the hall, too.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“I’ve been fortunate enough to call Blackhawks hockey for over a third of the games they’ve ever played and I’ve never seen a better two-way player come through here,” Foley said that day about Larmer. “When Steve Larmer left Chicago and went to New York, it’s no coincidence that shortly thereafter, they won the Stanley Cup.”

Larmer laughed when reminded of Foley’s speech.

“Well, Pat’s a good friend,” Larmer said with a smile. “He’s always been a good friend. For the last 35 years, since the early 1980s when he was doing radio and TV back then and we all traveled together and hung out together and it was one good group. It’s fun. I mean, Pat’s always been a big supporter and a really good friend.”

Larmer would’ve loved to have hoisted the Stanley Cup during his time with the Blackhawks. Coming as close as they did in 1992 stayed with him for a bit – and it hurt.

“That stung deeply. Because you’re starting to get older and you’re thinking, ‘oh my God, that was it, that was the chance and it’s freaking gone,’ right? It’s never going to happen again,” Larmer recalled. “I’m not one of those guys who happened along and all of a sudden you’re on a team and you win like the Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s. We lost out to the team that always won, right? It was disappointing that way. But when you get to that point and you have that run, then we lost to Pittsburgh, that stuck with me for a year in a half. I couldn’t let it go. It was always in the back of my mind. You’re out there playing and you’re sitting on the bench and still thinking about that.”

So when Larmer got another chance with the New York Rangers – he was dealt there in a three-way deal involving the Rangers, Blackhawks and Hartford Whalers – it meant everything.

“The neat thing about going to New York is it gave me another chance to play with some great players and have that opportunity to win and finally get over that hump,” he said. “It was a neat city to win in and to be able to play with guys like Mark Messier and Leach and all those players was a lot of fun.”

Larmer put up fantastic numbers in his career. He got to hoist a Cup near the end of his career. His number should be in the rafters to commemorate that great career.

What a flat salary cap in 2017-18 could mean for Blackhawks

What a flat salary cap in 2017-18 could mean for Blackhawks

For the first time since the 2009-10 season, the NHL's salary cap could stay flat next year, reports ESPN's Craig Custance.

Commissioner Gary Bettman revealed at the latest NHL's Board of Governors meeting that the projected ceiling for the 2017-18 campaign could be an increase between zero and $2 million, which isn't exactly encouraging considering the projection at this time of year is normally an optimistic one.

That means the salary cap may be closer to — or at — the $73 million it's at right now.

In the last four years, the cap has increased by $4.3 million in 2013-14, $4.7 million in 2014-15, $2.4 million in 2015-16 and $1.6 million in 2016-17. The number continues to descend, and it affects big-budget teams like the Blackhawks the most.

It makes it especially difficult for the Blackhawks to navigate because they own two of the highest paid players in the league in Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, both of whom carry a $10.5 million cap hit through 2022-23. It's a great problem to have, though.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

According to capfriendly.com, Chicago currently has $60.6 million tied up to 14 players — eight forwards, five defensemen and one goaltender — next season. If the cap stays the same, that means the Blackhawks must fill out the rest of their roster with fewer than $13 million to work with and still have to sign Artemi Panarin to a long-term extension.

And they may need to move salary to do it, with the potential cap overages crunching things even more.

On the open market, Panarin would probably be able to earn Vladimir Tarasenko money — a seven-year deal that carries a $7.5 million cap hit — but if he prefers to remain in Chicago, the contract would likely be in the range of Johnny Gaudreau's six-year deal with an annual average value of $6.75 million.

With the expansion draft looming, the Blackhawks know they're going to lose a player to Las Vegas in the offseason. The two likely candidates, as it stands, are Marcus Kruger and Trevor van Riemsdyk, and the former would free up $3 million in cap space while the latter $825,000.

If that won't get the job done, the Blackhawks may be forced to part ways with a core player such as Brent Seabrook and his eight-year, $55 million contract, although he has a full no-movement clause until 2021-22 and it would be very hard to imagine since you're trying to maximize your current championship window.

Anything is possible, however, after seeing promising young guys like Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw shipped out of Chicago due to a tight budget.

It's a challenge general manager Stan Bowman has certainly already been thinking about, and a stagnant salary cap doesn't make things any easier.