It really was weird not seeing the Blackhawks in the playoffs this year wasn’t it. The dynasty that was isn’t there anymore, and now the Blackhawks might have finally been defeated by the NHL’s salary cap, as they finished bottom 10 in the league this season. Doing so has gifted them with the 8th overall pick in the draft, and they will absolutely have great players to pick from at. The question is, do the Blackhawks draft a forward or a defensemen.
Looking at the Blackhawks forward group, one thing really stands out. We all know that Toews and Kane make up 21 million dollars of cap space, but if you add Saad and Anisimov to that, it looks even worse. If you combine all four of those forwards, they have 31.55 million dollars committed to them for the next three years. Long story short, they need cheap talented forwards behind those four, and thats what they could get with the number 8 pick. RW Oliver Wahlstrom will most likely be available with the 8th overall pick and he would be a great player to take for the Blackhawks. A 6’1 Sniper who scored 47 goals last year at the USA National Development Program. He could possibly even play on the Blackhawks next year and provide depth scoring, and with him on an entry level contract is a huge bonus for Chicago.
However, the defence faces a similar problem. Duncan Keith, who is 34, is making 5.53 million dollars for another 5 seasons. Not great, but i’ve seen worse…. and here it is. Brent Seabrook, who is 33 and starting to show big decline in his game, is making 6.875 million dollars for another 6 years. Thats a lot of money tied up in two players who are in their mid 30’s and declining. So again, a good young cheap defensemen would be great for this team. Looking at a defensemen that might be available at number 8, they could get Noah Dobson and go for size and strength. Or, they could also select Ty Smith, who is smaller, quicker and more offence oriented. Bottom line, there is a solid case for picking a forward or a defensemen, but my guess is that they will pick a forward. They will also have a late first round pick from Nashville, but that pick won’t be able to help the Blackhawks for likely a few more season.
It’s tough to think that with Toews and Kane being 30 and 29 years respectively, that the Blackhawks would go into a rebuild. They still have good seasons left in Toews and Kane and the last thing those two want to see out of their management team is to plan to contend in 4-5 years from now. Because of Hossa’s retirement, the Blackhawks will have some cap space next season because they don’t have any big RFA’s to resign, as Jurco and Duclair won’t cost them a lot. They can be players in free agency, but I would be careful about contracts with long term commitments, which would take them out of the race for the big name free agents like Tavares and Carlson. It’s been rumoured in the past years that the Blackhawks have had some interest in the Leafs forward JVR, but that was when he had a good contract. Now that he is a free agent and will be getting a huge pay raise, I can’t see the Blackhawks being in the race for him.
As for free agents, they could really use a top 4 defensemen (That Kempny trade looks really bad right now). They could consider the idea of Mike green, but Calvin De Haan is the best choice for them in my opinion. He is going to cost between 4-5 million dollars a season, but he might not cost them a 6-7 year commitment. I think that the Blackhawks could try to get him on a 3 year contract, and that would be a really good boost to their top 4. As for forwards, its all about depth signings. Cheap ones for 1-2 million dollars for 1 year contracts, 2 years top. Antoine Vermette or Chris Stewart could be good fits on cheap contracts and score 10-15 goals a season.
As for the goaltending, there really isn’t a problem. Corey Crawford has 2 years left on his contract and he is still a solid number 1 goalie in the NHL. He was hurt for most of last season, and if he were healthy I would of imagined the Blackhawks would have finished much higher up in the standings. He is their guy and they won’t be in the market for a new goalie this off-season at all.
So for the Blackhawks off-season, they first have to decide if they will draft a forward or a defensemen. After that, it’s all about keeping this team competitive. If they could trade Seabrook’s contract they would in a heart beat, but its a really tough contract to trade away. Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman has been a wizard of finding ways to keep his team competitive for years and i’m excited to see what kind of trades and signing he will make this season to hopefully give Toews and Kane another shot or two at the Stanley Cup.