Most fans are well aware of the Blackhawks’ shortcomings last season and there are tons of holes on the roster. The core group of players is also getting up there in age. Jonathan Toews is 30 years old, Patrick Kane is 29 years old, Duncan Keith is 34 years old, Brent Seabrook is 33 years old, and Corey Crawford is 33 years old with major injury concerns.

The window to win a Stanley Cup with this group is rapidly closing. 2018 NHL Free Agency officially starts Sunday, July 1st and it could be the last chance to squeeze one more Stanley Cup out of these guys.

The defense was the biggest problem area last season. Besides Keith and Seabrook, there were really no other solid options. The team’s struggles really boil down to a combination of two things, a lack of experience and poor performance across the board.

In my opinion, the team is not going anywhere next season if StanBo and the rest of the management team do not make a splash in free agency. Here is the latest rumor about the Blackhawks’ free agency plans.

2018 Offseason Priorities

In a previous article, I had talked about the Blackhawks’ 2018 offseason priorities. I think it is pretty obvious that defense will be the top priority this offseason. This will be the first season in a long time where the Blackhawks will have some wiggle room with the salary cap.

The NHL Salary Cap has been set at $79.5 million this season which is up from $75 million the previous season.

The Blackhawks will have $9.2 million in cap space and could possibly free up an additional $5.275 million if they are able to unload Marian Hossa’s contract to a team looking to get to the NHL salary cap floor. This would leave them with approximately $14.475 million in cap space.

Top Offensive UFA Free Agent Targets For Blackhawks

Paul Stastny (C)

Paul Stastny is the next best thing after John Tavares. Stastny led the Winnipeg Jets to a deep playoff run in the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs. He is a 13-year veteran who brings leadership and plays a solid two-way game. I would pair Stastny up with Kane and DeBrincat on the 2nd line. Stastny can also win faceoffs which is something the Blackhawks have struggled with in recent history. He is 32 years old and this will likely be his last big payday. I estimate his value to be somewhere between $5-6.5 million AAV.

                          Scor Scor        Scor Shot   Ice                        Ice
Season    Age  Tm  Lg  GP    G    A PTS +/- PIM   S%   TOI  ATOI  FO%          Awards
2006-07    21 COL NHL  82   28   50  78   4  42 15.1  1490      18:10        Calder-2
2007-08    22 COL NHL  66   24   47  71  22  24 17.4  1391 21:05 51.0 Byng-15Selke-26
2008-09    23 COL NHL  45   11   25  36  -9  22  9.3   956 21:14                 51.8
2009-10    24 COL NHL  81   20   59  79   2  50 10.1  1733 21:24 50.0  Byng-33Hart-23
2010-11    25 COL NHL  74   22   35  57  -7  56 12.2  1460 19:44                 53.1
2011-12    26 COL NHL  79   21   32  53  -8  34 11.1  1488 18:50                 55.4
2012-13    27 COL NHL  40    9   15  24  -7  14 10.3   774 19:21                 52.4
2013-14    28 COL NHL  71   25   35  60   9  22 16.7  1306 18:24 54.1        Selke-16
2014-15    29 STL NHL  74   16   30  46   5  40 11.2  1304 17:38                 58.3
2015-16    30 STL NHL  64   10   39  49   3  26  9.7  1226 19:09                 56.1
2016-17    31 STL NHL  66   18   22  40   4  36 16.1  1263 19:08                 55.7
2017-18    32 TOT NHL  82   16   37  53   1  18 10.1  1501 18:18                 54.9
2017-18    32 STL NHL  63   12   28  40  -5  14  8.9  1177 18:41                 55.2
2017-18    32 WPG NHL  19    4    9  13   6   4 16.7   324 17:02                 53.8
Career            NHL 824  220  426 646  19 384 12.5 15893 19:17                 53.9

Provided by Hockey-Reference.com: View Original Table

James Neal (RW)

James Neal is a power forward who is basically a lock to score 20+ goals every season. Neal plays a relatively balanced two-way game. This would be a plus since the Blackhawks struggled defensively last season. With Neal, you get an 11 year veteran with playoff experience who also fills a leadership role anywhere he plays. Neal would complement Toews and Saad on the 1st line. He is 30 years old with some tread still left on the tires. Neal will most likely be asking for something in the $5-7 million AAV range.

                          Scor Scor        Scor Shot   Ice                    Ice
Season    Age  Tm  Lg  GP    G    A PTS +/- PIM   S%   TOI  ATOI           Awards
2008-09    21 DAL NHL  77   24   13  37 -11  51 14.0  1222 15:52        Calder-17
2009-10    22 DAL NHL  78   27   28  55  -5  64 13.5  1419                  18:12
2010-11    23 TOT NHL  79   22   23  45   7  66 10.4  1382                  17:30
2010-11    23 DAL NHL  59   21   18  39   8  60 13.1  1044                  17:42
2010-11    23 PIT NHL  20    1    5   6  -1   6  1.9   338                  16:54
2011-12    24 PIT NHL  80   40   41  81   6  87 12.2  1531 19:08  AS-1AS-3Hart-22
2012-13    25 PIT NHL  40   21   15  36   5  26 15.4   699 17:28 AS-8AS-16Byng-62
2013-14    26 PIT NHL  59   27   34  61  15  55 11.3  1089                  18:27
2014-15    27 NSH NHL  67   23   14  37  12  57 10.4  1212                  18:05
2015-16    28 NSH NHL  82   31   27  58  27  65 11.6  1564 19:04    AS-11Selke-23
2016-17    29 NSH NHL  70   23   18  41 -10  35 11.4  1239                  17:42
2017-18    30 VEG NHL  71   25   19  44 -11  24 12.4  1219                  17:11
Career            NHL 703  263  232 495  35 530 12.1 12575                  17:53

Provided by Hockey-Reference.com: View Original Table

David Perron (LW)

David Perron is a playmaking winger who finished the 2017-18 season with career highs in assists (50) and points (66). Perron does not bring much to the table on the defensive end of the ice as he has a career 2 +/- rating. I believe he would fit well as a 2nd line or 3rd line scorer. Perron is 30 years old and will likely be asking to be compensated handsomely for setting career highs in Las Vegas last season. I would set his price tag between $4.5-6.5 million AAV.

                          Scor Scor        Scor Shot   Ice          Ice
Season    Age  Tm  Lg  GP    G    A PTS +/- PIM   S%   TOI  ATOI Awards
2007-08    19 STL NHL  62   13   14  27  16  38 19.1   778        12:33
2008-09    20 STL NHL  81   15   35  50  13  50  9.3  1177        14:32
2009-10    21 STL NHL  82   20   27  47 -10  60 12.0  1325        16:09
2010-11    22 STL NHL  10    5    2   7   7  12 17.2   184        18:25
2011-12    23 STL NHL  57   21   21  42  19  28 18.4  1042 18:17  AS-20
2012-13    24 STL NHL  48   10   15  25   0  44 11.9   864        18:00
2013-14    25 EDM NHL  78   28   29  57 -16  90 12.7  1492        19:08
2014-15    26 TOT NHL  81   17   24  41 -25  62  8.7  1404        17:20
2014-15    26 EDM NHL  38    5   14  19 -17  20  6.8   646        17:00
2014-15    26 PIT NHL  43   12   10  22  -8  42  9.8   758        17:37
2015-16    27 TOT NHL  71   12   24  36  -1  62  8.2  1080        15:13
2015-16    27 PIT NHL  43    4   12  16 -13  28  4.2   665        15:28
2015-16    27 ANA NHL  28    8   12  20  12  34 15.7   415        14:49
2016-17    28 STL NHL  82   18   28  46  -2  54 11.9  1418        17:18
2017-18    29 VEG NHL  70   16   50  66   1  50 12.8  1247        17:49
Career            NHL 722  175  269 444   2 550 12.0 12011        16:38

Provided by Hockey-Reference.com: View Original Table

Riley Nash (C)

Riley Nash had a great season last year for the Boston Bruins. He is 29 years old and set career highs in goals (15), assists (26), points (41), and had a 16 +/- rating. He is more of a 3rd line or 4th line player who plays a similar game to former Blackhawk Marcus Kruger. Nash wins faceoffs at a 48.4% clip for his career. I would estimate his asking price to be somewhere in the $2.5-4 million AAV range.

                          Scor Scor        Scor Shot  Ice        Ice
Season    Age  Tm  Lg  GP    G    A PTS +/- PIM   S%  TOI  ATOI  FO%
2011-12    22 CAR NHL   5    0    1   1   1   2  0.0   53 10:34 31.4
2012-13    23 CAR NHL  32    4    5   9  -4   8 11.1  410 12:48 44.3
2013-14    24 CAR NHL  73   10   14  24   0  29 11.6  925 12:40 45.9
2014-15    25 CAR NHL  68    8   17  25 -10  12  8.5 1109 16:19 50.9
2015-16    26 CAR NHL  64    9   13  22  -5  18 11.8  829 12:57 49.5
2016-17    27 BOS NHL  81    7   10  17  -1  14  5.6 1118 13:48 49.1
2017-18    28 BOS NHL  76   15   26  41  16  18 13.3 1171 15:25 48.4
Career            NHL 399   53   86 139  -3 101 10.0 5615 14:04 48.4

Provided by Hockey-Reference.com: View Original Table

Jay Beagle (C)

Jay Beagle is 32 years old and a 3rd or 4th line center who consistently wins faceoffs. Beagle plays a solid two-way game. He is not necessarily flashy or sexy, but he would shore up the team’s defensive shortcomings and mentor the younger players. I estimate his value around $2.5-3.5 million AAV.

                          Scor Scor        Scor Shot  Ice                 Ice
Season    Age  Tm  Lg  GP    G    A PTS +/- PIM   S%  TOI  ATOI  FO%   Awards
2008-09    23 WSH NHL   3    0    0   0  -3   2  0.0   23  7:36          38.5
2009-10    24 WSH NHL   7    1    1   2  -1   2 10.0   65  9:16          54.8
2010-11    25 WSH NHL  31    2    1   3  -2   8  7.4  326 10:30          55.2
2011-12    26 WSH NHL  41    4    1   5  -2  23  8.2  486 11:51          57.7
2012-13    27 WSH NHL  48    2    6   8  -1  14  3.6  581 12:06          56.1
2013-14    28 WSH NHL  62    4    5   9  -9  28  6.7  697 11:15          51.7
2014-15    29 WSH NHL  62   10   10  20   6  20 11.9  794 12:49          56.5
2015-16    30 WSH NHL  57    8    9  17   0  24 10.8  799 14:01          58.1
2016-17    31 WSH NHL  81   13   17  30  20  22 13.0 1104 13:38 56.4 Selke-24
2017-18    32 WSH NHL  79    7   15  22   3  16 10.8  983 12:27          58.5
Career            NHL 471   51   65 116  11 159  9.6 5858 12:26          56.4

Provided by Hockey-Reference.com: View Original Table

Top Defensive UFA Free Agent Targets For Blackhawks

There are not too many top options available via free agency this year, but here are some of my favorite options for the Blackhawks. Any of these guys would be a welcome addition to the team.

Calvin de Haan

Calvin de Haan is a steady Top 4 defenseman that the Blackhawks desperately need. De Haan is 27 years old. He plays a physical game and he is not afraid to block a shot. De Haan is coming off of a shoulder injury which could play into the Blackhawks’ hands as he will likely come with a discounted price tag. I am estimating his value to be around $4-6 million AAV.

                          Scor Scor        Scor  Ice                   Ice
Season    Age  Tm  Lg  GP    G    A PTS +/- PIM  TOI  ATOI HIT BLK  TK  GV
2011-12    20 NYI NHL   1    0    0   0   1   0   13 13:01   2   0   0   0
2013-14    22 NYI NHL  51    3   13  16  -7  30 1072 21:01 114 104  30  34
2014-15    23 NYI NHL  65    1   11  12   3  24 1236 19:01 140 130  19  44
2015-16    24 NYI NHL  72    2   14  16   3  20 1486 20:38 128 198  19  57
2016-17    25 NYI NHL  82    5   20  25  15  36 1628 19:51 139 190  24  53
2017-18    26 NYI NHL  33    1   11  12  11   8  619 18:45  45  65  14  24
Career            NHL 304   12   69  81  26 118 6053 19:55 568 687 106 212

Provided by Hockey-Reference.com: View Original Table

Ian Cole

Ian Cole is 29 years old and a man’s man on defense. He is as steady as they come and also has playoff experience. Cole plays a physical game and will protect his goalie at all costs. The best thing is that he will not cost the Blackhawks an arm and a leg. I estimate his value to be in the $2.5-4 million AAV range.

                          Scor Scor        Scor  Ice                  Ice
Season    Age  Tm  Lg  GP    G    A PTS +/- PIM  TOI  ATOI HIT BLK TK  GV
2010-11    21 STL NHL  26    1    3   4   6  35  458 17:36  36  37  5  14
2011-12    22 STL NHL  26    1    5   6   7  22  414 15:55  16  27  5   8
2012-13    23 STL NHL  15    0    1   1  -4  10  266 17:45   6  22  1   5
2013-14    24 STL NHL  46    3    8  11  15  31  694 15:05  24  68  9   9
2014-15    25 TOT NHL  74    5   12  17  14  51 1183 15:59  73  99 12  23
2014-15    25 STL NHL  54    4    5   9  16  44  813 15:03  42  63  7  19
2014-15    25 PIT NHL  20    1    7   8  -2   7  370 18:29  31  36  5   4
2015-16    26 PIT NHL  70    0   12  12  -3  59 1207 17:14 122 122  8  32
2016-17    27 PIT NHL  81    5   21  26  26  72 1605 19:49 164 194 32  50
2017-18    28 TOT NHL  67    5   15  20  14  76 1191 17:47  95 116 21  27
2017-18    28 PIT NHL  47    3   10  13   3  52  828 17:37  69  91 10  20
2017-18    28 CBJ NHL  20    2    5   7  11  24  363 18:08  26  25 11   7
Career            NHL 405   20   77  97  75 356 7017 17:20 536 685 93 168

Provided by Hockey-Reference.com: View Original Table

John Moore

John Moore is more of a stay-at-home defensive defenseman and has stepped up his game offensively over the past 3 seasons. The Blackhawks are definitely in the market for a guy like that. Moore would be a Top 6 defenseman for the Blackhawks. He is currently 27 years old and will be looking for a bit of a pay raise. I am estimating his value to be between $2.5-3.5 million AAV.

                          Scor Scor        Scor Shot  Ice                  Ice
Season    Age  Tm  Lg  GP    G    A PTS +/- PIM   S%  TOI  ATOI HIT BLK TK  GV
2010-11    20 CBJ NHL   2    0    0   0   0        0   23 11:29   1   2  0   0
2011-12    21 CBJ NHL  67    2    5   7 -23   8  3.1 1060 15:49  47  70  4  13
2012-13    22 TOT NHL  30    1    6   7   4   7  3.4  400 13:20  38  32  3   4
2012-13    22 CBJ NHL  17    0    1   1  -5   2  0.0  247 14:31  18  14  1   2
2012-13    22 NYR NHL  13    1    5   6   9   5  6.7  153 11:46  20  18  2   2
2013-14    23 NYR NHL  74    4   11  15   7  25  3.5 1134 15:20  59  57  4  27
2014-15    24 TOT NHL  57    2    9  11  -4  30  2.6  929 16:18  77  52  7  23
2014-15    24 NYR NHL  38    1    5   6   7  19  1.8  574 15:06  51  34  2  18
2014-15    24 ARI NHL  19    1    4   5 -11  11  4.8  356 18:43  26  18  5   5
2015-16    25 NJD NHL  73    4   15  19 -12  28  3.8 1448 19:50  93  83 23  42
2016-17    26 NJD NHL  63   12   10  22  -7  39 11.8 1196 18:59  68  61  7  41
2017-18    27 NJD NHL  81    7   11  18   3  47  5.0 1621 20:01 135 105 17  48
Career            NHL 447   32   67  99 -32 184  5.0 7811 17:28 518 462 65 198

Provided by Hockey-Reference.com: View Original Table

Thomas Hickey

Thomas Hickey is 29 years old and is a solid two-way defenseman. Hickey is usually good for about 20 points per season and can also help the goalie out with his shot blocking ability. Hickey would be best suited for either the 2nd or 3rd line of defense. I would expect his pay rate to be in the $3.5-$5 AAV range.

                          Scor Scor        Scor Shot  Ice                   Ice
Season    Age  Tm  Lg  GP    G    A PTS +/- PIM   S%  TOI  ATOI HIT BLK  TK  GV
2012-13    23 NYI NHL  39    1    3   4   9   8  2.5  658 16:52  27  47  13  17
2013-14    24 NYI NHL  82    4   18  22   5  34  4.2 1547 18:52  72 132  34  57
2014-15    25 NYI NHL  81    2   20  22 -12  26  2.4 1533 18:56 117 136  39  55
2015-16    26 NYI NHL  62    6   12  18   9  30 10.9 1079 17:24  65  90  18  41
2016-17    27 NYI NHL  76    4   16  20  -1  35  4.6 1331 17:31  89 103  16  43
2017-18    28 NYI NHL  69    5   20  25  20  24  5.7 1247 18:04  76 110  14  60
Career            NHL 409   22   89 111  30 157  4.9 7395 18:05 446 618 134 273

Provided by Hockey-Reference.com: View Original Table

NHL Free Agency officially opens up on Sunday, July 1st at 11 AM CST. Let’s see if StanBo & Co. can make a meaningful signing or two.