Blackhawks’ General Manager Stan Bowman has some tough decisions to make before the start of free agency on July 1st.
The Chicago Blackhawks have already been on the aggressive this offseason. Stan Bowman managed to acquire defensemen Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan while giving up minimal assets. That’s a good start, but there are still moves to be made to fill out the roster. With a little less than $12M in cap space, it’s going to be tough to add the big-name player fans so desperately want.
Recent reports suggest that the Blackhawks are looking to add forwards to help out the penalty kill unit. After having a historically bad penalty kill last season, that should come as no surprise. There are some solid penalty-killing UFA’s currently on the market, such as Markus Granlund, Riley Sheahan, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. All three players would be cheap additions and likely aren’t looking for long-term deals. Bowman is aiming for short-term deals to save money for Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat.
Adding A Top-Six Forward
While adding a penalty-killing forward is in the team’s best interest, it isn’t the acquisition many are hoping for. Joe Pavelski and Anders Lee are two forwards that are currently drawing a lot of attention, but it’s going to be tough for the Blackhawks to afford either player. Pavelski is due for a raise from his five-year, $30M contract, and Lee is looking for a multi-year deal.
There’s also talk around the league that Pavelski may no longer be considering the Blackhawks. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars are the current frontrunners, but there could be a third team still in the mix. Whether or not that team is the Chicago Blackhawks is unknown.
Anders Lee was recently spotted eating at Giordano’s (over-rated) in Chicago, which suggests that he met with the Blackhawks. According to multiple sources, the ‘Hawks are one of the teams Lee is ‘strongly’ considering. Lee would be a pleasant addition to the top six, but he’s likely going to want AT LEAST $7M per year. The Blackhawks cannot afford to pay him that on a long-term deal.
Unless the Blackhawks shed salary in the next few days, adding Joe Pavelski or Anders Lee seems unlikely.
Which Blackhawk Could Get Traded Next?
If the Blackhawks want to make another big splash this offseason, they are going to have to make ANOTHER trade. It would likely take moving Artem Anisimov and his $4.55M cap hit to add a top-six forward. Luckily for the Blackhawks, Anisimov’s modified no-movement clause comes to an end on July 1st. Right when free agency begins. It doesn’t sound like Anisimov is generating any interest, but that could change in the upcoming days. The Blackhawks could use that $4.55M in a much more efficient way.
The Blackhawks could also make a more subtle move by trading one of their defensemen. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook still have full no-movement clauses, so they aren’t going anywhere. It’s unlikely that the newly-acquired defensemen, Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan, get moved anytime soon. Connor Murphy could be an option, but the Blackhawks are thinner on the right side, so that doesn’t seem likely. Murphy was also impressive in a top-four role last season. Stan Bowman recently stated that Erik Gustafsson isn’t going anywhere, so that leaves Slater Koekkoek, Carl Dahlstrom, or defensive prospects.
Trading a defenseman like Koekkoek or Dahlstrom wouldn’t generate a significant return, but it could make room for a player like Henri Jokiharju. Jokiharju was impressive for most of his 19-year-old season and SHOULD be in the NHL next year. He registered 17 points (2G, 15A) in 30 games after being sent down to Rockford. Jokiharju has nothing left to prove at the AHL level and could benefit from a full NHL season. As of right now, it’s hard to picture where Jokiharju would fit on the Blackhawks. It appears that the Blackhawks would have to trade one of their current defensemen for Jokiharju to play in the NHL next year.
With just three days until the start of free agency, the Blackhawks are in a peculiar position. The ‘Hawks are looking to add a top-six forward, but it appears that they don’t have the funds. They also have eight defensemen on their current roster, and that doesn’t include Henri Jokiharju. Another trade seems likely, but who gets moved? And when?
Those questions could be answered in the next couple of days.
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