Blackhawks Hoping Cheap Depth Can Compensate Offseason Losses
The Blackhawks almost seemingly run on a two year schedule — win cup, sell, off year, repeat — but this year felt different. The main reason for this was that this cap crunch for Chicago was worse than ever before. Stan Bowman has had to let go of key parts of the team after both the 2010 and 2013 Cups, but this year hurt the most. They had to say goodbye to Patrick Sharp, a long-time Hawk, Johnny Oduya, who had been with the team since the 2011-2012 season, Kris Versteeg, who was with his second stint with the team, and lastly, the one that hurt the most, Brandon Saad. Saad was coming off his entry level deal and left in a trade to sign a contract with Columbus worth six million per year.
The question that now faces the Blackhawks is, how do they fill the holes? On top of all the losses via trade, Brad Richards walked in free agency, and Patrick Kane’s situation is still up in the air. Both Kane and Jonathan Toews are starting eight year, 10.5 million dollar per contracts this season, which is a big part of why Chicago had to trade so many players.
The Blackhawks are turning to cheap options both up front and back on defense to help bridge the gap. They’re bringing in Lubomir Visnovsky, Daniel Paille, and Jan Hejda on professional tryout contracts, in hopes they’ll play well enough to crack the roster. The Blackhawks were able to luck out this offseason for there has been a fairly cheap pool of free agents, evident by the large amounts of tryout contracts being dished out. The Blackhawks defense could work out to be Keith, Seabrook, Daley, Hjalmarsson, TvR, and one of Visnovsky or Hejda if all goes well at camp this week. Rundblad and Pokka would service as depth. Their forward group is still up in the air with Kane’s uncertainty, but they’ll look to Paille and Garbutt (acquired in Sharp trade with Dallas) to help fill in the bottom six.
At the end of the day, this is the fate the Blackhawks are facing. They need their cheap players to come up big behind their superstars if they want a chance to repeat, something insanely difficult to do in today’s NHL. It’ll be an interesting season in Chicago, seeing whether their front heavy team can carry them to victory or if the amount lost will be too much to overcome.