Month: June 2017

Does a Patrick Sharp Reunion Make Sense for the Blackhawks?

As we approach July 1st, and we sit squarely in the free agent negotiating window, we are guaranteed to see players linked to the Blackhawks to fulfill their need for scoring depth on the wing, and the perennial need for depth and experience on defense. Currently, the ‘Hawks sit over the cap, as they wait to potentially move the contract of Marcus Kruger, and determine how they will handle Marian Hossa’s contract; this does not mean that they won’t be active come free agent time.


Does Patrick still fit the Blackhawks  vision? (Lisa Gansky Photography)

One name that continues to be brought up as a possible target of the Blackhawks has been former ‘Hawks, Patrick Sharp. NHL reporter Brian Hedger confirmed the possible interest on the Blackhawks part, in bringing the 35 year old wing back to Chicago to provide them with depth on the wing. Sharp is only a year removed from a solid freshman campaign on the Dallas Stars; where he netted 20 goals and 55 points on a Stars team that looked to be a force in the Central Division. One year later however, the Stars plummeted to the bottom of the standings hampered by injuries, including Sharp who only played in 48 games with a collection of 18 points. Sharp’s season was hampered by injury and officially ended with only a month remaining in the season; electing for hip surgery to resolve an issue that he battled with throughout the 2016-2017 season. Sharp is expected to make a full recovery from his surgery well before the start of training camp next season, but is he really a good fit for this Blackhawks team?

Looking at the current composition of this team and what appears to be Stan Bowman’s vision of getting younger, faster and more difficult to play against, it would appear as through Sharp would not fit the bill for the current vision of this team. Sharp’s past success within the Blackhawks organization cannot be looked past, and you would imagine he would be a cheap option that, if healthy, could provide the ‘Hawks with a solid scoring option, allowing them the chance to play up and down the line up. The question I have is do we need to do this again? Do we need to keep retreading former ‘Hawks on the current make up of this team? Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg, and most recently Johnny Oduya have come back to this ‘Hawks team with limited success, and maybe it’s time that we just move on from what we as fans view, as the glory days of the organization. Maybe it’s time that we inject younger talent into the lineup and help build a growing, evolving sustainable product. Yes, the ‘Hawks did bring in a former ‘Hawk, Brandon Saad, but the reacquisition of Saad fits into the current direction of the ‘Hawks; a big, fast, and young forward who still is in the prime of his hockey career.

I, like many, love Patrick Sharp and what he has contributed to this team throughout the years, but we need to face the fact that Sharp is on the downward slope of his career and it is time to give others the opportunity that the ‘Hawks gave Sharp back during the 2005-2006 season. Patrick Sharp’s career will continue in 2017 but that might have to be outside of the Windy City.


Blackhawks Reshape Roster During Busy Draft Weekend

As we neared the 2017 NHL Entry Draft the Chicago Blackhawks appeared poised to rebuild their farm system and potentially make some moves to alleviate some pressure that the salary cap was putting on their team. Many believed that there was a deal in place with the Vegas Golden Knights in which center, Marcus Kruger, would be moved for a draft pick of one of their surplus defensemen; acquired from the expansion draft. However this deal was believed to be put on hold, according to Scott Powers of The Athletic, because of a roster bonus due to Kruger on July 1st. With this detail being brought up after the expansion draft, it appeared as though the draft might be a quiet one for the Blackhawks. However Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman had different plans.

Hammer 2

Niklas Hjalmarsson will be greatly missed on the Chicago blueline (Nicole & Laura Flickr 2013)

In a surprising move the Blackhawks traded 3 time Stanley Cup champion defenseman, Niklas Hjalmarsson, to the Arizona Coyotes for 24 year old defenseman, Connor Murphy, and 22 year old forward, Laurent Dauphin. After first hearing about the move it was initiallythought to be a salary cap dump on the Blackhawks part, but looking at the cap numbers of Murphy and Dauphin the cap savings were minimal. In fact, if both players did make the roster it would actually have the ‘Hawks take on more salary than they were sending out on Hjalmarsson. This move, similar to the one that we will go over in a moment, appears to have an eye on the future; Murphy 6 years younger than Hjalmarsson, signed to a deal will longer term than Hjalmarsson, and at a lower cap hit. Although not the same player as Hjalmarsson, GM Stan Bowman sees Murphy as a player entering his prime and as someone who he is hoping is ready to take that next step in his career. Dauphin who many viewed as a bit of a throw-in with this deal appears to possibly have a shot at making the club in the fall in a bottom six capacity.

We had thought that the day could not get any crazier until Elliot Friedman of HNIC tweeted that it appeared as though the Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets had a deal in place that would send Artemi Panarin to the Jackets for former Blackhawk forward Brandon Saad. This was a deal that caught the entire hockey world by storm as no one was expecting it and it was seen as a bit of a reaction to the departure of Marian Hossa, as well as the uncertainty of being able to afford Panarin at the end of his bridge deal. The loss of Panarin will certainly hurt the Blackhawks top offensive line that included Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, but this move finally gives Jonathan Toews the left wing that they have been looking for since the departure of Saad. This move appears to evenly distribute the power on the top two lines with a likely top line of Saad, Toews and Richard Panik and a projected secondary line of Nick Schmaltz, Anisimov and Kane. The response of this trade was quite divisive in that reaction on Twitter from ‘Hawks fans was resoundingly positive where national reaction was a bit more hesitant on the trade from the Blackhawks’ prospective



Brandon Saad is back after two years with the Blue Jackets (Lisa Gansky)

The hesitance comes from the Blackhawks giving up a top ten scorer for a player, who has an offensive touch to his game, but not the dynamic offensive player that Panarin is. Aside from the main components from this deal the ‘Hawks also sent forward Tyler Motte, plus a 6th round pick for goaltender Anton Forsberg and a 2018 5th round pick. Motte came into the 2016 season with a lot a fanfare after an impressive junior season at the University of Michigan, but injuries and lack of professional experience were his downfall. If he can stay healthy and take a season or two to gain experience in the AHL it could turn into a nice complementary piece for Columbus. For the ‘Hawks this trade also fills a need for goal-tending depth, and with the addition of Forsberg the ‘Hawks feel like they have found their back up net minder for the upcoming season.

Now that the draft has passed and free agent frenzy is upon us, it appears as though the ‘Hawks are trying to reshape their roster for the future as well as icing a team that is harder to play against with speed and strength. Are the Blackhawks a better team now that they were at the end of the season? I would say they are more balanced up front but lack experience on the back end which is a bit concerning. With the moves made you would imagine there are more moves that Stan Bowman envisions to get this team back to the Stanley Cup finals and not the first round exit team that we have seen the last two seasons.