As I posted yesterday in the Blackhawks free agency primer I noted that the Blackhawks would likely have a quiet opening to free agency come July 1st and in all honesty it was. The ‘Hawks would go on to make five signings, headlined by the return of forward Patrick Sharp but would also include forward Tommy Wingels, forward Lance Bouma, defenseman Jordan Oesterle, and goaltender Jean-Francois Berube.
We will start with the return of Sharp who at age 35 is in the twilight of his career but offers the ‘Hawks with a low risk, high reward option as his cap hit will only be $800,000 and will give coach Joel Quenneville with a forward that if healthy could play in the ‘Hawks top nine forwards. Health has been an issue for Sharp who has battled through some concussion issues as well as coming off of hip surgery that kept him out of the Dallas Stars line up for the final month of the season. As stated before in previous articles if Sharp can recapture that magic from just a season ago he could be a good value for the ‘Hawks.
The other more significant signing for the ‘Hawks was that of Evanston, IL native Tommy Wingels on a one year deal, terms of the deal were not disclosed. Although we do not have the cap number of Wingels you would have to imagine it does not exceed $1 million after two sub-par seasons with the Sharks and Senators. Wingels is another good value for the ‘Hawks and figures to be in the mix for the ‘Hawks bottom six and although did struggle the last two was has scored 15 goals twice in his 7 year NHL career. Analytics place Wingels as a solid fourth line wing that has the versatility to slide over to the center position which GM Stan Bowman values. The flexibility and low price tag make this a solid addition to the ‘Hawks forward crop.
The ‘Hawks then went on to add a depth defenseman in Jordan Oesterle who has played in 25 career NHL games over three NHL seasons totaling 5 assists and a plus-minus rating of -4. Oesterle, depending on his performance in camp, figures to be either a top pairing defenseman for Rockford or a 7th/depth defenseman for the the ‘Hawks. Announced the same time as the Oesterle signing was the signing for net-minder Jean-Francois Berube, 25, who has spent two seasons in the New York Islanders system in which he has spend 21 games with the NHL club and posted a 6-4-3 record and 3.11 save percentage. Berube and newly signed Anton Forsberg figure to compete for the ‘Hawks back up goaltender position and as Bowman stated during his noon teleconference it is necessary to have three NHL quality goaltenders in the system.
The final sign of the day, thus far, is that of forward Lance Bouma who his entire career, six season, with the Calgary Flames. Bouma is another one of those depth bottom six players that the ‘Hawks have added on July 1st and this was a signing that confused many a ‘Hawk fan in that this team is already flush with bottom six forwards and how does this addition make the ‘Hawks better today. Bouma who plays a physical style of hockey has never had a propensity to put up points did have one season in which he put up a surprising 34 points for Calgary. He would however plummet to 7 points in each of the next two seasons. Again Bouma figures to be a fourth line player or depth forward on this ‘Hawks team and if he can recapture what happened in that 2014-2015 season he could be another one of those high risk high reward signings.
It is difficult to judge a team on July 1st still three months away from hitting the ice on opening night but from what the ‘Hawks have done today they are very much the same team leading into it. A team that looks like it could have difficulties scoring and very inexperienced on the blue line, however it has been reported by 670 The Score’s Jay Zawaski that the ‘Hawks are still likely to sign a depth veteran defenseman. If the ‘Hawks are able to get some quality veteran help on the back end this is could be a solid free agency period for the ‘Hawks but as this team sits currently 2017-2018 might be a step back for the Blackhawks.