I am sitting here on a Friday afternoon waiting for a playoff Game 7 in May that once again does not involve the Chicago Blackhawks. That sucks. I gamble just to feel 0.000001% of the adrenaline I felt for this game
I need this in my life again and time is running short. All of a sudden we are entering the second to last season of the Toews and Kane contracts and the Blackhawks haven't won a playoff series since they kicked in. I can't stomach another season like we just had because we had it for years now. For the first time in a while the Blackhawks could have some cash to play with in free agency. Now, they do need to be careful because Dach's deal is up after next season along with Kubalik and Connor Murphy. There is an opportunity to add to this group and assemble a team that COULD win enough to get back in the dance and play meaningful games. The Central is going to be stacked with Colorado, STL, Nashville, Minnesota, and Winnipeg, but the Hawks (if they stop doing stupid things upstairs and behind the bench) could be good enough to make the playoffs with a few moves.
Let's quickly level set with the roster
In theory this line could match the production we saw in Kane's MVP year. Debrincat isn't quite as dynamic as Panarin, but he's a bonafide top notch goal scorer and I pray that Dach has a good summer and produces better than Anisimov did. This line has the potential to be as good as any in the central.
The Blackhawks have 5 out of 6 spots ready to go in the top 6. Things could be a lot worse.
Here is where things get a little dicey. I want Strome as the 3C. I think if he was put in a better position to succeed(i.e. a finisher and a puck retriever and a zone scheme so he doesn't have to chase a better skater in the d-zone). Those things are available.
This is going to be interesting. The Blackhawks have a ton of bottom 6 options in the fold or in need of a new contract. Hagel, Suter, Hinostroza are currently free agents. I would bet that only two of them will be back. Lukas Reichel could earn a spot. Borgstrom signed a two year deal. Where does Nylander fit in? Brett Connolly is still under contract.
The D is a mess. Which brings me to my list.
I don't want Dougie Hamilton. Hence the tweet this morning. He is probably going to get a deal with an $8M AAV. He's a great skater, can run the PP, and he's big. Then why does he keep getting traded? There are certain guys who are very good pieces, but aren't cut out to be the guy. That to me is Hamilton. I'd be afraid to invest in a guy like that. He'd be a system fit, but I'd be skeptical of the culture fit and I wouldn't make a guy who isn't a warrior type one of my highest paid players. People might say that's a meatball way of thinking, and maybe it is, but I'd rather have the guys with sand. It's better to have warriors in a garden than gardeners in a war.
Here is my list and their projected cap hits courtesy of this website
1) Winger Tomas Tatar, $5.7M
This is a guy who just consistently produces. He doesn't have anything that jumps off the page at you except for his brain. He wins battles and races with anticipation. He can score. He's been over 40 points for his entire career. He has been way underrated for a long time and is even underrated by the Canadiens. They probably would've sat him if Staal was healthy the other night. I'd take Tatar and put him with Toews and Kubalik. There's your top 6.
2) Winger Zach Hyman, $3.2M
That number feels low to me, and I actually think the Tatar number is too high, but whatever. I am not an expert on that.
I want Hyman for Strome. That is what he needs. Hyman is one of the very best forecheckers in the game. He can fly and he gets points by retrieving pucks, getting it to better players(Matthews and Marner now), and then getting to the net. He can slide up and down the line up. He can kill PKs. He's a perfect depth winger for this team. You've heard Bowman talk about retrieval and pursuit a lot lately in regards to Reichel. Nobody does those things better than Hyman. You know who else can be good at those things and is a free agent this summer...Brandon Saad. You know who sucks, but will probably get re-signed anyways...Zadorov. That's neither here nor there though.
The best run of Strome's career came when he was playing with Debrincat and Kahun. Maybe they look to recreate that with Kubalik and Hyman. If they did that the Blackhawks could roll their top 9 pretty effectively.
3) Defense Ryan Murray $2M
I've always liked Murray. I wrote a blog a couple of summers ago begging the Hawks to take a run at Murray who was an RFA and coming off his best year as a pro. The Blackhawks elected to trade for Olli Maata instead. Not great. Murray would give them another mobile veteran who is smart and can contribute offensively as well. If your left side is Keith-Murray-deHaan and it's balanced by the Murphy and hopefully a young defenseman taking a major step this summer then that isn't too bad.
Think of a top 9 like this
if one of the rookies can actually contribute and the team is rounded out as I said above the Blackhawks wouldn't be bad on paper. It might take some maneuvering to get it done. They might need to trade Seabs contract with a kicker. They might need to give Seattle a sweetener to take Connolly. I'd give them the rights Nylander, Zadorov and a prospect to absorb Connolly.
If the Hawks are honest with themselves and don't try to be stubborn they could shift the team back towards the playoffs with about 11 million dollars and a new system. I am not sure that's the plan or if there is a plan, but now is a time for hope that development of young guys with some wise free agent dollars sprinkled in the Blackhawks could be good again.