Hossa to LTIR, as predicted
Going back to early this summer, when a friend tipped me, and I reported here, that Marian Hossa was planning to return to Slovakia and not play hockey this year:
"A few days ago, I also mentioned on the thread, without naming Hossa, that I had heard a potential rumor involving a core player that would be "surprising, but not totally surprising."
That rumor, originating in the Chicago Slovak community was that Hossa would soon retire and return to Slovakia."
At the time, there were other sources, saying: no, he is not going to retire per se, that he planned to play this year. Well, then there was this allergy to hockey equipment revealed, and now it all makes more sense.
I heard later in the summer, after the condition was made public and it became apparent the Hawks intended to place Hossa on LTIR, that other teams were complaining to the league that it was cap circumvention.
As I said then, it wasn't, the condition is legitimate, and further, the league would likely go through the motions of an investigation. But because the condition was/is real, and the players' association, I was told, would file a "massive grievance" if the league tried to force Hossa to play or retire, that Hossa would be allowed to go on LTIR.
I am (and my sources are) not always right, but I was (basically) here.
So here we are. And the Hawks will have likely a few million dollars to play with. My twitter feed has had some questions this morning about possible backfills, like Evander Kane, who the Hawks quietly discussed earlier in the summer. I heard later that those talks had died down and such a move was unlikely.
And my inbox, as far as rumors and tips, has been pretty quiet for several weeks. So I will put forth an educated guess on what I think the Hawks will do with their soon to be accrued cap relief:
It could be the team knows full well where the holes on the roster are, and that Stan Bowman has quietly laid the groundork for a deal or deals.
Could also be that some smaller portion of that cap money, and/or any money recouped from Michal Rozsival's going on LTIR, will go to sign Cody Franson to a deal as a depth defenseman.
But that likely won't be a large expenditure—and there's going to be a sweet and juicy hunk of cap money out there to work with.
As I said earlier, the Hawks probably have a better idea of where their holes are—and believe me, there are maybe one or two holes—than most fans or writers do. And Bowman has become very adept at lining up deals and pulling the trigger when he has to.
That last part is important. There is no gun to Bowman's head right now that says he has to make a deal tomorrow.
All that said, as much as the "story" so far this fall has been whether or not Alex DeBrincat makes the team (he has, for now, credit to him), the real story is whether this team is still an elite NHL team with a serious shot at contending for a Cup.
Anyone who thinks DeBrincat is the foundation around which the next generation of Hawk greatness will be built, I have a bridge I want to sell you. Kid has some skill and looks like he will be a productive offensive player in the right situations with the right linemates. Which is great.
But he's not carrying this team—that's gone through some big changes and as a result has some big questions—to a Cup this year, or maybe any year. There's legitimate debate whether a proven, quality NHL left wing like Brnadon Saad replaces Artemi Panarin. There should be significant doubt that Debrincat does.
So, setting that aside, where else are the questions?
A short list:
For all the Twitter "celebration" of Nick Schmaltz going 20-21 on faceoffs during the preseason, that is not terribly far from the 45% ceiling that all Hawk centers not named Toews or Kruger hit last year—and that 20-21(!) was in preseason games against lesser competition than that which Schmaltz and Tanner Kero (for that matter) are about to face.
So, a secondary, penalty killing faceoff option might be on the shopping list.
As might another legitimate NHL defenseman.
As might another left wing—a power forward.
(I know, I know "DEBRINCAT!!")
But as I've reported here for a number of years now, the Hawks and Patrick Kane himself, like having a guy on his line who can both contribute to the play offensively, and at least "potentially" take care of business when another team's player takes a run at the Hawks' best player. Which explains why guys like Troy Brouwer, Bryan Bickell, Dustin Byfuglien and even Dan Carcillo have skated opposite Kane at times over the years. It's not just "Q being dumb," there's a method behind what some feel is madness.
Another issue is timing. No, there is no gun to Bowman's head. All that said, with so many questions going into the season, and high financial and fanbase performance expectations, the Hawks can't afford too many or too lengthy rough patches.
The worse the team starts, the worse Bowman's bargaining position becomes. And the more acute the need.
And finally, there's what other teams will expect in return for the much discussed "top 4 defenseman," or a power left winger who can play with skilled players, or even an effective depth center. You won't get any of those for Lance Bouma and a box of tape.
Put another way, it appears the Hawks are well satisfied with the progress of Gustav Forsling, Schmaltz and DeBrincat. That appearance amps the trade value of each, and improves Bowman's overall bargaining position.
No GM is out there waiting to help the Hawks at this stage of the season (or any, really)—and hurt their own team's depth in the process. If there's a meaningful improvement to the Hawks through trade, there will be a price—and some might find it surprising.
I will report any rumors as I hear them. More on this tonight, when I go on the Shoutcast with Gatekeeper. That should drop on iTunes around 9:30 Central, and I will post a link tomorrow.
Thanks for reading,