Blackhawks Free Agency Flop
If people thought my lineup from my last blog, which saw the Hawks signing Ward, Beagle, Grant, de Haan and Wingels was underwhelming, what does everything think of Stan's work yesterday?
* Cam Ward – 1 year / $3M
* Chris Kunitz – 1 year / $1M
* Brandon Manning – 2 years / $2.25M
Hmmmm… not exactly what I had (obviously) expected. I do like that Bowman didn't overpay for some of those role guys like Beagle and Roussel (what are the Canucks doing?).
It is true that sometimes the best moves are sometimes the ones you don't make. However, in saying that, Stan Bowman really has to start making some moves on the trade market.
It appears that things are opening up a bit on the trade market. Ryan O'Reilly headed to St. Louis for a nice haul. This could help Bowman if he's looking to move Anisimov.
Also, some remaining free agents have started to drop there asking price for fear of missing out on the action. So, I wouldn't be surprised to see another depth move today or tomorrow. They need help at centre, so maybe a Brad Richardson, Derek Grant, Daniel Winnik could be had cheap for some insurance down the middle because we already know Toews/Schmaltz/Anisimov/Kampf wasn't good enough last year.
Here are a few more thoughts, some of which I shared late last night and a couple more that I received this morning:
* Cam Ward – thankfully, we all knew this one was coming so we could brace ourselves. This is a short-term deal, so I'm not too worked up over it.
After seeing other goalies sign for similar but less, I would say that only the Anton Khudobin signing (2 years / $2.5M) would have been more appealing. But, word was that the Hawks didn't want to take on much for term.
Back to Ward, I know he's a great dressing room guy and I can see him and Crawford working well together. He also spoke in depth with Scott Darling who had nothing but great things to say, so Ward will be prepared when he gets here. I think, anyway… the one part that was interesting to me was the line "Cam said he was aware of Corey's situation."
I guess the last question is... what happens to Anton Forsberg?
* Chris Kunitz – this was a confusing move to me but only 1 year/ 1M so low risk and they can send him to Rockford (a la Bouma/Franson). I honestly thought this spot/role would have gone to Tommy Wingels (who is still unsigned).
Also, Kunitz the Hawks say that they like Kunitz's versatility, but a versatile player to me in that spot would be someone that can play centre and wing and play solid PK minutes (PP skillset would be a bonus as well).
Well, Kunitz doesn't play centre and average 0:39 on the PK last year. As much as he was used sparingly with the man down, he was utilized less on the PP, with only 0:14 / game which resulted in 1 goal.
If I'm going to put a positive spin on the Kunitz signing, I guess 13 goals on your 4th line LW isn't the worst. Maybe they can park him out front of the net on the PP – he did have 16 goals with the man advantage in 2014-15 and 22 the year before.
Also, at age 38, he did play in all 82 game and managed 131 hits which shows that he's not afraid to be physical. His hit total would have been 4th on the Hawks (behind Wingels, Bouma and Murphy).
* Brandon Manning – it was hinted at that that Hawks (specifically Joel Quenneville) were looking for a physical, shutdown defenceman to add. I agree that was something they needed as a Niklas Hjalmarsson was sorely missed last season.
I'm concerned that in Manning, this is the tough, shutdown guy they targeted. Manning has not effectively played a shutdown role in the NHL... ever. Talking to a Philadelphia contact, he said Manning is a 6th/7th dman. So at $2.25M per year, that seems to be an overpayment unless he takes another step forward at 28 years old next season.
Also, something has to give as the Hawks have Keith, Gustafsson, Oesterle and Forsling all on the left already. Manning does offer some physicality though which could be an added need and might mean someone like Connor Murphy (one of the only other dmen to throw a check consistently) might be on his way out.
* Nick Schmaltz - I mentioned earlier but sounds like CHI is working on an extension for #8. I saw some chatter on here earlier and 5 years @ $5.5M-$6M would be what he's looking at.
* Artem Anisimov - the word is that now O'Reilly has been traded to St. Louis that teams like Montreal and NYI could be a fit for him.
The only problem is that the Hawks shouldn't want to rid themselves of the Anisimov contract that it creates a hole down the middle. I think they see Toews and Schmaltz as they #1/#2 punch for a long time, but if that's the case, they need to have complimentary pivots in the 3C and 4C spot.
* Adam Boqvist – the young Swede defender was signed yesterday as well amongst all of the free agency fury. The rationale for his signing is so the Hawks can have more control over his development.
It sounds like he will be heading back to Sweden, however, there could be a chance he plays in the OHL with the London Knights as they own his CHL rights. It would be an amazing organization to play for under the Hunter's tutelage, however, the SHL would be the best option for him right now playing against men.
* Trade Winds – It sounds like now the Tavares dust has settled, teams are looking to improve via trade if they didn't get what they were looking for on the open market.
I mentioned MON and NYI as possibilities as trade partners, was told to watch CAR, TOR and CAL as well for trade partners with the Hawks.
So, if you're scoring at home, here is what your 2018-19 Chicago Blackhawks would look like if the season started tomorrow (please don't read too much into lines and pairings, it's just for visualization):
Now, it's not all doom and gloom when you look at the roster above. I can for certain say that this is not how the season will open. The Hawks have a logjam on defence, yet still, need a top 4 defenceman, so expect changes.
We could see guys like Forsberg, Murphy, Rutta and/or Anisimov moved.
If it were me, I would be looking to grab a top RHD (like Faulk or even Severson) and solidify the middle with another centre that can win faceoffs.
I'll pop back in with more as I hear it, but let's hope Stan has something else up his sleeve because overall it was a disappointing day.
See ya out there!