According to this quote posted last week by Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman will be active this offseason to acquire new players to add to the 2021-22 roster.
This plan may or may not come as a surprise depending on how "new players" are defined. It's not surprising if they're of the Carl Soderberg, Mattias Janmark, and Lucas Wallmark variety.
Bringing in veterans at forward, on the blueline, and in net who each is on a one-year deal and can be flipped at the TDL for a draft pick and/or prospect may be a wise investment again during the rebuild.
However, what may be jarring to the rebuilding Hawks is taking on new players who are of a higher caliber and who may have heftier contracts whether due to multi-million-dollar salaries and/or longer terms.
For instance, would the Hawks be in the running for the likes of Dougie Hamilton, Adam Larsson, David Savard, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Phillip Danault, Tuukka Rask, or Philipp Grubauer?
Many of those pending unrestricted free agents are due serious coin this summer as they seek new deals. Can the Hawks afford to sign one or more of them? Even if they could, the bigger question is should they?
The sound byte above wasn't the only noteworthy one last week as the team had exit interviews with players as well as management including Bowman and head coach Jeremy Colliton.
Bowman was recently featured in the DFO Rundown podcast
co-hosted by Jason Gregor from TSN 1260 (Edmonton) and Frank Seravelli from TSN Sports. This podcast is part of the DailyFaceoff.com.
During this podcast, Bowman discussed a number of topics but the one that is the focus of this blog is his perspective on how the team will manage not just this offseason but the next few summers.
Here are a few select quotes from that podcast:
"We relied a lot on the back of young players to do it. And now what we need to do is we need some of them to continue taking a step forward and we need to supplement that group over the next year or two with some probably more experienced or accomplished players. That's the challenge."
Again, acquiring veteran experience is never a bad thing especially during a rebuild. But what does "accomplished" mean exactly? Brett Connolly is accomplished in that he has a Cup ring from 2018.
But is that what Bowman means? Connolly was a role player for the Capitals that season and is very much so in that role with the Hawks. Or does accomplished refer to elite level talent?
Then if such high-octane players are brought in, how does that jive with the team makeup and chemistry? Does that stunt the growth of the youngsters as everyone gets bumped down a peg on the depth chart?
"We all know not just on our team but around the league is you need to get as many really impact players as you can. The hard part is how do you get them. You can get them through the draft, you can sign them as free agents, or you can trade for them. Those are really the avenues to bring new players in but everyone's trying to do the same thing. There's not enough really impact players to go around."
Bowman is right that demand for impact players is high but supply is low. Regardless of what the supply-and-demand level is per player of interest, what caliber of player should the Hawks be seeking?
In a rebuild, the all-stars may not be the players to seek because they can handcuff the team's salary cap in the long-term then eventually edge out the youth who are deemed the future of the franchise.
Or can impact players be role players whether a bottom 6 forward, 3rd pair defender, or backup goalie? Also, not only is league supply-and-demand a factor but so is number of spots available on the roster.
"We don't have a lot of money committed really at all beyond the next couple of years and I think that gives us the opportunity to go in a few different directions. What you don't know is number one when an impact player is going to become available on the trade market, and if it does happen in this offseason or if it happens in the middle of next year, we're actually positioned pretty well to be able to step in and do that. If it doesn't come to be until another two years then you have to be positioned so you're at least in the game."
This clip points to Bowman's strategy being a multi-year plan, not just looking at this summer. All general managers theoretically have their feet in the immediate future and their eyes on the longer term.
Does this comment by Bowman signal moving on from the core -- Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Duncan Keith -- once their current deals expire? Or is Bowman looking to add to these 3-time Cup winners?
Either way, there are implications to consider as far as bringing the youth along in the rebuild so that they gradually become the team leaders rather than the secondary players behind the elite veterans.
"We are going to have to transition and bring some more impact players in but those opportunities don't come around that often so you have to have a measure of patience to be able to essentially wait...Let's say two years from now player X is available and they have a sizeable contract because they're a top player, you want to not put yourself in a corner where you're not a candidate for that player...We've given ourselves the flexibility, so now in a sense we're waiting for the right opportunity to come by."
Player X could just be a generic placeholder but what if Bowman actually has certain players in mind? One poster on this blog's message boards has been pining for Seth Jones and Aleksander Barkov.
As franchise players, no one can argue what Jones and Barkov would bring to the Blackhawks. But as the team starts to transition from rebuilding to being perennial contenders, is this who is needed?
Or should the Hawks be pursuing a Marian Hossa type of player who is a missing piece to complement the main elements -- presumably the youth who have matured by then -- rather than being the top cheese?
It remains to be seen what this all means but it does preface what should be an exciting offseason this summer and the next few years. No matter what happens, there will be plenty to talk about.
End to the Season
Final Score (May 14): IceHogs 4, Wolves 1
Final Score (May 15): IceHogs 1, Wolves 3
Several IceHogs players concluded the 2021 season on a high note including:
* Dylan McLaughlin ended the year as the team leader in goals (tied at 8 with Chris Wilkie), assists (14), and ponts (22) in 28 games.
* Michal Teply had 4 assists in the final 7 games (5 total in 18 games) with most being primary demonstrating his playmaking ability.
* Mitchell Fossier scored a goal in 4 straight games before being shut out in the last game of the season on Saturday.
* Tim Soderlund started to play with a more team-oriented approach with his relentless forecheck to snuff out pucks for teammates.
* Andrei Altybarmakian continued to show more and more consistency with being an impact player each shift whether or not he had the puck.
* Cole Moberg scored his first pro goal in the last game and also peppered the Wolves with 5 shots as a defensive defenseman.
2021 Team Awards
This week the Hogs will be announcing a recipient per day for the annual team awards. Below are last season's recipients and my predictions for this season's recipients.
Most Valuable Player
Brandon Hagel (last season)
Dylan McLaughlin (my prediction for 2021)
Defenseman of the Year
Lucas Carlsson (last season)
Isaak Phillips (my prediction for 2021)
Rookie of the Year
Brandon Hagel (last season)
Evan Barratt (my prediction for 2021)
Matt Tomkins (last season)
D.J. Busdeker (my prediction for 2021)
Heavy Hitter Award
Dennis Gilbert (last season)
Dmitry Osipov (my prediction for 2021)
Most Improved Player
MacKenzie Entwistle (last season)
Dylan McLaughlin (my prediction for 2021)
Man of the Year
Collin Delia (last season)
Garrett Mitchell (my prediction for 2021)
See you on the boards!