While the Stanley Cup makes it trip around town, fans flock to stores to purchase memorabilia, and parade routes are planned the Chicago Blackhawks will quickly move to planning for next season. After Friday's parade celebration, GM Stan Bowman will begin preparing his next championship team. While the Blackhawks do not have to purge their roster like they did in 2010, changes will happen for next year. The Blackhawks have a roster full of restricted and unrestricted free agents going into the summer. With the cap set to drop to $64.3 million next year ,tough decisions will have to be made. Bowman will be hard at work with deciding who to draft in the amateur draft on Sunday, as well as draft day trades that need to be made. Also, signing their own free agents to new deals will be a priority. Here's a look at what Bowman has to deal with this summer.
Bryan Bickell, Viktor Stalberg, Michal Handzus, Jamal Mayers, Ray Emery, and Michal Rozsival are all unrestricted free agents. Bickell is the Bowman's top priority this off season out of that group. Bickell made $541,667 last year and is due a big raise with his post season numbers (9 goals, 8 assists). Bickell could be looking at offers in the neighborhood of $3-4 million. Bowman, however, remains confident that a deal with Bickell can be reached. Bickell is a Blackhawks draft choice and has expressed his desire to stay to Bowman. The rest of the unrestricted free agents may be finding new homes next season. Viktor Stalberg has likely outpriced himself to return to the Hawks, especially if they re-sign Bryan Bickell. Michal Hanzus could come back for less money next year for depth at center. Jamal Mayers will likely not return. Ray Emery and Michal Roszival are both interesting cases. I can see Rozsival returning for a 1yr $1.5 million dollar deal. It's slightly less money than last year (he made $2 million), but would fit again nicely in that 6th defensemen role. Ray Emery had a wonderful year last season and may try to earn a starting job with another team. With Corey Crawford being the number one, Emery would either have to be ok with a backup role again or the Hawks will have a new backup.
In the restricted free agent category, the Blackhawks have Marcus Kruger and Nick Leddy. Restricted free agents can sign offer sheets from other teams, but the Blackhawks have the ability to match any offer. Kruger made $900,000 this past year and Leddy made $1.1 million. Both players are due raises and will likely receive them. I expect the Blackhawks to keep both players. Leddy is a young defensemen with a bright future and Kruger is one of the Hawks top penalty killers.
The last option for Bowman is to make some trades this summer to free up the cap space he needs. Possible trade candidates in my opinion would be Daniel Carcillo, Johnny Oduya, Dave Bolland, and Michael Frolik. Bowman could look to move one of these players for picks in this year's draft or a future draft. Carcillo is in the last year of his two year deal and owed $825,000. Injuries and different needs have caused Carcillo not to have worked out for the Hawks. Brandon Bolig can fill the role of Carcillo for less money. Dave Bolland had a very up and down year that ended with him scoring the game winner in the Stanley Cup Final. Bolland has been considered to be part of the core, but is due $3.3 million next year. Bowman could look to cash in on him for draft picks to save a decent amount of salary. Johnny Oduya is a good puck moving defensemen for the Blackhawks. I'm not sure the Hawks would trade him, but his $3.3 million dollar salary off the books would add relief. The only way they do that though is if they feel they have someone like Adam Clendening ready to step up. My last trade candidate is Michael Frolik. Frolik signed a 3yr deal in 2011 and was projected as 20 goal scorer. That role has not worked out, but Frolik has turned himself into a top penalty killer. Bowman may be able to find a cheaper version of Frolik and could look to move him.
Undoubtedly there will be some change for the 2013-2014 roster. It won't be a complete overhaul, but new blood is always good. Front offices like to have a locker room with guys who haven't won, but have a strong desire to win. This way they mix in with the players who have won and balance the roster. As fans we get to enjoy the summer of being 2013 Stanley Cup Champions, but remember Stan Bowman is already planning for that next championship.
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