NHL Free Agency: Chicago Blackhawks On To Plan...?

NHL Free Agency: Chicago Blackhawks On To Plan...?

In a stunning turn of events, the Minnesota Wild pulled of a major upset on the Fourth of July when they signed the two biggest superstars on the market, defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise, to blockbuster deals.

Suter and Parise received matching 13-year, $98M deals. Parise reportedly has a full no move clause.

Parise had been the captain of the Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Devils before reaching unrestricted free agency on Sunday. In the 2012 playoffs, Parise had eight goals and seven assists for the Devils while averaging over 20 minutes per game.

In 502 NHL games, Parise has posted 410 points (194 goals, 216 assists). He has reached the 30-goal mark in all but two of his NHL seasons (his rookie season and the 2010-11 season, in which he only played 13 games because of an injury). He’ll turn 28 in late July.

He was the 17th overall selection in the 2003 Draft, three spots behind the Hawks choosing Brent Seabrook.

The balance of power in the NHL shifts with this deal, and (somehow) the Wild were able to stay out of the spotlight while making their pitches. The additions of these two superstars should push Minnesota into the playoff conversation for the next decade.

On Wednesday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning signed defenseman Matt Carle, who had been with the Philadelphia Flyers, to a six-year, $39M deal. This signing means all of the defensemen that were unrestricted free agents this summer that would be considered top four guys are off the market... and the Detroit Red Wings, who just lost their captain, defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, have been shut out. Detroit will now likely turn their attention to forward Alexander Semin.

Here is a breakdown of the player movement in the Blackhawks' division:

Detroit Red Wings

  • ADDITIONS
    G Jonas Gustavsson – 2 years, $3.0M ($1.5M cap)
    F Mikael Samuelsson – 2 years, $6.0M ($3.0M cap)
    F Jordin Tootoo – 3 years, $5.7M ($1.9M cap)
  • TRADES
    acquired F Andrew Murray for D Brad Stuart
  • LOSSES
    D Nicklas Lidstrom - to retirement
    F Jiri Hudler – to Calgary

Nashville Predators

  • ADDITIONS
    F Paul Gaustad* – 4 years, $13.0M ($3.25M cap)
    D Hal Gill* – 2 years, $4.0M ($2.0M cap)
    G Chris Mason – 1 year, $1.25M
    F Brandon Yip* – 1 year, $750k
  • TRADES
    acquired G Sebastien Caron & two 2nd round picks for G Anders Lindback, F Kyle Wilson and a 7th round pick
  • LOSSES
    D Ryan Suter – to Minnesota
    F Jordin Tootoo – to Detroit
    D Francis Bouillon – to Montreal

St. Louis Blues

  • ADDITIONS
    D Barret Jackman* – 3 years, $9.5M ($3.167M cap)

Columbus Blue Jackets

  • ADDITIONS
    D Adrian Aucoin – 1 year, $2.0M
    F Derek MacKenzie* – 2 years, $2.0M ($1.0M cap)
    G Curtis McElhinney* – n/a
  • TRADE
    acquired G Sergei Bobrovsky for three draft picks
    acquired F Nick Foligno for D Marc Methot

* = returning free agent

For their part, the Blackhawks have only added defenseman Sheldon Brookbank, a bottom-pair defenseman, while allowing Andrew Brunette, Sean O'Donnell, Sami Lepisto and Cristobal Huet to walk away as free agents. The core is still in place in Chicago, which (if healthy) is good enough to compete for a Central Division title again in 2012-13.

But what do the Hawks need to do to compete for another Stanley Cup?

They need a goalie that's better than Corey Crawford was last year. Does that imply the team will look for an answer outside the organization? They reportedly did speak with Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur about leaving New Jersey, but he ultimately stayed with the Devils. The Hawks desperately need Crawford to improve from his sophomore slump now that a terribly weak free agent class has cleaned out and trades aren't as likely.

The Hawks also need to have a better second pair on the blue line. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are, in spite of their critics, as good as any top pair in the game (still). And a bottom pair made up of two of Brookbank, Dylan Olsen and Steve Montador should be an improvement from last year's crop of Montador, O'Donnell and Lepisto. But the questions surround youngster Nick Leddy and veteran Johnny Oduya. Most folks are assuming the Hawks will move Niklas Hjalmarsson at this point, which means the organization needs Leddy to continue his development and Oduya to be better than Hjalmarsson had been.

Finally, the Hawks need a physical forward. There wasn't a good fit for the second line center need the Hawks continue to have on the free agent market, and the Hawks didn't make a move to add Derek Roy from Buffalo (who was traded to Dallas). Odds are that Patrick Kane will be back in that spot on Opening Night, which means the Blackhawks must address the need for a banger in the top six. Shane Doan is probably the best fit that's left on the market, but the Hawks might look to make a move to add size up front via trade.

At the end of the day, the Bowman bashers are disappointed to see marquee free agents going to other teams, but all fans need to remember that the Hawks (if healthy) are still a dangerous hockey team. The summer isn't over, and now that the big name free agents have found homes the trade market should open up. Now we'll find out how well Bowman can help his team improve.

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