With the Antti Niemi situation settled, the Hawks' 2010-2011 lineup is much easier to predict.
The team can now dress a 21-man roster comfortably under the salary cap.
Based on recent signings and comments by General Manager Stan Bowman, here is what the lineup could resemble in October:
That group of forwards seems to be set in stone with the exception of one or two players.
Bowman repeatedly expresses his excitement to see Skille, Dowell and Bickell in action. It'd be very surprising if they weren't in the opening night lineup.
Viktor Stalberg is another player the Hawks are high on, and his speed alone should give him a chance to produce out of the gate.
2006 Russian draft pick Igor Makarov will likely be given priority for that final roster spot. He has shown a reluctance to come to North America since being drafted, so it's unlikely he would have signed unless Bowman told him that a spot is his for the taking. He isn't here to play in Rockford.
The most unsettled piece of the roster is the third defense pairing. Jordan Hendry signed a cheap one-year deal on Thursday night and his experience should give him an edge to earn a spot. The other position is up for grabs.
Ivan Vishnevskiy, John Scott, Shawn Lalonde, and Jassen Cullimore will all be fighting for the spot in training camp. The Hawks may be reluctant to give Lalonde 3rd pairing minutes because he is a projected top 4 defenseman. They may prefer to skate him more minutes in Rockford for more experience.
Vishnevskiy was one of the top prospects in the Atlanta system last year and is a favorite to earn the spot.
John Scott will contend as well, but I feel he is the perfect 7th defenseman/13th forward in this lineup. I'm skeptical of him playing on a nightly basis, and his ability to play both forward and defense would help team depth. Against bigger, physical teams like St. Louis, John Scott plays. That's the ideal scenario.
The wildcard is that Bowman might go get another defenseman in free agency. If that happens, pencil him in for the 5th defense spot while everyone else fights for the 6th.
Things can obviously change in training camp, but the Hawks' plan is pretty clear.
Antti Niemi, Blackhawks, Chicago Blackhawks, Hjalmarsson, Marty Turco, Stan Bowman
Antti Niemi, Blackhawks roster, Brent Seabrook, Bryan Bickell, Chicago Blackhawks, Corey Crawford, Dave Bolland, Duncan Keith, Igor Makarov, Jack Skille, Jake Dowell, Jassen Cullimore, John Scott, Jonathan Toews, Jordan Hendry, Marian Hossa, Marty Turco, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Stan Bowman, Tomas Kopecky, Troy Brouwer, Viktor Stalberg