A happy and safe 4th of July to everyone!
Just a quick one about the Blackhawks, possibly my favorite current team in Chicago due to their sustained excellence, soon to be continued when they lock up Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, which I'll expand upon shortly.
In the meantime, the 'Hawks made a nice bargain signing, picking up center Brad Richards on a one-year deal for about $2MM. Are you kidding, $2MM? Just 3 years ago, Richards was a top-10 offensive player, following a year in which he was top-5. Over the past couple of years in the NYC pressure cooker, Richards has wilted somewhat, especially late in the year and the playoffs, where he seems to lose his legs and ability. The key to making this work for the 'Hawks, IMO, is to keep Richards rested throughout the year. Limit his minutes, maybe even give him some nights off just to rest up for the postseason. Meanwhile, 'Hawks division rivals Dallas, St. Louis and Colorado all made splashier moves. Personally I would have liked Jason Spezza, who Dallas acquired in a trade, for the 'Hawks but it appears that Dallas gave up a fairly big haul to get him for just one year. St. Louis added Paul Stastny, who will help a team that needs offense, but $7MM per year is overpaying IMO. Minnesota got Thomas Vanek for very little, but I think losing Clayton Stoner will hurt them.
Steve Rosenbloom of the Tribune takes his shots at the 'Hawks for an underwhelming signing, but fans fired back at him. They usually fire back at Rosie no matter what he writes, so I guess that's not a surprise. But even across other articles, Blackhawks fans have been uncharacteristically positive about the moves:
Even if he doesn't work out, it was totally worth the try. Coach Q will continue to mix up his lines every single game, Richards gives him one more solid player to add to his arsenal. Great signing.
How on earth do the Hawks sign Stastny at $7m / yr? That is just stupid. The only way for them to make that kind of cap room is to move Sharp or Seabrook plus someone else, and both of those guys have a no-move clause which severely limits trade options. Plus, we're already over the cap and Kane and Toews are looking for a blockbuster deal which is going to cause a cap issue as well. Richards at $2m is a no brainer.
Even the typically negative Mark Liptak liked the moves:
For once I have to give Bowman credit. He woke up from his yearly snooze-fest and did something very productive. Richards can still play and brings a little "edge" to the team.
Kudos to him.
I think Regin could be a contributor as well. That is if Q would ever play him.
Of course, anywhere there are comments, there are haters:
Is this a joke? He's one season removed from being a healthy scratch in the playoffs.
I Miss Roenik
He will be fine Offensively...but what scares me is that he has a career -73....he has no D at all...other than maybe winning faceoffs.
Just think if you're a Roenick fan, you should at least spell his name correctly.
The 'Hawks are currently over the salary cap as a result of the Richards signing. Someone will get moved to make room, Nick Leddy and Johnny Oduya are the most mentioned players but Patrick Sharp has been talked about as well. But the main thing going on is the impending signings of the faces of the franchise, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Keep in mind those new deals won't kick in until after this next season, but they will probably be around $10MM each with rumors as high as $12-$13MM each. I wouldn't be surprised if that's what their agent suggested but I find such numbers unlikely. Toews and Kane both know how the salary cap works. They want to win above all else, they've both said it and shown it in their play. They don't want to force the team to jettison all its good talent just to pay them. When all is said and done, they will accept around $10MM per year.
If Toews and Kane get $10MM each, they will be among the very highest paid players in the game, which they deserve to be. I also believe both of them are franchise-type players and of equal importance to the team. I know Toews fans will cry about that sentence, and believe me when I tell you I am a huge Toews fan, I buy his gear, not Kane's. Toews plays both ways, brings it 100% of the time, and is captain of the team, with some of the best intangibles in the NHL. If you held an overall NHL draft, Toews is one of the top five players picked, probably the second overall after Sidney Crosby. But Kane would be a top 10 pick in his own right. He doesn't play defense like Toews or even very well, and it does seem like he's coasting at times. But the grit and fire of a Jonathan Toews will only take you so far. To win Cups, you need dynamic offensive talents of which there are very few in the NHL. You need guys that are instant and constant offensive threats, that can generate a goal at any time even against great defenses and great goaltenders. To me, Toews isn't a top guy in that department. At times he does all the things I just listed, but when the Hawks really need to create a goal, Kane is the guy who typically delivers, whether it's scoring a game-tying goal against Nashville in 2010 to avoid going down 3-1, the OT winner in 2010, setting up the game-tying goal in Game 6 against the Bruins (along with Toews), or essentially beating the Kings in Game 6 of this year to force a Game 7. The guy may coast at times but he's Mr. Clutch, able to make the most dazzling plays when they're needed the most. He's one of the top five offensive players in the world, potentially Teh best with the puck on his stick. He's not the type of gritty player that Chicago fans readily embrace as he's more dazzle and finesse, but Kane is a tough, durable guy and most importantly, nearly any franchise would love to have him as their top-paid player. Whether or not you value Toews more, you have to let Kane know he's a franchise guy to you, and you do that by matching the Toews deal, even if Toews is slightly more valuable in my estimation due to playing the center position and holding team captaincy. You don't want an unhappy Kane, and I don't think Toews will mind based upon his public comments. Lock them both up for $10.5MM per year and win at least two more Cups in their careers.