Drafting young future stars like Teravainen is great for the Blackhawks a few years down the road, but what about this coming year? The Hawks have yet to make any deals that would fix the concerns of the here and now. That all changes in July. I am a fan of building within the system, but that takes time, and I would like to see the Hawks play to what I believe is their potential this coming year.
Of the most common concerns griped about last year, the ones having anything to do with trades involve picking up a physical and aggressive D-man, a center (preferably a power forward), and it might not be a bad idea to find a starting goaltender. Well, wouldn't you know it, there is plenty of news going around all three of those areas this week.
First and foremost, and maybe the most surprising is the report of JT Captain Serious publicly announcing his appreciation for the idea of Shane Doan joining the Hawks as a free agent. I was pretty shocked to here this news, and while Doan is kind of exactly what the Hawks might need up front in the form of a player, he is not a center, not even the right wing we would want, and he was kind of a butt-head at the end of the LA series. He can be pretty cheap at times, but teams hate playing against him. Still, if the price was right, I can't say I would be against the idea, even it did place Kane at center for good next season.
Another shocker heard around the NHL was the talk of Luongo coming to play some net for the Hawks. He has been rumored to have turned down the idea of such things, but the talks might not be over, and possibilities are still there. Vancouver will surely not be his home next year and SB seems most busy talking to goaltenders lately. What ever happened to that "I believe in Crawford" stuff? In the end, while I do think Luo is and can be an elite goaltender, I have large concerns about his ego, and abilities in keeping his composure. I send a big, "please don't do that," towards SB on this one.
Maybe even more of a shocker, and also more appealing is the very recent news that Mr. Martin Brodeur has hired a new agent and will most likely be testing the free-agent market come July 1st. I thought he was done, choosing to go out on top, but apparently he has more hockey in him, and who is going to argue after what he did this past season.
My thoughts: I am for it, but a cautious "for it" at that. Brodeur could bring a lot to Chicago, a lot of what is currently needed. No one will argue with his stats, and no one will argue about his leadership capabilities, but they will about his age and rightly so. At 40, the rigors of the Western Conference schedule, and more importantly, the Hawks schedule (they have more back-to-back games than any other team in the league next year) could get to him. Even worse is the fact that he might not be around very long and I think the Hawks need to find a goaltender who stays with the organization for a few years.
With regards to price, I think the Hawks might be able to find a sweet deal in all of this. Brodeur's asking price could be high, but I would anticipate a fair offer from his camp (his age and willingness to play a factor in that). An offer that might allow for SB to still focus on areas in need of change. Also, Crawford is a fine example of a back-up, and Emery as well should SB decide to find Crow a new home. No need to fear the schedule.
Another area of need is that dreaded defensive issue. The Hawks need to get tougher in the back end, and many justifiably see it as the biggest need heading into next season. The fact that Hjalmer and Monty have been shopped shows SB's feelings on the matter, and while I think losing Hjalmer could hurt the Hawks more in the long run (who will block all of those shots, oh yeah, the new goaltender), there are a few names out there that might beef up the back end.
There is Ryan Suter of course, but I think his asking price just might be a tad too much for SB's pocket.
More affordable defensive D-men include Bryce Salvador, Matt Carle, and Filip Kuba. If the Hawks are looking to move Hjamler and Monty together, it might mean we need a pairing for Leddy, as most around would suspect. Rather, I think Olsen is getting the nod this year, were he will be playing in the 3rd pairing with Leddy. It is Oduya who is getting a new partner in this scenario, unless they are going to break-up Seabs and Keith again.
There are also some RFA's out there whom SB could be looking at, and right out trades which is anyone's guess right now.
None of this deals with the issue of having an actual #2 center next year, even though moving Kane there is an option, I guess? This is where the news about Olli Jokinen not returning to the Flames next year comes in. Here's the deal, I love his name, and I love that he is a center who makes around $3 mil per year, posted 61 points last year (24 on the PP), and most of all his size. At 6'3'' and 215 lbs he is kind of exactly what the doctor ordered, playing top line minutes all year, and I would love to say his name on a more frequent basis. It just kind of rolls off the tongue. My only concern would be that his hit totals are pretty low for a guy that size. People complain about the lack of hits Stalberg gives, and he doubled Olli's count this past year. In the end, the Hawks need a forward who can take hits in important areas. Jokinen is without a home, and the Hawks might have a place for him.
No matter what happens, we know SB is pretty busy right now and that it will only get busier as the days lead to July 1st. My biggest expectation is the news that a new goaltender is coming to town. I think this is SB's main focus, and he might even go a little too far to make it happen. The anticipation is killing me.