Wednesday morning, the two biggest free agent prizes in the NHL brought their talents to to Twin Cities. Forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter both signed identical 13 year, $98 million deals with the Minnesota Wild.
The Blackhawks made offers to both players, and according to ESPN's Pierre Lebrun, were "close" on Parise.
So now what? The Hawks still need to improve in a few areas, especially at forward. I'd imagine Stan Bowman's next move will come via trade.
Niklas Hjalmarsson's name has been tied to trade rumors, especially with the Edmonton Oilers, since before the draft a couple of weeks ago. Sam Gagne is the name on the Oiler's roster that makes the most sense to me. Not only is he an above average 2nd line center, but he's good friends with Patrick Kane. Gagne is a restricted free agent, so the Hawks would be trading for the rights to sign him. Now, it may take more than Hjalmarsson to make it happen, but it seems like a perfect fit.
Something to consider, though. If the Hawks felt they needed to add a defenseman (Suter), why would they want to trade Hjalmarsson and weaken their D corps? If Hjalmarrson is traded, the Hawks will have to find another defenseman to acquire. That brings us back to free agency.
With Suter gone, the biggest free agent defenseman out there is Philadelphia's Matt Carle. Carle is an above average defenseman, no question about it. However, with so many team missing out on Suter, Carle is almost assured of getting overpaid.
EDIT: Carle signed with Tampa Bay a few hours after this blog was written. 6 years, $5.5 million per. Yep...overpaid.
Are the Blackhawks better off with Hjalmarsson and his $3.5 million cap hit, and a lesser free agent center like Jason Arnott or is the combination of an overpaid, still unsigned free agent and a still unsigned Gagne better?
These are the kinds of decisions Stan Bowman will have to make over the next hours and days. If he waits too long...he may run out of options.