Many teams in the Central Division have been quite active this offseason as they attempt to force their way to the top of the standings next season. However, the Chicago Blackhawks who need to move up in the standings more than anyone have been quite quiet so far this offseason.
If fact, the team have made just a handful of small moves, which included signing a 39-year-0ld forward, a backup goaltender and a depth defenseman in Chris Kunitz, Cam Ward and Brandon Manning. However, after a season that saw the Blackhawks drop from perennial playoff powerhouse to a team that lost more games than they won with a 33-39-10 season, these moves aren’t going to propel them back to the top of the Central. Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that the team is likely done with the free agent market and if there is any plan to improve the team, it will need to be done through the trade market.
The Athletic’s Scott Powers (subscription required) adds that the team must address its defensive deficiencies and Manning doesn’t add anything to a team that showed its defense has slowed down considerably. While the team has quite a few defensive prospects, none are likely to be ready to help the team next year, suggesting the team must address that deficiency via trade.
Both writers suggest the team must engage the Carolina Hurricanes for defenseman Justin Faulk, who would complement the team’s defense. Now with Dougie Hamilton and Calvin de Haan in place in Carolina, Faulk would seem to be quite expendable.
- NHL.com’s Chris Kuk reports that the Blackhawks are not in the mix of teams to land KHL forward Jan Kovar, who has expressed interest to come to the NHL this season. His agent, Allen Walsh tweeted that Kovar is considering various offers and will make a decision Sunday.
- In a mailbag segment, NHL.com’s Mike Heika writes about what the likely scenario could be if the Dallas Stars are unable to work out an extension with star center Tyler Seguin. He suggests that Seguin, whose six-year, $34.5MM contract expires after next season, very likely will want to look at options, much like Steven Stamkos and John Tavares did. The fact that the Dallas Stars have only reached the playoffs once in the past four years isn’t in the team’s favor when they are trying to convince him to stay. Heika writes that if an extension isn’t reached before the 2018-19 season ends, the team would trade his rights rather than lose him for nothing. However, there is also high hopes that new head coach Jim Montgomery will have a major effect on the team as well as on Seguin.
- In another mailbag, The Athletic’s Mike Russo (subscription required)writes that the team hasn’t made many moves as they are in a precarious position where they are left with many unmovable contracts to go with a group of young, talented players, who they would like to develop, leaving the team with few trade assets. The injury to defenseman Ryan Suter at the end of last season also has hindered the team’s trading ability as the team does have excess defense they could move, but won’t now that Sutter’s target date for a return is still up in the air. However, Russo writes that team has high expectations for Joel Eriksson Ek, who they want to move into a top-six center position and he could envision a position battle between Eriksson Ek and Mikko Koivu, who coach Bruce Boudreau wouldn’t mind moving to a checking role in the near future.
- In yet another mailbag, Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes that with the acquisition of top talents in Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron and Tyler Bozak, that much of the team’s success will now fall on head coach Mike Yeo who could find himself on the hot seat quickly. If the team falters early on, Yeo is likely to be replaced with Gordon suggesting that Dave Tippett or Alain Vigneault would be candidates to replace him midseason.