The Chicago Blackhawks will start this year’s Free Agent Frenzy in a bit of a different mindset than they did last year. Instead of having to move players with big contracts, some of which may have been a mistake, this summer they actually have a little bit of room to move. According to CapGeeek they have a bit over $11 million to spend on combined UFA’s and RFA’s. A significantly better position than they were in last season when they were almost selling the farm, unloading a good portion of the Stanley Cup roster. it had to be done, and while we miss many of those players, that’s over with and it’s time to move on.
With the recent signing of defenceman Steve Montador, the defence looks much better already even though Brian Campbell has been moved. Monty brings a steady stay at home style, that includes some grit, toughness and calm. They probably need to add one extra guy for depth and that won’t cost a lot as Chris Campoli and Nick Leddy will round out the rest of the defensive unit.
Up front is where things get interesting. They are most likely in the market for a fourth line center, a wing or two for the bottom six, and potentially for the right price maybe a forward that can play either on the second or third lines. Names that I’ve seen range from Ville Leino, Joel Ward, and Mike Rupp among others. Also we all sit back and wonder if it’s at all possible to take a swing at Brad Richards. Doubtful that we do, since that would suck up most of the $11 million available, and provide zero flexibility come the trade deadline, but I suppose it’s not totally out of the question. Also with the acquisition of Rostislav Olesz the Hawks need to figure out how he fits into their plans. He never showed his potential in Florida except in spurts, but then an injury always surfaced. We’ll find out soon enough if the change of scenery works in his favor.
Whatever is going to happen I believe that Stan Bowman is going to be smart about it and look for guys with strong character and a bit of toughness. The players that I’ve mentioned that could be on his radar all have some form of that. The one element that I think was missing last season was that extra edge. Losing both Andrew Ladd and Big Buff along with Ben Eager was a bit much. The Hawks need to bring some of that back. Montador will give us some on defence and that’s good. A foward like Leino or Joel Ward could be just what we need.
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