NHL teams can start signing free agents this Sunday, July 1st. The Blackhawks need to make a few changes to this team in order to make them Stanley Cup contenders once again. With the salary cap going up to $70.3 million the Hawks will have over $8 million in cap space, barring any trades. The problem is, this year’s free agent class is pretty weak. There are not too many difference makers to be had this summer. The roster of unrestricted free agents is full of older players who might be past their primes.
This year’s top prize is New Jersey’s Zach Parise. I touched on the reasons how and why the Hawks should make a run at him yesterday, but I don’t think the Hawks will be a major player in the Parise sweepstakes. The next biggest name, as far as forwards go, is Washington’s Alexander Semin. Semin is going to ask for far too much money I don’t see Stan Bowman making any type of move for him. Yesterday, reports came out that Jonathan Toews was sweet talking Phoenix captain Shane Doan into coming to Chicago. Doan, who is 35, has played his entire career for the Winnipeg/Phoenix franchise. He made over $4 million last season and that price tag would need to come down if I were to sign Doan. I have a feeling that as long as Phoenix wants to keep him Doan will not sign elsewhere.
There have been reports that Bowman is interested in center Paul Gaustad who split last season with Buffalo and Nashville. Gaustad is a big guy at 6’5 and over 2oo pounds. He is a good faceoff guy buy isn’t much of an offensive threat. He has never scored more than 12 goals in a year and has only had more than 30 points in a season twice. He is not answer for the 2nd center position and I hope the Hawks do not go barking up his tree. There are a lot of veterans that can be had on the cheap like Ollie Jokinen, Brad Boyes, Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbruner but those are old school Bill Wirtz type free agents. I don’t want the Hawks signing guys for what they used to be. One veteran I wouldn’t mind the Hawks making a run at, if the price is right, is Jaromir Jagr. Jagr proved last season in Philadelphia that he has plenty left in the tank. He age and health are concerns but if he is cheap it could be a low risk, high reward signing.
There are few intriguing names on the restricted free agent list, if the Hawks would like to go that route. There are names like Evander Kane, Kris Versteeg, Sam Gagner, TJ Oshie and Guillaume Latendress that the Blackhawks could extent offer sheets to. Any of these players would be a nice addition to what the Blackhawks already have, but you just don’t see too many teams extending offer sheets to RFAs too much these days. The Blackhawks do need to make some improvements with their forwards but this year’s free agent crop is less than exciting. Bowman may have to get creative on the trade market to improve his team. I don’t expect the Hawks to make many headlines come Sunday, but you never know.