Just two short weeks ago, it seemed that a 19-year old Finnish teenager would be the savior of the Chicago Blackhawks, one of the most elite hockey teams in the NHL. Now that Teuvo Teravainen has had his first taste of NHL hockey (and we have figured out the pronunciation of his name), is Stan Bowman, Blackhawks’ General Manager, dreaming up a new plan for the super-rookie?
As soon as Teravainen’s Finnish League team was eliminated from the playoffs, many expected him to fly into Chicago and never turn back. However, he has only played 3 games since arriving, and hasn’t dressed for a game in a full week. With only three games left in the regular season before the Blackhawks start their playoff journey, is the club saving their “secret weapon” until when it counts?
For any rookie, entering the NHL is tough. Doing it while the regular season winds down, and teams begin to fight for playoff position makes it even harder. The Blackhawks have chosen the safe route with Teravainen’s first taste of North American hockey, and kept him in the press box against teams such as the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues, who could do damage with their trademark physical play. Chicago has picked things up as of late, now on a three-game winning streak after defeating the top team in the Central Division on Sunday afternoon. Teravainen’s old line-mates, fellow rookie Jeremy Morin, and Bryan Bickell, have connected with the newly acquired Peter Regin at centre, and have formed one of the best third-line combinations the Blackhawks have had all season.
On a team without their two biggest stars, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, Teravainen’s skill and speed could be a huge help in filling in the holes left by #88 and #19. However, the Blackhawks are reluctant to dress the 19-year old regularly yet, and his contract could be holding them back.
Although Stan Bowman once said that the Blackhawks would have “no issue” burning a year from Teravainen’s contract by playing him over 9 games, it seems that the opportunity to have what could be one of the NHL’s most powerful rookies at the low cost of an entry-level contract for three full years sounds tempting.
With the Blackhawks all but set to face the Colorado Avalanche in the quarter-final round of the 2014 playoffs, it seems that both Bowman and Blackhawks’ head coach Joel Quenneville are making all the moves that point toward a long, fruitful playoff run, with their opponent imminent for the past two weeks. Teravainen could play in a six-game series, and still have three years left on his contract. At that point, if Chicago moves on, they could evaluate the impact made by the youngster, and decide if the extra year is worth sacrificing for the sake of a more dangerous offense heading into the second round.
It’s a tough decision to make, but the Blackhawks will have the daunting task of re-signing both Kane and Toews in the next 12 months, and if they can save a few dollars on Teravainen, all would indeed be well in the future. The Blackhawks were slated to be a Stanley Cup contender long before Teravainen set foot in Chicago, and they will continue to be with a healthy lineup heading into the playoffs. At age 19, Teravainen’s best days are still ahead of him, and many hope that they will come in a Chicago Blackhawks sweater.
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