March 3, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya (27) listens to center Patrick Sharp (10) during the second period against the Detroit Red Wings at the Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
It’s getting closer and closer, but it’s still not nearly close enough.
The start of the 2014-2015 NHL season is closer than it is far, and currently the Chicago Blackhawks have a few big-time lingering questions, going into the start of the season.
Questions that must be figured out if the Hawks are to achieve their “One Goal” once again.
1. Who will be traded in order for the Hawks to get under the salary cap?
Let’s get right to it, who’s it going to be? Patrick Sharp? Sharp has a hefty $5.9 million dollar cap hit, for the 14-15 season. A cap hit that if removed would give the Hawks plenty of breathing room under the cap. He is a very movable player, coming off of his best season of his career. However, would the Hawks want to move Sharp? Of course not, but in the salary cap era, tough decisions must be made. His stock will never be higher, as he is nearing the back stretch of his career, and will soon start declining. Still though, there is plenty of good hockey left in Sharpie.
What about Johnny Oduya? He seems like the most obvious choice. He is the #4 defenseman, with a $3.75 million dollar cap hit. Oduya’s contract alone would get the Hawks under the cap, but without much breathing room. It may be Oduya and a guy like Michal Rozsival who get’s traded as well, to give the Hawks cap space, rather than trading a true core piece like Sharp.
We shall see. Something has to give.
2. After the trade happens. who will step up?
Both Oduya and Sharp were vital members of the 13-14 Hawks, as well as the 2013 Stanley Cup Championship team. One of them leaving gives the Hawks’ cap space, yes, but losing either of them creates a big hole that will need to be filled adequately, in order for the Hawks to make another Cup run. If Sharp is traded, will Brandon Saad, Ben Smith, or Jeremy Morin step up? Saad basically already has, Smith is best suited in a bottom-six role right now, and Morin still needs to earn Coach Q’s trust. Even though he’s seemingly a lock for the opening night roster, with Q’s hesitance in the it’s hard to imagine Q would throw Morin into a top-six role. The most unlikely thing of all would be to imagine the Hawks having a hole to fill, amongst their top-six forwards. A hole that would very much exist, if Sharp were to be traded.
The Hawks appear to have more NHL ready depth at defenseman than they do in the forward department, which makes Oduya’s departure all the more likely. Let’s not forget that St. Louis Blues General Manager, Doug Armstrong, said that the d-pairing of Niklas Hjalmarsson and Oduys was the main reason why the Hawks were able to advance, in the first round of the playoffs. Oduya would be difficult to replace, but impossible? Likely not. The Hawks have Adam Clendening and Stephen Johns ready for NHL action, but for Oduya’s role? Not yet. Oduay’s departure would likely mean the promotion of Nick Leddy, event though Coach Q has had a hard time trusting him, as well.
It may be time to put the Rockford pipeline to good use, this season.
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What will determine whether Brad Richards’ season was a success?
A declining, 34-year old, once great center, in who has disappointed offensively, during his time with the New York Rangers, is the long-awaited 2nd line center that the Hawks have always wanted.
But what’s to like?
It isn’t about Richard’s scoring ability, it’s about his offensive mind-set and offensive know-how that should compliment Patrick Kane’s playing style like no other attempt at a 2nd line center, for the Hawks. Any player who is able to give the puck to Kane, will give the Hawks immediate scoring chances. Richard’s may not be what he once was, but he wasn’t brought in to be that.
With the season inching towards being upon us, the Hawks have a few big questions that need to be answered before they can even begin thinking about the Stanley Cup.
It should be interesting.