This past weekend the Chicago Blackhawks moved a step closer to solidifying their lineup. On Friday, the Blackhawks dealt Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom to the Carolina Hurricanes for two AHL players. Hours after trading Versteeg, the Blackhawks re-signed Marcus Kruger to a team-friendly, $1.5 million deal. The following day, the Blackhawks gave veteran defenseman Jan Hejda a professional tryout contract. The same was done with 31-year-old left wing Daniel Paille on Sunday.
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Now that pieces are falling into place for the 2015-16 season, here are my projected lines for the Blackhawks come Opening Night on Oct. 7 against the New York Rangers:
May 3, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) is congratulated for scoring by right wing Marian Hossa (81) during the second period in game two of the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Minnesota Wild at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
The Blackhawks’ top line will return the captain Toews, who tallied 28 goals and 38 assists last regular season, as well as the ageless wonder Hossa and his 22 goals and 39 assists in the regular season. Toews and Hossa are the best two-way players on the team, so this is best line for newly acquired Dano to play on. He can learn how to play a more complete game alongside the two. A great example of a youngster learning while playing on the Blackhawks’ top line was seen with forward Brandon Saad last season.
Oct 17, 2014; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Artem Anisimov (42) against the Calgary Flames at Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Anisimov is the solution to the Blackhawks’ second-line center issue. Anisimov (seven goals, 20 assists in 2014-15) is a legitimate NHL center. Panarin was a playmaker in the KHL and hopes to be one in the NHL. If Kane starts the season with the Blackhawks, he will start on the second line. His playing situation remains up in the air as a result of the rape investigation he is involved with.
May 27, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell (29) attempts a shot during the first period of game six of the Western Conference Final of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Anaheim Ducks at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
The Blackhawks need Bickell (14 goals, 14 assists in the 2014-15 regular season) to produce more than he did last season. Teravainen (four goals, five assists) will finally get his chance to center a line at the NHL level this season. Tikhonov will get his chance at a third-line spot, but don’t be surprised if one of last season’s college free agents in Baun gets a chance. Baun was a very productive offensive player in college, and the Blackhawks will need some scoring from their third line.
Jun 15, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger (16) controls the puck against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the third period in game six of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
As the cliche goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The line of Desjardins (two assists in the 2014-15 regular season), Kruger (seven goals, 10 assists) and Shaw (15 goals, 11 assists) line was very productive during the playoffs and at times was the Blackhawks best line during the run to the Stanley Cup. I expect the Blackhawks to keep this line together for the start of the 2015-16 season.
Check back in later this week for our look at the possible defensive pairings for the Blackhawks following the team’s latest rash of changes.
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