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Chicago Blackhawks: Bickell Placed On Waivers

By Colin Likas

It’s been an interesting day so far in Chicago Blackhawks land.

After Joel Quenneville and Co. made multiple roster moves, the most surprising of which was Marko Dano being sent to Rockford, it was announced that multi-time Stanley Cup champion Bryan Bickell had been placed on waivers by the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks were left with 13 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders following the roster decisions this morning prior to the move with Bickell. Thirteen forwards is certainly a fine number, and you could add one more once goaltender Michael Leighton is sent down (he will be). But now the team is down to 12 forwards immediately after sending a car full of them to Rockford.

Let’s try to sort this out. It has long been known that the Blackhawks have been trying to move Bickell this offseason, with a deal to Edmonton apparently falling through over the last couple days. Clearly the Blackhawks see more value in having younger, healthier guys come up to try and compete for Bickell’s spot on the roster than having Bickell around.

Of course, that begs the question of why Dano and some other youngsters were sent down before Bickell was put on waivers. It’s a strange series of actions by the Blackhawks, but it probably means one or two of those guys who were sent down today will be back sooner rather than later.

Unless, of course, the Blackhawks are trying to free up cap space to sign another forward. According to Lazerus, the Blackhawks would get $950,000 in cap relief if Bickell clears waivers and goes to Rockford. Bickell’s $4 million cap hit has been an issue for the Blackhawks of late, helping push players like Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya out the door in Chicago. The Blackhawks may just be looking for some maneuverability on their roster while also giving Bickell time to recover fully from the vertigo issue that has plagued him since the playoffs. Of course, if he does come back, the Blackhawks could enter Cap Hell, Part 65.

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So, if the Blackhawks want to have 14 forwards on the roster (it’d be prudent), who fills the last two spots? Dano would be a favorite, and the likes of Vincent Hinostroza, Brandon Mashinter and Garret Ross could also be considered. (I’d put Dennis Rasmussen here, but him being a center likely leaves him in Rockford for now). But what about Daniel Paille?

The IceHogs signed Paille to his second (and final) professional tryout deal earlier this week, and the cap space freed up by Bickell either clearing waivers or being taken off waivers would be enough to sign Paille to a real contract. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see this happen, especially since Q likes having his veterans around, and since Paille seemed to perform well in training camp and preseason action before being released from his first PTO.

Regardless of how Bickell’s spot is filled, it may or may not be the end of his time with the Blackhawks. If he clears waivers and his vertigo symptoms finally kick the can, he could be back in Chicago (though that could create the cap issue mentioned above). But if this is the end of his tenure in Chicago, it was an interesting one.

This is the only organization Bickell has known in the NHL, having seen action all the way back in the 2006-07 season. Bickell started playing full time for the team after the 2010 Cup, when a cap purge was necessary. He became an integral part of the Blackhawks’ 2013 Cup run, using his net-front presence to tally nine goals and 17 points in 23 games. He parlayed that success into a $4 million cap hit, which his bogged down the Blackhawks ever since.

We’ll see what the future holds for Bickell and the Blackhawks, but for now, the latter are going even younger.

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