Ah, Andrew Shaw. He’s the player you love to hate. Or he’s the player you love to love. It all depends on whether you’re a Chicago Blackhawks fan or not. Shaw is the ultimate agitator, so it’s pretty hard for non-Chicago Blackhawks fans to like him. But he’s the ultimate agitator, so it is pretty easy for Hawks fans to love him.
There was some controversy regarding Shaw during Game 4 of the playoffs versus the St. Louis Blues. Shawsy was frustrated with some of the calls on the ice. He took it out on the referees, using a homophobic slur and an obscene gesture. He was therefore suspended for Game 5, but the team rallied around him and came out with a win nonetheless.
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Obviously, Shaw got a little too emotional. It’s easy to do that when the Stanley Cup is on the line. But yes, he took it too far. He did his duty by making a public apology at a press conference the next day. I’m sure the Blackhawks organization was behind that. But Shaw took it a step further when he sought out Christopher Hine, a beat writer for the Chicago Tribune who is openly gay. He personally apologized to him, saying, “That’s not the kind of guy I am”. To me, that’s enough to give Shaw the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure he did learn from the experience, and will think about his actions more in the future.
Unlike Game 4, Shaw said all the right things at his exit interview this past Wednesday. He was passed over for two consecutive drafts before being selected in the fifth round (139th overall) by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2011. He almost didn’t get his shot in the NHL. “I’ve overachieved from what I thought I was going to get out of life. It’s pretty exciting to be this fortunate,” he said.
When asked about returning to the Chicago Blackhawks next season, Shaw replied, “I want to be back here and I have a feeling they want me to be back, so hopefully both parties can make it work”.
But the problem is that Shaw will be a restricted free agent this summer, and he could get as much as $4 million on the open market. The Chicago Blackhawks have $69 million tied up in 17 other player contracts already for next year, with the cap expected to be around $74 million. The Hawks are going to have to be very smart with their remaining money in order to get a solid complimentary team to play with these 17 players. There simply might not be enough money left to re-sign Shaw.
Now Shaw could take a small raise for one year with the promise of more in the future, similar to the deal Marcus Kruger made with the Hawks. A qualifying offer would keep Shaw from becoming an unrestricted free agent, and would cost the Hawks $2.5 million. But depending on other factors and player deals, even that might be more than the Chicago Blackhawks are able to spend.
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Shaw has certainly given the Hawks something to think about with his playoff performance. He was one of the leading scorers in this recent series versus the St. Louis Blues. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were the only ones to usurp him, with 7 points. He tied with Artemin Panarin for 6 points. But Shaw had the most goals, (4) and also the most power play goals (3). He played mostly on the fourth line, although he did do some time on the first line in Game 6. He played mostly on the wing, but filled in at center a bit as well. His contributions on the power play unit were obviously much appreciated, and it must be remembered that he didn’t play in Game 5. All in all, I’d say Shawzy is doing his job.
It’s my understanding that Shaw is a locker room favorite. He has lots of energy and he never shuts up. He might drive his teammates crazy, but in the end, they appreciate what he brings to motivate the team. Coach Joel Quenneville called him and all the intangibles he brings “irreplaceable”.
But in the end, it all boils down to money. There’s a very good chance the Chicago Blackhawks and their fans won’t get their favorite “Mutt” back next year. But with Stan Bowman, you just don’t know. He never seems to do what everyone is expecting. Perhaps we’ll all have another chance to see No. 65 in a Blackhawks sweater come October.