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NHL Free Agency: Chicago Blackhawks Targets

By Mario Tirabassi
Nov 5, 2015; San Jose, CA, USA; Florida Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell (51) shoots the puck against the San Jose Sharks in the first period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports.
Nov 5, 2015; San Jose, CA, USA; Florida Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell (51) shoots the puck against the San Jose Sharks in the first period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports. /
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Wednesday’s Crazy 25 Minutes Are A Prelude To NHL Free Agency

Will June 29, 2016, be as historic as August 9, 1988 — the date Wayne Gretzky was traded to Los Angeles? Probably not. But yesterday gave the hockey world one of the craziest 25-minute spans of an offseason in a long, long time. Between 2:45pm and 3:10pm Central time, three major moves were made ahead of the opening of the NHL free agency period.

One.

Two.

Three.

The Edmonton Oilers sent Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for Adam Larsson. Steven Stamkos decided to re-sign with the Tampa Bay Lightning, thus ending the year-long narrative of “Where will he go?” And the Montreal Canadiens traded P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber.

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By 3:15 p.m., Hockey fans everywhere needed CPR. A few quick thoughts on the three moves from yesterday.

First, the Oilers needed defense and they paid a way-too-high price for a player like Larsson by trading Hall straight-up. They better be very certain about Larsson’s potential.

Check it out: Central Division Adds Subban

The news of Stamkos staying in Tampa Bay makes sense from a player’s standpoint when looking at what is important: money or success. Sometimes free agents find both, but for Stamkos to be choosing between the Toronto Maple Leafs, who finished in 30th last season, the Buffalo Sabres, who are still rebuilding, and the Lightning, who in the 2014-15 season played in the Stanley Cup Final against the Blackhawks and were a Game 7 away from the Stanley Cup Final against the San Jose Sharks last season, it makes sense to go with Tampa Bay.

Finally, the Weber for Subban trade was very, very interesting. Talent for talent, it’s a much more even trade than Hall for Larsson. But the Canadiens traded Subban at 27, for Weber at 31. It appears as if the Predators got the better of the deal, but it’s not a terrible move to get Weber in return.

What Do The Chicago Blackhawks Need?

So with all these moves happening before the start of the NHL free agency period at noon Eastern time tomorrow (July 1), where do the Blackhawks go from where they stand on June 30?

Well this little nugget broke as this post was being written:

So another year for both Brandon Mashinter and Michal Rozsival with the Blackhawks. Mashinter’s deal is worth $575,000 and Rozsival’s for $600,000, according to Pierre LeBrun.

So there’s that to mull over, and it seems that the roster moves that the Blackhawks will be making must go through head coach Joel Quenneville because, from an outsider’s perspective, Mashinter and Rozsival were expendable unrestricted free agents this offseason. But Quenneville has shown in the past that he likes what Mashinter brings to the table, and he is very loyal to a veteran defenseman like Rozsival.

Check it out: AHL Players Will Be Key For 2016-17 Blackhawks

The Blackhawks still need help on defense. The signing of Rozsival does nothing to improve the blue line. Nor does it do anything to hurt the chances of former Blackhawk and unrestricted free agent Brian Campbell returning to Chicago this summer.

Rumors have been swirling that the 37-year-old Campbell, who lives in Chicago in the offseasons, would welcome a return to the Blackhawks this summer and would even be willing to take a hometown discount to make it happen.

Potential Blackhawks Targets

So who will the Blackhawks be targeting to sign when the free agency window opens, less than 24 hours from now?

First, you have to understand where the team is as far as cap space heading into free agency:

There’s not a lot.

It’s rare that a team goes long periods of the season with a 21-man roster, so the Blackhawks are more than likely going to carry 22 or the full 23-man roster this year, like most. At that point, the Blackhawks are tight for what they can offer a player.

But, knowing that General Manager Stan Bowman always has some trick up his sleeve, here are a few players the Blackhawks could target in free agency:

Brian Campbell — Again, as this post is being written, news is breaking on Campbell’s possible return to Chicago:

So it seems very likely that Campbell actually does sign a deal with the Blackhawks and returns to the city that gave him his only Stanley Cup championship of his career, hoping to add a second.

  • Andrew Ladd — You know who would also like another shot at a Stanley Cup with Chicago? Again? Andrew Ladd. A trade deadline acquisitions by the Blackhawks last season, Ladd rejoined Chicago with a lot of promise. His play was good, but Ladd left Blackhawks fans wanting more out of his return. Another player to mention a hometown discount for the Blackhawks, Ladd could sign a one-year deal for one more run at the Cup with Chicago. The likelihood of that happening though, seems low.
  • Lee Stempniak — An affordable depth winger, Stempniak is a journeyman NHLer who could provide the Blackhawks with a veteran presence in a bottom-six role. While Stempniak hasn’t lit up the NHL in scoring in his career, he is coming off of his best season since 2007, scoring 51 points (19 goals, 32 assists) with the Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils. At less than $1 million, Stempniak could be a welcomed addition to Chicago.
  • Next: Blackhawks Re-Sign Rozsival, Mashinter

    So what do you think will happen? Who will the Blackhawks sign? Who will they trade? (Because that could all happen, too.) Let us know in the comments section!

    Hope everyone is ready for a hectic free agency period because even though big moves were made on the 29th, July 1 is always an unofficial international holiday. Except in Canada, where it’s actually a holiday. Happy Canada Day, everyone!

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