When Free Agency began the Blackhawks returned a familiar face in Brian Campbell. General Manager Stan Bowman addressed a huge hole on defense, and with Campbell in the fold, the Blackhawks defense went from bad to good in the blink of an eye. The Blackhawks now have a big four on defense again and could have another gem in recently signed Michel Kempny.
While Bowman made a good signing in bringing back Campbell. he failed to address another issue, the forwards. This off-season the Blackhawks forward group has gotten significantly weaker through trades and free agents signing elsewhere. Bowman has seen one of the Blackhawks strengths turn into a weakness. Many felt that the Blackhawks should have signed a veteran winger during the free agency frenzy.
Jay Zawaski realized that the Blackhawks were short in the foward department and he was not the only one. The Blackhawks have lost Teuvo Teravainen, Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw, Andrew Ladd, Tomas Fleischmann, and Dale Weise from last season’s playoff roster. The biggest losses being Shaw and Teuvo. Shaw generated offense on all four lines and was a net front presence on the power play. Tearavainen was Quenneville’s Swiss army knife playing wing and center on multiple lines.
While the Blackhawks were able to resign Richard Panik and Brandon Mashinter from the NHL roster, neither player will strike fear into opposing goal tenders. Both Panik and Mashinter have played more AHL games than NHL played in their hockey careers. The Blackhawks organization also signed Spencer Abbott, Sam Carrick, Pierre-Cedric Labrie to one year contracts, but all three have been spent the majority of their career in the AHL.
So this off-season the Blackhawks have lost five NHL forwards for their roster and not signed any additional NHL forwards this offseason. It appears the forward group will be filled out by a bunch of prospects and AHL players from last season.
We know the second line will be Patrick Kane, Artem Anisimov, and Artemi Panarin. Aside from that line, everyone is guessing. In my mind the top line is Jonathan Toews, Richard Panik and then a question mark. Could it be a rookie Tyler Motte or Nick Schamltz playing on the Toews line? Marian Hossa seems to be slowing down and found himself on third line during the playoffs last year. Is Hossa better on the third line now this year? With Shaw being gone, does Ryan Hartman finally step up to replace him? if Hossa is a third line, is the line Hossa, Marcus Kruger, and Andrew Desjardins. Would the fourth line then be Dennis Rasmussen, Vincent Hinostroza, and Tanner Kero? Kyle Baun started last season on the third line and then saw the NHL again, does he get another shot? Bowman has three million plus in cap space left, perhaps another a veteran winger. Some are suggesting the current free agent Kris Versteeg.
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While Stan Bowman did a great job getting Campbell back, his signing was not enough for the Blackhawks.