Possible Chicago Blackhawks target Jiri Hudler signed with Dallas on Tuesday. What does it mean for the ’Hawks?
News broke Tuesday morning that 32-year-old forward Jiri Hudler had signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Dallas Stars. You might notice that is not the Chicago Blackhawks. It’s actually a budding Central Division rival of the Blackhawks (though their GM has again misdiagnosed what his team really needs: goaltending).
Regardless, it means Hudler isn’t coming to the Blackhawks, who may have been in on him this offseason. The team is looking for some scoring depth, as its bottom six is currently a bit of a slum. This is without considering some youngsters in the system, but the point remains that getting Hudler would’ve been beneficial to the Blackhawks.
Still, while it would’ve been a nice addition, it’s far from the end of the world the Blackhawks didn’t grab him.
Was the money right for Chicago? Almost definitely not
Now, if you were to look at General Fanager, the website currently shows the Blackhawks at projected cap space of near $2.4 million. So how does this tweet from the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus make sense?
Well, it actually makes plenty of sense. If the Blackhawks sign Hudler at $2 million, once guys get called up and sent down to make the roster NHL-usable, they’d be hard-pressed to get under the cap. Even if the team carries 22 guys instead of 23, like it did for portions of last season, it would’ve taken some serious maneuvering to make that work.
And if that’s the case, you’re not necessarily icing the best possible team, based on your parts. Even if you have Hudler, if his addition means you have to stick with a Brandon Mashinter/Jordin Tootoo guy instead of adding a much more promising young forward, then you’re losing the battle.
Where do the Blackhawks go from here?
Well, we’ve been talking about this all summer. The hunt is still on for a low-cost forward who likely plays the bottom six, but who can also potentially hop into a top-six role.
As long as Brandon Pirri is on the market, I think the Blackhawks should be interested in him. Pirri may want nothing to do with the Blackhawks anymore, but maybe that’s not the case. No harm in asking. Tomas Fleischmann is still around, too, although some Blackhawks fans (and maybe Joel Quenneville) soured on him very, very quickly last season.
Basically, you’re looking for a guy to take Andrew Desjardins-type money, or maybe a little more (up to something like $1.3 million, perhaps), in order to produce … I don’t know, 30 points?
So that’s not the easiest find, as Desjardins makes a not-so-hefty $800,000. That amount usually doesn’t get you much offense in the NHL, unless you’re talking about a rookie-type deal.
But what about the children?
Of course, building from within is the cheapest answer, and the Blackhawks will certainly look to their youngsters to make an impact here. Tyler Motte, Nick Schmaltz and the like will be pushed hard in camp, and the guys who prove most durable and capable will have the best shot at cracking the opening night roster.
So while the Hudler deal doesn’t end the world for the Blackhawks, it again highlights the point the team would be well-served in going outside to find at least one proven NHL forward at a low cost. You don’t exactly know what you’re getting from your youngsters, and you really don’t want to push a lineup with Mashinter and Tootoo in there.
It’s likely a waiting game for the Blackhawks, who will see which free agents are left as training camp nears and pounce on the opportunity to keep a guy employed at a lower cost.