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Chicago Blackhawks’ 5 Most Interesting Questions As Offseason Progresses

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Mar 29, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger (16) and left wing Ryan Hartman (C) congratulate right wing Marian Hossa (81) on his goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at the PPG PAINTS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 29, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger (16) and left wing Ryan Hartman (C) congratulate right wing Marian Hossa (81) on his goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at the PPG PAINTS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mar 23, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook (7) looks on from the ice during the first period against the Dallas Stars at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

4. Will any core players get the ax?

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said pretty much anything was on the table for changing this offseason, outside cutting ties with coach Joel Quenneville. So you’d have to think that includes discussions about moving core players as well.

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews aren’t going anywhere, that much is certain. Duncan Keith is safe as well, in my mind. But beyond that, you’ve got Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Corey Crawford on the books, and there’s always a chance Marcus Kruger doesn’t get taken by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft.

I wrote last week about how the Blackhawks should explore moving Seabrook at the trade deadline. I think that’s an option for all four of the above-mentioned guys, really. It’d be tougher with Seabrook, Hjalmarsson and Crow because they all have no-move or modified no-move clauses in their deals, but that doesn’t make it impossible.

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are tying up a ton of money into a small number of players, and now they realize they have some major issues to shore up to be competitive next season, at least. While the team has a large amount of young forward talent waiting to rise through the ranks, that’s not a guaranteed solution right now.

Bowman said anything was on the table. Let’s see how serious he was.

3. Who will Chicago’s backup goaltender be?

This is actually a more intriguing question to me than wondering who the starter will be. As long as Bowman doesn’t get some sort of crazy idea/unrejectable return for a Crow trade, he’ll be the starter. And if Crow finds himself leaving, then the Blackhawks will no doubt make sure Scott Darling is brought back to the fold.

But either way, the Blackhawks are going to be one goaltender deep heading into the 2017-18 season. Re-signing Darling while also having Crow is essentially not an option, unless the Blackhawks find a way to move some serious dough in the offseason (see Point 4).

Jeff Glass was the emergency backup during the postseason, but he has no NHL experience and limited AHL time. Lars Johansson saw the NHL bench for a brief spell this season, and Mac Carruth has been with the organization for some time without cracking the NHL.

Unlike in the NFL, where you can draft a quarterback who can start right away, it’s a lot more difficult to draft a goaltender who’s immediately NHL-ready. And you’re likely only going to find such an athlete in one of the first two rounds. So if the Blackhawks don’t take a netminder early in this year’s draft, it makes this question even more intriguing.

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