Chicago Blackhawks Are Still Stanley Cup Contenders

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 15: Duncan Keith
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 15: Duncan Keith /

Blackhawks Make Major Changes, Remain Stanley Cup Contenders

It has been an eventful Summer for the Chicago Blackhawks.

That is quite the understatement.

From Big trades, to hosting the NHL Entry Draft, to making critical roster moves in the opening 48 hours of NHL Free Agency, the Blackhawks are going to be a very different organization on October 5th than they were on April 20th.

The one thing that won’t be different are the expectations that the Blackhawks fan community and franchise will set for the 2017-18 season and beyond. The Blackhawks are expected to be Stanley Cup contenders and even after the roster changes they have made, they will be for the foreseeable future.

Yesterday, Chicago opened the NHL Free Agency periods making five signings:

Other than the signing of Bouma, all of the moves made address need for the Blackhawks.

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Sharp is a veteran (re)addition that gives Chicago flexibility in the middle of the forward group on a low-risk, high-reward deal. Are his best years behind him, yes. But when healthy, Sharp still has the ability to produce quality offensive production.

Evanston’s own Tommy Wingels gives Chicago more mid-line flexibility with Wingels being able to play both center and on the wing. His contract details are still to be announced, but reports say it is a team-friendly, one-year deal.

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The addition of Berube gives the Blackhawks needed depth in net and allows the Rockford IceHogs to have a goal-tender to develop that isn’t already in their 30’s.

Lance Bouma’s skill set has been compared to former Blackhawk Andrew Shaw‘s, but without the goal-scoring. That is not good. It appears Bouma will get a shot on the fourth-line for Chicago, but it may not last if Bouma cannot make an impact on the score sheet with players like, Tomas Jurco, John Hayden, and Laurent Dauphin vying for ice-time in the bottom-six rotation.

Finally, they added minor-league depth on the blue-line by signing Oesterle to a two-year deal. Oesterle spent parts of the last three seasons with the Oklahoma City Barons in the AHL, making 25 appearances for the Oilers at the NHL level over that same span of time.

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While the additions were all on the plus-side, for the most part, Chicago awoke the day after the opening frenzy of NHL Free Agency with still more moves to make.

Marcus Kruger had been paid his $2 mill bonus owed to him, but he was still rumored to be moving out from the Blackhawks and Marian Hossa‘s situation with long-term injured reserve still needs to be dealt with.

Low and behold, the Vegas Golden Knights and Blackhawks were able to strike a deal on July 2, sending Kruger to the desert for “future considerations.” Whatever that will turn out to mean is up in the air, but Chicago was able to move Kruger’s bloated contract off the books, which was a big to do this off-season.

All told, Chicago has taken big cuts to their roster, but the pieces that they are using to put things back together have the ability to keep them at the top of the league and continue to be contenders for the Stanley Cup.

This franchise still has their cornerstone pieces like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Corey Crawford to lean on when times get tough. They return stalwarts like Sharp and Brandon Saad, and still have a heap of young talent to rise to the occasion and make their true marks in Chicago.

Things look good for the Blackhawks. Still.

Deep breaths, everyone. It’s almost October.