Chicago Blackhawks: Analyzing Their PTO Options
By Matt Morrow
Its September, the month of the NHL Offseason where free agents who fear they won’t get offered a contract settle for a PTO instead. Will Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman hand out any PTO’s this offseason?
After the recent PTO offers to (F) Brandon Pirri , (D) Jared Cowen, (D) Eric Gelinas, and more, it’s time to discuss who the Chicago Blackhawks could potentially offer a PTO to. Below, see the full list of players on PTO’s this fall as of 8/29/17:
For those unaware of what a PTO is, it is essentially a tryout offer for a player to attend a team’s training camp. If the player performs well enough, they have the opportunity to be awarded with a contract. If not, they may be released. You can learn more here.
What we as Blackhawks fans are interested in though is who GM Stan Bowman may extend an offer to. With the dicey LTIR situation involving Hossa, he has more money to work with than we think, and could make an under the table contract agreement with a player to go into effect day after Hossa is placed on LTIR. What’s important to note in the Blackhawks case is that these players only become affordable once they get cap relief through the LTIR. If Bowman wants to extend an offer to anyone, he financially has the ability to.
First, what would Bowman want in a player he is offering a PTO to?
Youth, for one. So much has been said about the Blackhawks “aging core,” and when looking at recent Stanley cup winners, the depth is found through proven veterans and a few young studs. While some younger teams without veteran leadership or playoff experience may want to sign an Iginla or Doan, the Blackhawks have plenty of that already. So, Traveling Jagrs’, you won’t need to add a member at the hands of the Blackhawks anytime soon.
With youth hopefully comes speed, which is another asset Bowman is looking for in a player. Last year’s sweep at the hands of the Nashville Predators provides nothing for Blackhawks fans other than painful memories, and among the painful memories is how slow the Hawks looked. Nashville beat them to every puck and won every battle on the boards. Through Bowman’s two blockbuster draft day deals, we can see that he is looking towards the future, trying to get younger.
Lastly, with the three free agent forward acquisitions plus players looking to make the leap from the BMO to the UC, Bowman should be basically set with his potential forward corps. But after the loss of Hjalmarsson and TVR, along with the age progression of staff-adored Rozsival, the Blackhawks blue line depth is questionable. The argument could be made that one of Forsling, Pokka, Rutta, or Kempny need to make the jump and become an everyday player, but Bowman may consider hanging out a PTO to a defenseman in case this does not happen. Because of the large gap between youth and aged defenseman on this roster, if Bowman hands out any PTO’s at all, at least one should be to a defenseman.
So, youth, speed, and defenseman. Of the remaining free agents, who fits the description? Sadly, many don’t fit the “young” requirement, and the majority of the ones who do shouldn’t become Blackhawks.
One interesting younger option is 27yr old Cody Goloubef, who most recently played for the Avs on a league minimum salary. The 6’1″ 37th overall pick in the 2008 NHL draft isn’t afraid to drop the gloves, and throughout his career he has played mostly bottom pairing minutes. Fox Sports did a piece on him in 2015, which can be seen here.
Cody Franson (age 30) has already been rumored to be getting a PTO from the Blackhawks, so we know that this is a possibility. An NHL veteran of 9 years, Franson is reliable, has playoff experience, has a large 6’5” frame. His last contract was for 2 years with a 3.33 million dollar cap hit, so I feel that depending what Franson is looking for, a 1 year, 2 million dollar deal with the Blackhawks could be realistic.
Seasoned NHL Veteran John-Michael Liles is 36 years old, and he is a name that many pass over because of his age. But, he still deserves some attention, and that attention was rightfully given in a tweet by Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey), which reads as follows:
Respectfully, John-Michael Liles isn’t necessarily a household name across the hockey world. But, his numbers put him right up there with many household names. The stat Corsi essentially tracks a players shot differential, including his own shots, his team mates shots, his opponents shots, and blocked shots. The cd60 is the corsi differential over one full game, and according to Tierney’s graphic, Liles is good at producing shots for his team, while blocking shots of the other team. This becomes helpful in a situation where he blocks a shot near the defensive blue line, allowing his forwards to pick up the puck, get behind the other teams D, and maybe get an odd-man rush. He plays on average a little more than 12 minutes a night, and in comparison, Rozsival averaged a mere 3 minutes more per night, coming in around 15 minutes on average. While Blackhawks fans in support of the youth movement may be opposed to Liles being a 6th/7th defenseman, he is a heck of a lot better than Rozsival in this role, and would probably cost just the same.
Seriously, could you picture Rozsival throwing sauce like this next season?
While it is unlikely, there are a few different forwards that would be intriguing options for Stan.
Thomas Vanek and P.A. Parenteau are both options for Bowman if they don’t sign elsewhere. The Hawks had interest in Vanek as recently as last season, as they did with Parenteau. Both wingers are in their early 30’s, but would bring proven scoring on the bottom six. Both also had relatively cheap last contracts, and are therefore very affordable options for GM Stan Bowman.
One more winger that the Hawks recently had interest in is Jiri Hudler. He could play on any of the four lines, and could really stabilize the lineup if he slotted in on one of the top two lines, making the Blackhawks a team with serious secondary scoring. He had a very affordable cap hit of 2 million last year, and if he isn’t signed closer to the start of the season, would probably be willing to take less.
Though two completely different players, Bowman could consider extending an offer to Andrew Desjardins or Spencer Abbot. Emphasis on the “could consider.” While extremely unlikely, we have seen through the homecoming of Oduya, Campbell, Saad, and Sharp that Bowman enjoys reacquiring past talent, and both of these players have had prior success somewhere in the Blackhawks system. Familiarity is a plus, as is the fact that if they played well enough to earn a contract, they would sign at league minimum.
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In reality, Bowman may not hand out any PTO’s this offseason. Some will say he hasn’t had success in the past when handing these out, so why should he bother now? But the truth of the matter is, if Stan can find a diamond in the rough, he undoubtedly should extend a tryout offer. The Blackhawks are entering a possible franchise direction altering year, where they can pave the path for the foreseeable future, whether that be the continued path of playoff success, or just the opposite. All hands on deck, Hawks fans.