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Editorials

Tracking Chicago Blackhawks’ Upcoming Free Agents’ Staying Power

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ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 6: Ryan Hartman
ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 6: Ryan Hartman /
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DENVER, CO – APRIL 04: Tomas Jurco
DENVER, CO – APRIL 04: Tomas Jurco /

Tomas Jurco

Jurco is a curious little project for Q and Bowman. He showed little flashes after being acquired from Detroit last season, though most of those came playing alongside Marian Hossa. He won’t be in the Chicago lineup this season.

Jurco will be competing with a seemingly endless number of guys for a bottom-six role this preseason. Like with Hinostroza, if he starts at the NHL level in 2017-18 and sticks there, I like his chances of garnering another short-term deal.

Jurco is just 24, and there’s at least a bit of talent in him. Eighteen points in 63 games during the 2014-15 season suggests he could at least give the Blackhawks some much-needed complementary scoring. But considering his more-recent past and the fact he can take the Blackhawks to arbitration, I think he might just be a placeholder for younger, more talented athletes.

Does he return: No

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Michal Kempny

This one comes down to two things: 1) Q actually giving Kempny a chance, and 2) Kempny running with said chance. I think he’s going to get every chance to shine in 2017-18 because of how rough the defense currently is, and because Bowman implied earlier this offseason that guys like Kempny would need to play a bigger role for the team moving forward.

Kempny is a puck-moving defenseman on a team that is lacking them. He’s not an offensive dynamo, but he can skate himself and the puck out of trouble. He knows how to play in front of and behind his net. These things cannot be overlooked.

So, does Kempny grab the No. 4 or 5 D role to Q’s liking? If the answer is yes, then he’s coming back on another deal next offseason. I’ve trended toward a hopeful vibe for Kempny — mostly because the Blackhawks’ defense needs him to be good — and I’m not stopping that now.

Does he return: Yes

Ville Pokka

It feels like Pokka has been a top defensive prospect for this team since the first Cup run of 2010. In reality, the Finn has spent the last three seasons in Rockford, piling up 109 points in 231 games. So with Chicago’s defense having struggled in recent seasons, why has he not seen NHL action?

Maybe his temperament is not up to snuff. Perhaps his defense is lacking compared to his offensive abilities from the blue line. Nevertheless, Pokka is getting close to “end of the road” territory, even though he’s just 23.

Gustafsson, at two years older, has at least shown something at the NHL level. Pokka can’t even get there despite his big-league team turning to multiple guys in their late 30s in recent years. If 2017-18 was a make-or-break season for Hinostroza, you can double that sentiment for Pokka.

Does he return: Flip a coin

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