The Chicago Blackhawks’ playoff hopes are more or less gone at this point, which means it’s time to start looking ahead to the future. They have multiple pending free agents, but which Chicago Blackhawks should come back?
The Chicago Blackhawks have 9 NHL players that will either be UFAs or RFAs this summer. That number becomes a lot bigger when you include their AHL players too, as there are 10 players in the AHL on a contract year.
Stan Bowman and the Chicago Blackhawks organization will have a lot of contact decisions to make this summer (19 of them, to be exact), and that doesn’t even include the free agent market.
Bowman, and fans, should keep their eyes on Chicago’s pending free agents over this final stretch. Many of these guys are playing for their jobs. Let’s take a look at those at the NHL level.
Of the forward group it’s not hard to rule out Kruger and Kunitz as returners to the Blackhawks roster next season. While both have played valuable roles for the Chicago Blackhawks (Kruger certainly more than Kunitz considering their careers), both should see their time in Chicago come to an end.
From there, the decision making becomes a bit more difficult. Sikura isn’t the offensive stud we’d hoped for, but can he still produce as a bottom-six guy? Kampf holds value and is liked by Jeremy Colliton, but how difficult is it to find a better bottom-six center?
Perlini has shown spurts of skill and speed — he showed a lot of it last night as he recorded his first career hat trick playing on the new-look second line — but will that ever become consistent?
There are many questions, and the Chicago Blackhawks should probably start looking for answers. Sikura would be nice on another inexpensive, entry-level type deal, but given his development thus far (or lack-thereof) the Blackhawks need to be careful not to overpay him.
Personally, if I can’t get Sikura on another cheap, two-way deal I let him walk.
I like Perlini more than Sikura, but the Chicago Blackhawks once again need to be careful to not overpay their own guys like they’ve done in the past. Perlini’s inconsistent play makes it hard to deem him a “lock” to return next year, but his play recently would make it hard to mail it in on him. After all, he’ll only be 23 come this April.
Kampf, whether he deserves it or not, will probably be back in Chicago next season. It’s clear that he’s built trust with Colliton and trust with a coach can go a long way.
Barring some ridiculous, ground-breaking move from Stan Bowman, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Erik Gustafsson and Connor Murphy will all be back on defense next year. Bowman would be a hero if he could somehow move one of those two veterans this summer, but I’m not sure it’s in the cards.
If that’s the case, that leaves three spots for defensemen on the ‘Hawks roster.
That said, there’s a lot of competition for those spots within the organization. Forsling, Koekkoek and Dahlstrom are involved in the fight currently, but that doesn’t consider non-rostered defensemen like Dennis Gilbert, Nicolas Beaudin, Adam Boqvist, Blake Hillman, Henri Jokiharju, Chad Krys and more.
At this point I would let Forsling walk and I currently like Koekkoek more than Dahlstrom, but who knows what will happen in the next fourteen games.
Regardless, I’m glad it isn’t my decision to make. If Jokiharju makes the NHL roster and the Blackhawks pick up another defensemen in the offseason, that leaves just one NHL spot for 9 players.
I’m equally as glad I’m not an NHL defensemen trying to make the ‘Hawks.
- Cam Ward – UFA
Welp, this is a bit easier than deciding the defensemen, isn’t it? Ward won’t be around next year, and he probably won’t be remembered much as a Chicago Blackhawk. Though he won’t be appreciated in the future, Blackhawks fans had better do so in the present.
Ward, on the backend of his career, moved his family to Chicago in what he assumed would be a simply backup role. Because of injuries, he stepped up and was the no. 1 guy for the Blackhawks for quite some time until Collin Delia got hot.
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It’s hard to put into words what exactly Ward has meant for the Chicago Blackhawks this season, but it’s certainly more than you’d think. Still, I wouldn’t expect to see him back in Chicago next year.
So Blackhawks fans, I encourage you to share your thoughts on who the Chicago Blackhawks should and shouldn’t bring back. In the meantime, I encourage you to keep your eyes on these 9 players over the next month.