This time of year for die hard hockey fans is like early December for young children who are waiting for Christmas. Anticipation is at a high level for Blackhawk faithful and they are hoping GM Stan Bowman doesn’t disappoint. Bowman didn’t come close to placing a shiny new ten speed under the tree the past two summers, rather it was more like an assortment of hand-me-downs from the local thrift store.
Blackhawks fans are bracing for more failed attempts to acquire the necessary improvement for a long playoff run. Some believe they will be hearing another July 1 late afternoon speech form Bowman on how much he likes his guys. Others think this will be the summer for some big changes which will enable the Hawks to be true Stanley Cup contenders. The improvements could be starting this week as the NHL Entry Draft approaches.
Not basing anything on credible rumors but more my own instinct, my take is the Blackhawks will make some significant changes. Bowman won’t be able to solve every issue. The goaltending will likely remain the same. There could be help coming in the way of a true top six forward, either a left wing or a center. Maybe a big swing at a free agent could come about.
A Draft week trade could set the Hawks up with needed improvement or additional cap space to sign a talented free agent.
Much talk has been made of the need for a second line center. Most often available third line centers are viewed as being second line possibilities in Chicago. That really isn’t much different than taking a quality checking line center like Dave Bolland and trying to turn him into something he hasn’t been. If so, why not just give Bolland a shot to move up and look to acquire an experienced third line pivot.
My answer is there might be a better opportunity to snag a player once considered a first line center and drop him down to play on the second line in Chicago. A similar strategy worked well with the LA Kings who traded for Mike Richards and moved him down a notch to play on the second line.
There is a club besides Pittsburgh, with three quality centers and they could be looking to shed some salary and acquire cheaper young talent. Colorado has Paul Stastny who may no longer be the best center on the club, but still is paid like it. The Avalanche have a bunch of RFA’s to resign and Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly have emerged as very good centers so Stastny could be available. Actually, last season, O’Reilly recorded a couple of more points than Stastny.
Stastny is a $6.6 million salary cap hit for the next two seasons, so he is expensive but has the ability to flourish while being flanked by either Marian Hossa or Patrick Kane. Stastny is only 26-years-old and is a lefty. He is a quality skill player Hossa or Kane could benefit from.
My next thought could come about if rumblings are true and Bowman is unable to acquire a second line center. Word going around is Evander Kane of the Winnipeg Jets could be on the trading block. The Hawks have a need for a big scoring left winger and Kane could be that player.
The Jets are in a unique position because they are guaranteed sellout crowds. Season ticket holders had to commit for three to four seasons when signing up. Jets management didn’t mislead anyone into thinking they are going to spend to the salary cap limit. They are a club which is going to stick to a budget.
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