Monday, June 21, 2010


We can't keep everyone. That's a fact. The Blackhawks were only able to sign people like Marian Hossa and John Madden last summer because Toews and Kane were slated to still be earning their rookie salaries of less than $1M. Having signed contract extensions during the 2009-10 season, the two stars are now going to make about $5.3M apiece this upcoming season. Duncan Keith also got a deserved pay raise. With big contracts like Marian Hossa, Brian Campbell, and Cristobal Huet, the Blackhawks simply cannot resign everyone whose contract is up this summer. Worse than that--they may have to trade players to ease up cap space just to sign enough players to fill a roster. With this in mind, this is what I think the Blackhawks should do.

Who is at risk?
These are names that have been tossed around as players who might potentially leave: Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Patrick Sharp, Andrew Ladd, Cristobal Huet, John Madden, and Dave Bolland. Some of these names have been emphasized more than others and some players have proved themselves immovable.

Who MUST stay?

Dustin Byfuglien was one of the Hawks' biggest heroes late in the season and throughout the playoffs. When Brian Campbell was out with a broken collarbone and ribs because of Alex Ovechkin and Brent Seabrook was out with a concussion from a vicious headshot from James Wisniewski, Dustin Byfuglien moved from forward back to defense, where he used to play. Not only did Byfuglien fill the open spot, he played on the top defensive pairing and played well. When Seabrook and Campbell came back, Byfuglien was parked in front of Rinne, Luongo, Nabokov, and Leighton, blocking their view, causing havoc, and tying a team high 11 goals in the playoffs. Byfuglien's contract does not run out this summer, but talks about him leaving have almost completely died. In fact, the only time I hear of him possibly leaving is other teams saying how much they want him. The fact is, Byfuglien is FAR too valuable to part with and the Blackhawks MUST keep him.

Dave Bolland's contract does not run out this summer either, but hockey analysts conjectured whether or not he might leave Chicago to ease cap space. After hurting his back in the first or second game of the year, Bolland underwent back surgery to repair a bulging disk. He missed most of the season, coming back to play in March, where he struggled to reach the high level of play that the Blackhawks had grown accustomed to the year before. However, Bolland excelled in the playoffs, showing his old form, exceeding it even. Bolland was integral in shutting down opposing teams' top lines in the playoffs. The Sedin twins barely touched the score sheet. Dany Heatley and Joe Thornton were frustrated by Bolland's defensive play as a forward. And does anyone remember much of what Mike Richards did in the Finals? Bolland even scored a shorthanded breakaway goal in the playoffs, showing good hands. Bolland is a young asset that we cannot afford to lose.

Who can we part with?
I don't really want to part with anyone too badly, but if anyone had to go, these are the ones.

Cristobal Huet was playing well when the Blackhawks signed him. I remember thinking, "Goodbye, Khabibulin!" We did part with Khabibulin, but Huet was not a good enough replacement. Huet showed flashes of brilliance while sharing time with Khabibulin and with Niemi early on in each of the last two seasons. However, one bad game seemed to derail him for the rest of the season. The boo's in the stands seemed to get to him and he couldn't shake it. I hope to see Huet do well somewhere else, but I don't think Chicago is a good fit for him. His $5M cap hit isn't a good fit either. It will be difficult to convince another team to pay him that salary, considering his poor play at the end of the regular season. However, many analysts have suggested that the Blackhawks will likely bury him in the minors to avoid having to pay his contract. This is the one player that I think MUST go. Thank you, Cristobal for not causing drama when Niemi took your top spot and thank you for supporting the team and staying out of the press. In gratitude, I hope the Blackhawks organization deals you to a team that will be a
better fit for you.

John Madden was a great offseason acquisition last summer. The guy is now a 3-time Cup-winner. He wins faceoffs and is a good penalty-killer. However, when it comes to dumping salary, it makes sense to let the guy who scores the fewest points go. There were a lot of intangibles that Madden brought to the team, though. He was a very savvy player and lots of the things he did well don't often show up on a scoresheet. No doubt, his veteran leadership and experience as a two-time Cup-winner helped the Hawks get their first in 49 years. I will say "Thank you!" to John Madden, but we can no longer afford him.

Andrew Ladd came to the Hawks with a trade of Tuomo Ruutu. At the time, I thought it was a terrible trade. We dealt a fan favorite for a guy I'd never heard of before, seemingly because he was with the Hurricanes when they won the Cup. However, Ladd has proved himself to be more valuable to the Hawks than Ruutu has been to the Hurricanes time and time again. Ladd was always very scrappy and worked hard. I'll never forget you punching Kesler one time in the face before he bailed on the fight. Then Kesler called you a coward, to which you laughed, as did I. Thank you for your hard play, but if we have to dump salary, I think that we have to say goodbye.

Kris Versteeg is fast, agile, and can score goals. However, at times he danced with the puck too long and turned the puck over. Sometimes the simplest play is the best. His moves sometimes created opportunities and goals, but all too often he lost the puck and/or an opportunity to score. Thank you Steeger for the game-winner in Game 2 against Vancouver. However, we must sell high and bring up prospects.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Patrick Sharp. He was one of the first good players I noticed on the Blackhawks' team in 2007-08. Sharp seems to always come up with a big goal at the opportune moment. You tied Big Buff for the most goals in the playoffs on the team (11). I do not want to see you go, but it seems that too many teams are interested in you and the Blackhawks aren't saying they won't trade you. I hope you don't go, but even if you do, I'll always root for you. Thanks for the memories!

One last thing
Re-sign Niemi. One part of me fears a sophomore slump for Niemi. However, nothing seemed to bother Niemi for too long, something that not many goalies can do. I don't think we can really let one of our Stanley Cup heroes go. We also have a chance to lock up a good, young goalie who could be a solid starter for years to come. Make it happen.

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