Blackhawks will retool, not rebuild this offseason
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org June 27, 2013 9:59PM
Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival, of the Czech Republic, hoists the Stanley Cup after the Blackhawks beat the Boston Bruins 3-2 in Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals Monday, June 24, 2013, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
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Updated: June 28, 2013 4:39PM
Stan Bowman took the first step toward keeping the 2013 Stanley Cup-champion Blackhawks largely intact Thursday, announcing that he put defenseman Steve Montador and forward Rostislav Olesz on waivers. If they go unclaimed, as expected, the Hawks will use their two compliance buyouts — an element of the new collective-bargaining agreement designed to allow teams to shed unwanted contracts and get under the lowered salary cap next season — on the two veterans. They combined to make more than $6 million this season, despite not playing a game in the NHL.
With several players due for raises, and Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews due for contract extensions next summer, it’ll take some work to get the Hawks under the $64.3 million cap. Not everyone will be back, but the carnage won’t be anywhere close to the purge that took place after the 2010 championship, when more than half the team departed.
“There shouldn’t be too many changes,” Patrick Kane said. “Looking back to 2010, you had to win it that year because the next year, everyone was going to be gone. This year, there shouldn’t be too many changes.”
The Hawks’ biggest concern is re-signing Bryan Bickell. To do that, they might have to move a piece of their core. Dave Bolland — who scored the Cup-winning goal in Game 6 at Boston but is slated to make $3.375 million next season — is a likely candidate to be on the trading block with the draft coming up Sunday.
“It’s the NHL, and trades happen, but I’d love to be back here,” Bolland said. “I love Chicago.”
Everyone does these days. But who will stay and who will go? Here’s a quick look:
Hometown discount for Bickell?
With nine goals and eight assists in the playoffs — all while playing a strong physical game — big Bryan Bickell assured himself of a hefty raise this summer as an unrestricted free agent. After making just $600,000 this season, the 6-4, 223-pound power forward could command $3 million a season. But Bickell said Thursday that some things are more important than money and that his agent was already in talks with the Hawks.
“You’ve got to do what makes you happy,” he said. “I know there are a lot of good teams around this league, and a lot of teams you won’t have as much fun [with] as if I stayed here. This is a great city, I enjoy it here, I got drafted here, this is a second home to me. We’re going to work on something, and hopefully it works out for the best.”
He also said he’d like the chance to see what he could do in a full season on a line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, with whom he had excellent chemistry late in the playoffs.
When asked if all that meant he’d take a hometown discount to stay with the Hawks, Bickell replied, “Definitely.”Holding steady with Leddy
Defenseman Nick Leddy played less than 13 total minutes in the last three games of the Stanley Cup Final, but that won’t be how his Hawks career ends. The speedy 22-year-old defenseman is a restricted free agent, but Bowman said the Hawks will match any offer sheet that comes his way.
“We’re excited about his future,” Bowman said. “He’s taken steps every year, and I expect next year to be another one.”
Said coach Joel Quenneville: “I think we ended it on a positive note. With Nick’s situation, be excited where you’re going to be at going forward and keep getting better.”
Leddy said the playoff run was still a valuable experience.
“You learn things every year, game in and game out,” Leddy said. “I didn’t play a lot, but we won the Stanley Cup and it’s all about the team. It’s very exciting [that the Hawks want him back]. The city’s unbelievable, and the fan base is, bar none, the best.”
What’s your vector, Viktor?
Another player who saw his ice time decrease in the playoffs is winger Viktor Stalberg, who certainly sounded Thursday like a man who had played his last game in a Hawks uniform. Twice benched by Quenneville during the postseason — at the start of series against the Red Wings and Bruins — Stalberg said he wants a chance to play as a top-six forward getting major minutes. That’s unlikely to happen with the Hawks.
“Over the last three years, I showed I deserve to play maybe more than at times I got an opportunity to here,” Stalberg said. “That’s how it is. You’re on one of the best teams, and you have some of the best players in the world in front of you. That’s great, but maybe at some point in your career you want to see what else is out there, and what role you can get, and see how good you can allow yourself to be.”
Stalberg also said “I love it here” and wouldn’t rule out a return completely. He has yet to speak with his agent or Bowman.
“I didn’t take the conversation last night at the bar, let’s put it that way,” he said laughing.
Weighing their options
Marcus Kruger, Michal Handzus and Michal Rozsival have expressed interest in returning to the Hawks. Kruger is a restricted free agent while Handzus and Rozsival are unrestricted.
“I’d love to stay here. I love this place, I love this organization,” Kruger said. “We’ll see if they want me to be here. I’m so glad I got the chance to play here with these guys in this organization. They’ve been top-class in everything.”
After going 17-1, goaltender Ray Emery could command more than the Hawks want to pay a backup. The Hawks also signed Finnish star goaltender Antti Raanta, who could compete for a spot right away.
“Hopefully, he can adjust to North America quickly,” Bowman said. “Something that takes a little bit of time. We’re not trying to rush him into anything.”
Jamal Mayers is considering going out on top, having finally won a Stanley Cup at 38.
“Climbing the mountain and seeing over the top may have changed things a little bit for me,” Mayers said. “That’ll play itself out in the next couple of weeks. But if I do walk away, I can do that as a champion. Not many can say that.”