As the Blackhawks season came to a close after losing to the St. Louis Blues 3-2 in game 7, what moves await the team heading into the offseason? Lets take a look at some potential moves that could shape the Blackhawks roster for the 2016-17 season.
The following notable players have contracts that expire this season: Tomas Fleischmann, Andrew Ladd, Richard Panik, Andrew Shaw, Dale Weise, Christian Ehroff, and Michael Rozsival. Of the names mentioned, Andrew Ladd seems to be the most likely candidate to be moving onto a new team in 2016-17. With limited cap space available to sign the veteran forward, Ladd will become a hot commodity on the free agent market. Ladd was acquired by the Blackhawks in hopes that he could return to his postseason form that helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2010. Ladd registered only two points in the seven game series despite playing well in the regular season.
Forward Andrew Shaw poses to be an interesting dilemma for both the front office and Blackhawks fans alike. There is no doubt that Shaw brings a ton of energy, determination, and grittiness to the team, but with limited cap space can the Blackhawks justify bringing him back? The organization loves Shaw’s role on the team, but might not want to pay him more then the $2.5 million he made last season. Shaw was suspended for game 5 of the first round of the playoffs after using a homophobic slur directed towards the officials. The Blackhawks organization was not happy with his actions, leading to the possibility that they may want to cut ties with the forward all together. Shaw is no doubt a fan favorite, but it appears that he may have played his last game in the Blackhawks sweater.
Players in the System
With several veteran players set to leave the team via free agency, the Blackhawks will have a number of open positions heading into training camp. Players to watch include forwards Kyle Baun, Ryan Hartman, Tyler Motte, Vincent Hinostroza, Tanner Kero, defensemen Ville Pokka and Gustov Forsling.
Ville Pokka and Gustov Forsling will be important players to watch for as the Blackhawks have a glaring need to improve their depleted defense. Looking at the defensive situation, Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson are world-class players who still have a few great years ahead of them. Brent Seabrook has showed signs of slowing down, which is alarming given that his contract extension is set to kick in running through the 2023-24 season. Although Seabrook is one of the unquestioned leaders of the team, he posted a career-low possession number last season according to Corsi calculations. This number needs to improve next season for Seabrook to remain effective in a Blackhawks system that requires a high degree of puck possession. If Michael Rozsival isn’t brought back, Ville Pokka will likely have the first chance to win the sixth defensive spot.
More openings are available on the offensive side with the likely departures of Ladd and Shaw. Richard Panik played well at the end of last season and deserves a chance to crack the regular rotation, if he can be signed to an inexpensive contract. Ryan Hartman could also get a chance to crack the lineup, as he plays with energy and grit that will be missed if Shaw isn’t brought back. Tyler Motte will be a big name to watch for next season. Motte was drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by the Blackhawks, but has spent the past two seasons playing at the University of Michigan. Motte is set to enter the Blackhawks system this year, where he looks to build off of his 31 point (9 G, 22 A) season for the Wolverines. Chicago native Vincent Hinostroza will also be in the mix after playing in seven games with the Blackhawks this season.
It will not be an easy task to add a lot of front-line talent this offseason for general manager Stan Bowman. Without signing veteran players to low money contracts, the salary cap will force the Blackhawks to possibly count on some unproven players heading into the 2016-17 season. Bowman always has a plan in hand, so lets see what he has in-store for Chicago this offseason.
What move should Bowman make? Which player do you want to see on the Blackhawks next Year? Comment below to share your thoughts.