From a distance it looks like the Chicago Blackhawks had a
quiet offseason, but they might have made the two biggest signings this summer,
inking both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to eight year contracts. Those
deals will not kick-in until next season, but will keep two of the NHL’s top
players in Chicago through the 2022-23 season.
Brad Richards – C Jason Labarbera – G
Pierre-Cedric Labrie – LW
Cody Bass – C
In addition to the Toews and Kane signings, the Hawks
brought in veteran centre Brad Richards to fill the hole they have had at
second line centre. He signed a one-year, $2 million contract so it is a great
contract for the organization and gives Richards an excellent chance to win his
second Stanley Cup. Bringing Richards in should help Kane a ton in 2014-15. He
has played the last few seasons with a bunch of different centres and spent
most of last year with Michal Handzus, so Richards is a huge upgrade in the
Aside from Richards, the roster looks virtually the same. If
it’s not broke, don’t fix it right? Last season marked the fourth time in six
seasons the Hawks made an appearance in the Western Conference Finals (Won 2
Stanley Cups in that span).
IN THE PIPES
In goal, Corey Crawford, 29, enters his fifth season as
Chicago’s number-1 goalie. He finished last year 32-16-10 with a 2.26 GAA and
.917 SV%, which is right on par with his career numbers (2.36 GAA / .914 SV%). He
has the 25-year-old Antti Raanta returning as his back-up for the second
season. The young Finnish netminder impressed in his rookie season, posting a
13-5-4 record, 2.71 GAA and .897 SV%.
On the blueline, it is the same old story. Duncan Keith is
one of the best two-way defensemen in the NHL and he will be paired with Brent Seabrook, a big physical D-man with tremendous offensive instincts. Then there
is Niklas Hjalmarsson who had the best offensive season (4G / 22A) of his
career, while leading the Hawks in blocked shots (157) and shorthanded minutes
played per game (2:49). Mixed in with the veterans is 23-year-old Nick Leddy,
who appeared in all 82 games, while racking up seven goals and 24 assists. He
is great in the offensive zone and on the power-play–and the best part is he
has not missed a game in three seasons.
Finally, their group of forwards has no shortage of top-end talent.
Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp each have 30-plus-goal potential with 60 points
as a near certainty. 21-year-old Brandon Saad put together a second straight
strong season. He had 19 goals and 28 assists (47 points) in 78 games and is
sure to be dangerous again in 2014-15. Andrew Shaw had 20 goals and 76 PIMS
while Kris Versteeg had 29 points in 63 games with the Hawks… The depth chart
is endless when you look at this team.
Season prediction: After finishing 3rd in the Central last
season, the Blackhawks reclaim their position atop the Central in 2014-15 and push
for the President’s Trophy.
View the Hawks’ current roster and cap space heading into the 2014 – 2015 season