Chicago, IL –In part I I stated I would step into Stan Bowman’s shoes as GM. Regardless of what anyone thinks this is no easy job. You will never please everyone so you must do what you think will be best for the team in the end. Just as I do not always agree with Stan, you probably will not agree with some of my picks either.
I started to address the 2nd line center position that the Hawks need to address and fix this offseason. In this installment I will be taking a look at the upcoming unrestricted free agents (UFAs) that I think could be possibilities to dawn an Indianhead jersey and what the cap impact could be possibly be. I will highlight the strengths and weakness of each of these and how they would fit on Blackhawk lines and address potential chemistry.
I will preface my picks with saying the UFA class for 2012 is limited at the Center position which only proves how important this position is to a hockey team not only on the offence but on the defense as well. So let’s get this thing started.
Jarrett Stoll is currently with the LA Kings and still playing in the NHL Western Conference finals against the Phoenix Coyotes. Jarrett Stoll’s contract is currently at 3.6 million and probably will be getting a huge increase due to his play in the play offs and his team still being in it which could make Stoll’s price tag too high for the Hawks.
Strengths – Stoll is a big, physical forward with good net front presence. He is only 28 yrs old and at 6’1” 213 lb would give the Hawks some size up front. He is an excellent two-way player. This year he focused on the defensive part of his game and was +2 in the regular season. He plays for LA on special teams both on the PP & PK which the Hawks definitely need and provides a physical style of play. On the Kings he had 165 hits which was among the highest in the league. He is a monster in the Face-off circle at 55% in the regular season & 50% in the playoffs which would add the Hawks puck possession style.
Weaknesses – Stoll’s goal production in the regular season was not high. During the regular season Stoll only had 6 goals and 15 assists. For a second line center this may not be enough offensive power but on a team like the Blackhawks it maybe enough given all the skill on the wings.
Stoll would probably be centering Hossa and Sharp which, would be more than enough fire power up front. The Hawks could also go the route of pairing with Hossa on the RW and either prospects Brandon Saad or Phillip Danault on the LW. This lineup would give the youngsters some solid two-way veteran presence between Stoll and Hossa. As GM I would pursue Stoll vigorously, will he be overpaid probably but the Hawks need to beef up on the forward lines. Stoll probably will want 5-6 million a year which is high considering that is what Toews and Kane get. Where would I get the money for this? Well remember we had 6.8 left last year because of Brian Campbell. Stoll could just be the ticket punch the Hawks need to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals. He would be my first choice among the UFAs to try to bring to Chicago.
Likelihood of happening: Unlikely due to salary cap
Paul Gaustad is currently with the Nashville Predators who were just ousted out of the Western Conference semi-finals against the Phoenix Coyotes. Remember Gaustad was brought in by Nashville at the trade deadline to push the Predators over to win the Stanley Cup which did not happen. Nashville now faced with salary cap issues will have to unload some salary as most of their roster will be either UFAs or RFAs. His current cap hit is 2.3mil
Strengths – Gaustad like Stoll is a big, physical forward with good net front presence. He is 30 yrs old and at 6’5” 212 lb and again would give the Hawks some good size up front. He would be tremendous up front screening the goalies. Gaustad is a face-off master. He had a whopping face-off circle percentage of 57% in the regular season & 60% in the playoffs need I say more.
Weaknesses – Gaustad’s goal production in the regular season and playoffs was not high. . For a second line center this may not be enough offensive power but again on a team like the Blackhawks with Hossa, Kane and Sharp it may be enough.
Gaustad if Nashville does not bring him back his services could be secured for 3 -4 mil which is more reasonable than Stoll. As GM I would pursue Gaustad but would not pay more than 3.5 mil for him.
Likelihood of happening: Slight I think Stan will feel that 3.5 mil is too much to pay for him. He didn’t want to pay 2.3mil at the trade deadline just 3 months so why would he want to pay more now.
Ollie Jokinen is currently with the Calgary Flames who did not make the playoffs this year. I am not in favor of Jokinen but must mention him as he is considered a top UFA this year. I think Jokinen is one-dimensional with great offensive game but lacking on the defensive side. I think he is too much finesse which the Hawks already have enough of. His current cap hit is 3 mil.
Strengths – Jokinen has great numbers on the offensive side with 61 points. He ha 21 goals and 38 assists during the regular season. He also brings some good size at 6’2” 210 lbs. There is no denying Jokinen is an offensive machine and paired on a line with Hossa the pair could put up monster numbers. Remember too that the Flames are not a very good team so Jokinens numbers are all the more impressive. He could help the anemic power play right away.
Weaknesses – Jokinen’s age at 33 may make him too old for the Hawks long term. He could come in as a short-term solution however. Jokinen is not good in the face-off circle with a percentage of 47%. Also his +/- ranking is not the best at -12 which could leave the Hawks vulnerable defensively.
I’m not sure how long of a deal Jokinen is seeking. if I was the Hawks I would not give a long-term contract due to his age and injury. if Jokinen wants that elusive cup he may be willing to settle on a short-term deal to achieve this. Calgary has a large number of UFAs and RFAs so they will most likely need to unload Jokinen. Asking price will be dictated by interest and there are tons of teams that need more offence which I think will make him too expensive for the Hawks. He will probably want close to 4-6 mil which is way more than I would be willing to pay.
Likelihood of happening: Not likely
I should mention that Jason Arnott of St. Louis Blues will be a UFA that the Hawks should also consider. He has excellent Face-off and defensive skills and would improve Hawks up the middle. Another less sexy pick would be Kyle Wellwood of the Winnepeg Jets who had a monster year statistically for him. He ended the regular season with 18G/39A for 47 points with a 54% FOW. Whether or not this was an anomaly or not his price tag could make him a desirable alternative. His current cap hit is only 700K and he is only 28 yrs old.
In the next installment I will look at potential centers the Hawks could trade for due to teams falling short of their goals or cap space issues. I will also look at who the Hawks could offer up to get these centers. Til then happy puck drops.
All cap references were taken from http://www.capgeek.com