Chicago,IL–With record-setting temperatures in Chicago around the 100+ levels, you had to wonder if Blackhawks’ GM Stan Bowman had stayed out in the sun too long. Was Mr. Bowman suffering from heat stroke during the NHL’s Free Agency that occurred with the start of July? In uncharacteristic fashion the Blackhawks’ GM engaged in the Free Agent frenzy full throttle.
The Blackhawks entered into free agency with some cap space but not a lot. This makes their “impressive offers” to Zach Parise leaving one to scratch your head. Did the Blackhawks even need another winger? Second line Center was thought to be their area of need wasn’t it? Was Stan in the grips of heat induced hysteria?
Is there any logic to making from what I understand was a long-term over 100mil contract offer to someone who the Hawks really didn’t need? Yes there is logic at play here and no Mr. Bowman and the Blackhawks did not stay out in the sun too long. The logic at play here is in making a world-class offer shows several things.
It illustrates that the Blackhawks are committed to winning regardless of costs. It also serves notice to the rest of the league. It shows that they are serious about remaining contenders and are an elite organization always looking for skilled elite players. The Blackhawks want to be a team that is a coveted destination spot for great athletes and they are. If not for hometown heartstrings pulling, what forward could resist playing with Toews, Kane, Hossa & Sharp?
It also maybe camouflage for who their actual targets really are, if any. Stan Bowman has come under a lot of heat over making his team better. If he truly believes that the best options for the Hawks are within their own organization and for a cheaper price tag, then this was a perfect distraction for the Chicago media and fans.
He made the attempted big swing and in his own words “Zach did not grow up in Chicago” so nothing could be done. Logically though do you really think that Stan Bowman didn’t have a clue that Zach Parise and even Ryan Suter would be going to Zach’s home town? Sure he did with all his connections and scouts, he didn’t seriously think the Hawks would get either.
Was this an insincere offer? No, but it was one the Hawks didn’t really think would become a reality. In any business there is politics and gamesmanship and the business side of hockey is no different. The Hawks really wanted Ryan Suter but knew they could not outbid Detroit. What they could do though is drive up the price, which is probably what happened when Suter went back to the Hawks. The Hawks may have been played a little here.
What was the whole Marty Brodeur thing all about and did the Hawks tip their hands in wanting to improve their goaltending situation? Were the Hawks thinking he would mentor Crawford or was it a wake-up call for Crawford? Isn’t that what coaches are for? TSN and the local media and some fans all seem to think Corey Crawford is through in nets for Chicago. Before we read his eulogy, give him a chance. The defense in front of him in the playoffs let him down as well. This will be Crawford’s year to prove himself no doubt about that but lets let him prove himself.
Again Stan Bowman may have just been trying to quench the media and the fans lust for free agency splash and stories and light a fire under Crawford at the same time. I’m sure he knew Brodeur would not be leaving New Jersey after spending his entire career there, 41 is not when you start to make life changes. So now where does this leave the Hawks?
The Hawks are pretty much back to where they left off last year at this point. As Stan pointed out the summer however is long and there maybe moves made. If there are moves left should they be for a second line center, Dman or goalie? There is no question the Hawks need to get better in the face-off dot. Jonathan Toews needs some help here. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook can not continue at the pace their on with their time on ice and remain fresh for the end of the season and into the playoffs.
Are the Hawks desperate about their goaltending they are seriously considering Roberto Luongo which, is the latest rumor. This one is funny because of longevity and the big money on Luongo’s contract. Couple those items with Vancouver being an arch Western Conference rival would leave the Canucks not wanting Luongo to come to Chicago and win a Stanley Cup. If there were riots in Vancouver before can you imagine if that scenario played out. Chalk this one up to rumor only.
The Hawks have finally rid themselves of big contracts can you really see them jumping into another one at a position like goalie that they do not particularly place a high value on? Does not seem to make much sense and giving up Andrew Shaw or any other young prospect doesn’t either which is also rumored.
There are still some free agents left and let us not forget about trades that can still be conjured. Names like Alexander Semin, Bobby Ryan, Rick Nash, Ryan Getzlaf & Evander Kane. So not to worry Hawks fans, there is still some potential splash names left to be had.
There are a number of players also heading into arbitration that could also be candidates for the Hawks as well. There are some interesting names on the arbitration list, most notably Sam Gagner – C from Edmonton, T.J. Oshie-RW from St. Louis and Jamie McGinn-LW from Colorado.
Perhaps the most intriguing name is Nashville’s star defenseman Shea Weber. Weber’s contract does not come up til next year but since the Predators have lost Ryan Suter they are now scared. They made an offer to Weber to lock him down long-term before he even hits free agency. If he rejects this offer and elects to play out his existing contract this year in Nashville hoping to move next year it would be wise of Nashville to trade him now and get something in return. Now this I can see Stan Bowman jumping on with both feet.
If you were getting tingles as a Hawks fan thinking of a back line of Keith, Seabrook and Suter can you even imagine Keith, Seabrook and Weber? No well you never know with how the Blackhawks and Stan Bowman have been going lately. There is no question he would definitely push the Hawks over the top and could be looking for a Cup himself, whether or not the Predators would deal with a division rival that is the question and would Weber share the spotlight with Keith and Seabrook.
For the Hawks fans that are unhappy if the Hawks do nothing. At least the division is weaker with Lidstrom out of Detroit and Suter out of Nashville. The Blackhawks are not exactly the same. Andrew Shaw will be spending the entire season with the Hawks. Hopefully the Hawks will have Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa will be back at full health.
Young prospects like Brandon Saad and Mark McNeill and Jimmy Hayes and IceHog stars like Brandon Pirri & Ben Smith could see time with the Hawks and who knows how their star may rise. Dave Bolland may get a chance to fly at 2nd line center and would that be a bad thing if he centered Hossa and Sharp? Young Dmen Nick Leddy & Dylan Olsen have gained experience on the blue line and the Hawks have added experience in the signings of Oduya and Brookbank.
The summer is usually a long one for most hockey fans without hockey but the Blackhawks are at least making sure they are captivating their fans and giving them fits with all this trade talk. Sports are entertainment and the Hawks are entertaining both on and off the ice.
Whether or not all of this is any more than just PR spin from the Blackhawks marketing machine to keep them in the media and their fans amused in the offseason remains to be seen. After all it is highly unusual for any GM to hold a press conference to the media to talk about free agents they did not get. Let us just hope in the end all this is not just distraction from the main issue getting the Hawks back to the Stanley Cup.