Chicago, IL — I once wrote that Stan Bowman made as many fancy stickhandling moves as Patrick Kane only with a pen rather than a hockey stick. Lately this could not be truer with the cap situation being what it is.
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane’s new contracts kicking in next year coupled with several players needing to be resigned has forced GM Stan Bowman and his team into some creative maneuvers to keep the Hawks a viable Stanley Cup competitive team.
The Blackhawks are not leaving any stone unturned. Credit should be given to Stan Bowman and his team of Mark Kelley – Director of amateur scouting and Ryan Stewart director Pro scouting and Matts Hallin European scouting and I’m sure there are tons more that I’m leaving off, my apologies, that have put in countless hours going from the smallest of towns no one has heard of to the farthest corners of the earth looking for untapped, unsigned hockey gems. It truly takes a village to mold a hockey team.
Hats also must be tipped to Barry Smith and his team, who are in charge of player development and the coaches in Rockford as well for taking raw talents and preparing them for the NHL and the Chicago Blackhawks systems and style of play.
It is no secret that next year some high paid salaries will need to be moved it is just a matter of economics. Bowman and his team are trying to make the transition as painless as possible while still building around a core that is still in it’s prime. It remains to be seen if this mission will be accomplished but you have to applaud the bold moves the Hawks are taking.
Stan Bowman made some signings this year with Patrick Kane’s injury that afforded him the rare luxury of extra cap money. Kimmo Timonen, Andrew Desjardins & Antoine Vermette were all brought on board whether or not they stay will remain to be seen but credit Bowman with attempting to put his team in the best possible position to make the playoffs.
Starting at home and looking to the college ranks the Hawks made several signings with RW Kyle Baun, C Tanner Kero and D Michael Paliotta. If you have not been able to catch these players’s games in school the scouting reports on them can be found on Hockey Futures or Elite Prospects.
Kyle Baun if you caught some of the last regular season Hawks games you got a glimpse of this kid and he fit right in and was not out of place. The book on him is he is a big kid that uses his size to his advantage and is very hard to knock off the puck. He also has good speed for his size and attended training camps with the Red Wings and Bruins. Hockey Futures has him ranked in the top 10 free agents and the Hawks were able to land him with a 2yr ELC. It was reported several clubs were interested in Baun like the Wings, Oilers, Jets and Flames and probably more. Credit Stan Bowman with landing this much sought after prospect.
Tanner Kero if you caught any of Michigan Tech’s games you saw a very skilled high hockey IQ forward. He finds open space and makes plays. Kero is also a solid two way player. The Blackhawks laid out their development plan for this prospect and apparently it was to his liking and was able to snatch the free agent. He was lighting it up offensively in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs upon joining the team. You can catch Tanner with the Rockford IceHogs helping them in their playoff quest for the Calder Cup.
Michael Paliotta is a stay at home big defenseman that came from Vermont University that the Hawks recently signed. The Hawks drafted him in 2011 in the 3rd round. Paliotta played with the Blackhawks in the last regular season game and did not look out of place. Paliotta brings size and good skating speed for a big man coupled with being responsible defensively. Stan Bowman and his team needed to sign Pailiotta to avoid another Kevin Hayes situation and having him hit the free agency market. Good on Stan for getting the job done. All of these NCAA prospects were give 2 year entry level contracts.
Now from Europe the Blackhawks have signed on two very interesting players. The Hawks first signed Erkan Gustafsson who is a big Swedish defenseman coming from Frolunda in the SHL. The Edmonton Oilers held his rights, but became a FA when he didn’t sign with the Oilers. His scouting report says he has high offensive abilities particularly his shot from the point. He has a quick release and accurate shot. Hmm sounds like a point man on the power play to me.
Perhaps the biggest excitement of the past week, justifiably so, was had when twitter got word that Russian forward sensation Artemi Panarin LW signed with the Blackhawks as a Free Agent to a 2 year ELC. Panarin brings a dynamic offensive presence ala Patrick Kane. There were several teams wanting Panarin ‘s skills like the Penguins, Flames, Canadiens & Maple Leafs were all rumored to have had interest.
Panarin is an offensive virtuoso and you can tell from Stan Bowman’s speaking it is a huge coo that Panarin choose Chicago. Go to Chicago Blackhawks website to listen to Stan speaking about the recent signings. He will fit perfectly with all the skilled talent on this team. Bowman said that with Panarin having accomplished a lot in the KHL he was looking for new challenges and to take the logical next step to the NHL.
Selecting the Blackhawks is big for a team with cap limitations like the Blackhawks. The Hawks it is rumored gave an out clause, if Panarin does not make the Hawks, which if you You Tube him is highly unlikely, he could go back and play in the KHL. This clause probably sealed the deal. It actually is a very low risk for both sides and you have to click your pens to Bowman for coming up with creative solutions and being able to close deals for the Blackhawks.
If you want to catch a glimpse of Panarin tune in to the IIHF Worlds where he is playing for team Russia and you will see the adeptness of his hands and good shot and overall offensive talent.
I rarely am excited for next season when my team is going for a Stanley Cup. That being said this past week has me very excited for next year and all the moves the Hawks have made I can’t wait til prospects camp and training camp. We also should remember that there are boatloads of talent in Rockford that the Hawks have drafted like Danault, McNeill, Ross, Hartman, Johns ect… the list is endless which, should have Hawks fans excited.
The Chicago Blackhawks are exciting on the ice but the Hawks are becoming exciting off the ice as well with all their moves with free agents. When you have all the other fan bases cursing you, you are doing something right.
Good Luck to all of the recently signed and here is hoping we see you all at the United Center soon.