It’s been a fun week for the Blackhawks but there is a lot of work to be done in a short amount of time with the NHL Draft today and free agency starting later this week.
The Blackhawks got off to an early start by using both of their compliance buyouts. They bought out Rostislav Olesz and Steve Montador which cleared up around $5 million on the salary cap. According to capgeek.com, the Blackhawks have $7.837 million in cap space. Here is a list of free agents that the Blackhawks have.
Bryan Bickell- There is no doubt that Bickell is the number one priority for the Blackhawks. Stan Bowman has already said they are going to try to keep him. After his nine goal and 17 point performance, Bickell is due a hefty pay raise. If the Blackhawks are going to keep Bickell, they need to resign him before he hits the open market. Otherwise some team is going to snatch him up by overpaying for him. It’s hard to find power forwards that can score especially when the Blackhawks gave away Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien after the 2010 season. Bickell will be a priority and if they can get him to come in at slightly under $3 million, it will be a steal.
Viktor Stalberg- Stalberg has great speed and can change a defense. But he seemed to be in the doghouse of Joel Quenneville in the playoffs and was a healthy scratch for several games. Stalberg has already said he wants more opportunities and with the Blackhawks stacked at the forward position, the opportunity doesn’t exist in Chicago. Stalberg won’t be back.
Marcus Kruger- Kruger is a restricted free agent and the Blackhawks will definitely make a qualifying offer. This is one of Bowman’s guys that he trumpeted after the 2010 season. Kruger was an important part of the Blackhawks as his penalty killing allowed the Blackhawks to save the stars from having to play heavy minutes on the penalty kill. Kruger will be back and might get a chance to move up to the third line possibly.
Michal Handzus- Bowman was able to get a steal for a fourth round pick. Handzus was able to fill in and serve on the second line in the playoffs which was an unexpected benefit from a guy expected to be a faceoff guy and fourth liner. Handzus was huge in the playoffs and recorded three goals and eight assists. At 36, Handzus won’t command a huge contract and his veteran presence could be beneficial for the Blackhawks. Handzus will probably come cheap and the Blackhawks should resign him as he could provide center depth which the Blackhawks don’t have.
Jamal Mayers- Never played a game in the regular season but was a voice in the locker room. His most noticeable accomplishments in the year were fighting Raffi Torres, shooting at the Detroit net in warm-ups when the Blackhawks were down and calling out the Blackhawks in the locker room. At 38, Mayers has said he might retire as a champion. Even if he doesn’t, he might not be back if the Blackhawks resign Handzus. It will probably only be one or the other for the Blackhawks.
Nick Leddy- A restricted free agent for the Blackhawks. Leddy brings great speed to the Blackhawks and suits their puck possession game. However, he was sitting on the bench for the second part of the Stanley Cup Final as Quenneville shortened up his bench. In the final three games, Leddy played a total of 12:55 including a career low of 2:37 in Game 4 in Boston. Leddy had two assists in the playoffs and was a minus 8 after recording 6 goals and 12 assists in the regular season. Leddy is still developing and you don’t find 22 year old defensemen with his speed. He will be back.
Michal Rozsival- Rozsival was huge for the Blackhawks. He was signed in September before the lockout and was able to become an integral part of the Blackhawks. Rozsival played almost 20 minutes in the playoffs while recording 4 assists and being a plus nine. He will be 35 at the start of the season and Rozsival would be huge for the Blackhawks to have back as he would provide depth in case Leddy struggles. However with several young defensemen ready to come up to the team, he might not be back. But if they can get Rozsival at a discount from his $2 million salary this season, he would be beneficial to the Blackhawks.
Ray Emery- Emery had a phenomenal regular season. He went 17-1 with a goals against average of 1.94 and a .922 save percentage with three shutouts. Emery allowed the Blackhawks to be able to have the luxury to rest both goaltenders and not have to ride one goalie. Emery will go down as the winningest goalie in the regular season to never play a second in the playoffs. Emery made $1.15 million and turning 31 at the start of the season deserves another shot to be a starting goaltender in the NHL. He won’t get that here and will probably have to compete wherever he signs. The Blackhawks would love to have Emery back but with the signing of Antti Raanta, Emery will be on another team.