UA-59049186-1 Blackhawks Off-season 2018: Draft and Free Agency - Good if it Goes

Blackhawks Off-season 2018: Draft and Free Agency

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After a difficult 2017-18 campaign that saw the team largely fall apart after losing Corey Crawford to a mystery malady, the Blackhawks are looking to rebuild and get back to their winning ways. How far away they are is up for debate: was this a lousy team altogether or would they have been at least okay if Crow had been healthy? Before we get any further, let’s look at the prediction from the season’s preview blog:

The way last year ended was disappointing, but 109 points doesn’t happen by accident. Losing Marian Hossa to LTIR, Trevor van Riemsdyk to the expansion draft, and Marcus Kruger to the cap hurt, to be sure – the Hawks don’t have immediately replacements for Hoss and TvR and while Kero should be a solid 4C, he doesn’t replace what Kruger gives you on the PK.

True. Replace “Kero” with anyone that played at 4C last year, and it remains true.

Panarin for Saad was an upgrade

It wasn’t.

and I think Hjalmarsson for Murphy will be no worse than a slight downgrade and at the very least, that trade puts the team in a much better financial position going forward.

It wasn’t.

Nick Schmaltz seems ready to make the leap and having Kaner next to him can only help.

Yep.

Don’t be surprised if Hartzy has a big year, too.

Got traded to Nashville for a draft pick. It was a first-rounder, though.

If the (projected) third line (Sharp – Anisimov – DeBrincat) hits its ceiling, this will be an elite offense. If they don’t, the offense should still be very good.

One guy hit his ceiling, another was fine, the third, well, thanks for everything Sharpie and congrats on a nice career. Can’t call the offense “very good” last year.

I’m far less bullish on the defense – there are only three proven hands there. The team will need a big year out of Crow. I think he’s up to the task, but still, don’t expect many 1-0 wins.

Correct.

This is a playoff team. Last year’s 109-point division win may not be repeated, but I don’t think this team will be sweating it out at the end of the year, either. In the NHL, anything can happen in the playoffs and the Hawks still possess much of what got them three Cups in six years. Still, they’ll be looking to make anything happen instead of staving off the anything. 104 points, 2nd place Central Division, Western Conference finalist.

I think this was more or less right. I don’t know if they get to 104 points with a healthy Crawford, but 96 gets them in the playoffs, and I think they at least get there. From there, it’s a first-round match-up with Nashville or Vegas. In either case, it probably doesn’t end well. What you think of this team as it currently stands depends on how bad you think the goaltending situation was last year. That they tried everything they could to not play Anton Forsberg says something about something. Enough people were talking about Forsberg potentially being Crawford’s successor that John Wiedeman and Troy Murray mentioned that possibility on stage at the fan fest prior to last year’s draft and they still gave Jeff Glass and Jean-Francois Berube legitimate chances to win the job and then neither did. That’s why it’s too quick to call the defense a total dumpster fire. Guys ended up passing up chances to make good plays to make safe ones because they knew they couldn’t trust whoever was in net. The unit needs work, to be sure, and the front office clearly knows that, as evidenced by their early draft selections, but I don’t think it’s impossible that the current group can be at least fine with a quality netminder behind them.

The draft

Round 1, pick 8 – D Adam Boqvist

I like Boqvist a lot. His ceiling is very high. He doesn’t even turn 18 for a little over a month yet. He’s a skilled skater and excellent with the puck on his stick. He had nearly a point a game for Byrnas IF’s U20 club last year…but only 3 points in 22 appearances between the SHL club and Almtuna IS of HockeyAllSvenskan, the second-biggest league in Sweden. Also, his defense needs some work. But the Hawks did sign him, almost certainly just to play a role in his development, as Boqvist is expected to play in Sweden again this year going to play in the OHL (good – get used to the North American ice sheet), but the fact that they signed him at all says they think he might be ready next year, which would be nice. I would still like an explanation as to why they didn’t try to make a trade with Arizona to move up to 5 and snag Quinn Hughes, though.

Round 1, pick 27 – D Nicolas Beaudin

Another smaller defenseman who’s got some offensive chops, can skate, and can move the puck. Beaudin will need a year or two before we can even begin thinking about seeing him in the NHL, but his ceiling looks awfully high once he gets there. He had a nice 12-57-69 line in 68 games with Drummondville in the QMJHL last year. I’m notsure I wouldn’t have taken his teammate, Joe Veleno, here.

Round 3, pick 69 – C Jake Wise

A solid skater with great hands and high upside, Wise had an 11-32-43 line for the USNTDP last year. He’ll be attending Boston University this year and will likely need to spend a couple years there before we start talking about making the leap to the NHL.

Round 3, pick 74 – RW Niklas Nordgren

Last year: 13-29-42 in 28 games with HIFK U-20 in the Junior A SM-liiga, 0-3-3 in 15 games with HIFK in the Liiga.

Round 4, pick 120 – C Philipp Kurashev

Last year: 19-41-60 in 59 games with Quebec of the QMJHL.

Round 5, pick 139 – C Mikael Hakkarainen

Last year: 15-31-46 in 36 games with Muskegon of the USHL. Committed to Providence.

Round 6, pick 162 – G Alexis Gravel

Last year: .890 SV%, 3.38 GAA in 39 games with Halifax of the QMJHL.#3 North American goalie in this year’s draft per Central Scouting.

Round 7, pick 193 – LW Josiah Slavin

Last year: 23-19-42 in 60 games with Lincoln of the USHL. Committed to Colorado College

Free Agency

LW Chris Kunitz – 1 year, $1M AAV

Had a 13-16-29 line in 82 games with Tampa Bay last year. Best case scenario: he does that again and is a solid bottom 6 forward. Worst-case scenario: he takes over for Patrick Sharp as the old guy who’s adopted Chicago as his home (his wife’s from here) but now stinks.

G Cam Ward – 1 year, $3M AAV

Wasn’t particularly good in Carolina last year (.906 SV%, 2.73 GAA in 43 games), but could benefit from playing in a Chicago system that won’t hang him out to dry quite as much. Maybe he can see a major career uptick akin to Ray Emery’s in 2013, but that team was a lot more solid defensively and deeper overall than this one, so I’m not banking on that. However, he should still be at least fine. If Crawford’s not 100%, it obviously still significantly hurts the team’s chances of doing anything this year, but with Ward in net, the goalie position won’t be a total dumpster fire like last year.

D Brandon Manning – 2 years, $2.25M AAV

I get taking a chance on Manning. His physical stay-at-home style fits Q’s system. What I don’t get is giving Manning both 2 years and $2.25 million a year because he has a tendency to get real sloppy with the puck. The signing could end up working out if the Hawks’ coaching staff can fix some of his bad habits and get quality second-pair minutes from him. The far more likely scenario, however, is him being a bottom pair guy and possibly an IceHog.

Trades

RW Marian Hossa, F Vinnie Hinostroza, D Jordan Oesterle, and a 3rd-round pick in the 2019 draft to Arizona for C Marcus Kruger, RW MacKenzie Entwistle, C Jordan Maletta, D Andrew Campbell, and a 5th-round pick in 2019

On the plus side, the Hawks dumped Hossa’s salary and didn’t have to give up any major assets to do so. Yeah, I liked Hinostroza, too, but based on what we’ve seen of him thus far, there are a million guys out there like him. The potential to be great is there and sometimes he would show it; he would look really good for a while, like he was on the verge of a major breakout, and then he would just disappear. The Hawks alone had two other guys like that on the team last year.

Now, I’m not thrilled with taking on Marcus Kruger at $2.775M per year. He’s a 4C and that’s it. He’s a very good penalty killer and strong defensively, but that’s all he brings and that’s not enough to justify that much money. MacKenzie Entwistle has NHL potential, but will probably never be much more than a solid bottom 6 guy if that. Maletta and Campbell’s ceilings are probably in Rockford.

One last thing

Sunday, we found out former Blackhawk goalie Ray Emery had passed away having drowned in a swimming accident in Hamilton, Ontario. By all accounts, Emery was a great guy and a great teammate. On the ice, he was a huge part of the spectacular run the Hawks went on in 2013. He will be missed.

 

 

Twitter: @KSchroeder_312

E-mail: schroeder.giig@gmail.com

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