Blackhawks should be a legit Cup contender next season, even with salary cap purge

blackhawksback.jpgWith all the Chicago Blackhawks Doomsday talk in the air, it’s easy to forget that the team still has some major talent in place. In fact, if the team is able to retain goalie Antti Niemi, you could make the argument that the core is still intact.

Seriously, just take a look at who’s left. At the forward position, they still have their very best players: Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp remain while a few leftover support players include Troy Brouwer and Dave Bolland. Their defense features important pieces such as Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and even highly paid Brian Campbell. The team needs to either retain Niemi or find a suitable replacement, but if they indeed ship Cristobal Huet to the minors they might be out of the salary cap abyss. looks at how the Blackhawks still might be one of the Cup favorites, even with all those changes.

Jack Skille doesn’t have to go far to hear about there being “no way” the Chicago Blackhawks will defend their Stanley Cup title after saying goodbye to multiple key players this summer.

All he has to do is answer his phone.

“I’ve got my own buddy saying that to me,” said the 23-year old Skille, a winger who will get his first shot to play a full NHL season in Chicago after being drafted in 2005. “I’ve got my best buddy since I was 6-years-old saying that to me. He’s like, ‘Nah, there’s no way. There’s no way.’ I get into arguments with him. I’ll say ‘Yeah … we will.'”

That’s because Skille, like his soon-to-be Hawks teammates, genuinely believes there is still enough talent left behind to remain one of the NHL’s top teams again. Judging by the noise level in the Chicago Hilton Friday during the opening ceremony of this year’s Blackhawks fan convention, many fans also are believers.

When you look at the list of players who were jettisoned, most were depth guys. Sure, Dustin Byfuglien rocked it on the first line with Kane and Toews during the playoffs, but he shuffled around the lineup plenty of times over the last couple years. Kris Versteeg possesses some solid offensive talent, but can you really say he was an essential player to Chicago?

Losing players such as John Madden will hurt, but it more or less makes the Blackhawks a “normal” NHL team instead of an embarrassment of riches. They won’t be able to bludgeon you with their absurd depth anymore, but Chicago still brings plenty to the table as a top-end team too.

In other words, don’t count out the ‘Hawks next season.

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    Daniel Winnik was back at practice just two days after his ear got ‘chewed up’

    WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 04: Daniel Winnik #26 of the Washington Capitals skates against the New York Rangers at the Verizon Center on March 4, 2016 in Washington, DC. The Rangers defeated the Capitals 3-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Hockey players are known for their toughness, but Daniel Winnik is taking it to a whole new level.

    The damage was done after Winnik blocked a shot against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.

    After the game, Caps head coach Barry Trotz said his forward had lost a piece of his ear, but it sounds like that wasn’t totally accurate.

    “I wouldn’t say I lost a piece of it,” said Winnik, per the Washington Post. “I mean, it’s really chewed up, and obviously some scabs and all of that, but no visible missing piece…The puck hit basically half ear, maybe a little more ear than helmet. Very fortunate it wasn’t way worse.”

    He didn’t need any stitches, but they did have to use some glue to patch him up.

    To watch how his ear got “chewed up,” click here.

    It doesn’t sound like the injury did enough to scare Winnik into putting on a visor or an earpiece.

    “I mean, my face has been banged up a lot over the years, and I still haven’t worn a visor. I mean I’ve probably broken my nose like 15 times or something. I just can’t wear it, and the earpieces, I think you’re just used to wearing it for so long without it. I mean you take them out you’re like, ‘Why the hell was I wearing earpieces in the first place?’ But I guess this is kind of an indication on why guys do.”

    ‘We’ve got a lot of guys sick’: Some Predators players have been hit hard by food poisoning

    SUNRISE, FL - SEPTEMBER 27: Head coach Peter Laviolette of the Nashville Predators talks to the players during a break in action against the Florida Panthers during a preseason game at the BB&T Center on September 27, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

    Here’s a story you don’t see everyday.

    Nashville Predators GM David Poile might have to scramble to put a roster together for tonight’s game against Pittsburgh because a few of his players are dealing with food poisoning.

    During yesterday’s game against the Red Wings, both Ryan Johansen and Craig Smith were forced to exit early because of illness.

    Now we know that the illnesses were caused by something the players ate (Poile believes it was chicken soup that caused this).

    We still don’t know exactly how many players have been affected by this.

    Playing two games in two nights is hard enough, but it sounds like it’ll be even tougher for the Preds tonight.

    James Neal, Roman Josi and P.K. Subban are all fine, according to Brooks Bratten.

    More details to come.

    Lower-body injury will keep Ryan Pulock out for 4-6 weeks

    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 21: Ryan Pulock #6 of the New York Islanders skates against the Arizona Coyotes at the Barclays Center on October 21, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Well, this isn’t the start to the season Ryan Pulock was hoping for.

    After playing six games with the Islanders during last year’s playoffs, many expected Pulock to make the team out of training, but that didn’t happen.

    He didn’t spend much time in the minors (two games) because of the injury to Nick Leddy.

    Pulock made his season debut in last night’s game against Arizona. Unfortunately for him, he suffered a lower-body injury after playing just 3:57.

    On Saturday, the team announced that Pulock will be out anywhere between 4-to-6 weeks.

    If Leddy can’t play on Sunday, the Islanders will have to recall another defenseman from the minors. Because they’re carrying three goalies, they only have room for six blue liners.

    With Tuukka Rask banged up, Bruins recall Zane McIntyre on emergency basis

    BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 22: Zane McIntyre #50 of the Boston Bruins makes a save against the Washington Capitals during the second period at TD Garden on September 22, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    The Boston Bruins recalled goalie Zane McIntyre on an emergency basis on Saturday morning.

    The call up was necessary because it doesn’t look like starter Tuukka Rask will be able to suit up against the Montreal Canadiens tonight.

    Rask missed Friday’s practice with what head coach Claude Julien described as “general body soreness,” but it might be a little more serious than that if he’s forced to miss multiple games.

    According to Julien, Rask is feeling better, but the prefer giving him the night off.

    The Bruins selected McIntyre in the sixth-round of the 2010 Entry Draft.

    He’s never suited up in an NHL game before.

    The 24-year-old turned pro last year, after spending three years at the University of North Dakota.

    He had a 14-8-7 record with a 2.68 goals-against-average and a .898 save percentage with Providence in 2015-16. This season, he has a 0.44 goals-against and a .977 save percentage in three games.

    It’s interesting to note that the Bruins preferred McIntyre to former first rounder Malcolm Subban.

    Subban has an 0-3 record in the AHL this year and he’s been pulled in two of his three outings.