It’s free agency madness that’s taking over the NHL world today and for a lot of teams that means getting into crazy bidding wars for players that you might not expect to see a lot of bids on. Offers will be bandied about and figures will be exchanged all around and we’re sure there’s going to be more than a few guys that end up making a ton of money leaving us to scratch our heads about what we’ve done with our lives.
One team that’s been in that position once before where they left the world staggered by the money they handed out is Chicago. Think back to past deals that saw them give Brian Campbell an eight-year $57 million deal and Marian Hossa a 12-year, $63 million free agent contract. Those deals set the NHL world on fire for both their length and dollar amounts. We’ve already gotten a taste for some of that madness already (right Buffalo?) but the Blackhawks aren’t eager to dip in like that this time around.
Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times gets the word from Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman that going wild in this year’s free agency market isn’t something they’re eager to do as they’d rather find a certain kind of player.
As Bowman sees it, the Hawks have enough top-caliber skill with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Dave Bolland up front and Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook on the blue line. So as far as free agents, think in terms of Maxime Talbot instead of Richards.
“We’re looking for a certain style of player,” Bowman said. “If you’re looking for a No. 1 center or that kind of player, maybe [the free-agent class] is not as strong. That’s debatable. But we haven’t been focusing on that because we’re comfortable with the players we have in those roles. We’re trying to get a different kind of player into our mix here. It’s a good group for that.”
That’s not to say he won’t try to sign players capable of being among the top six forwards.
“A player that can play in your top six doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to make huge dollars,” Bowman said. “There are certain players that we have in mind that we think could play with our top guys.”
Certain players like Talbot or Carolina’s Erik Cole might be the brand of player Bowman is talking about. After scoring 26 goals last year and being one of the more clutch guys in the league, Cole has the sort of talent where he could blend in beautifully on Chicago’s second line. The price, however, has to be right. The Hawks showed already that they’re willing to pony up nicely for a guy that will fit in with them well as they gave defenseman Steve Montador a sweet deal for four years and $11 million. That might be coughing up a lot for a player of his caliber, but it’s the going rate this offseason.
As for who else might end up on their radar along with guys like Talbot and Cole, Phoenix’s Vernon Fiddler is another interesting person to watch as they might look to secure that third line centerman to help establish Dave Bolland as their full time second line center. Either Fiddler or Talbot would fit that description well, but they won’t be cheap and that’s where the pitfalls of this year’s free agent market come in. Crazy money will be thrown around, but don’t expect Chicago to be market breakers any more than they already have been.
An injury to Trevor van Riemsdyk has paved the way for Michal Rozsival to make his season debut for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Rozsival might’ve been scheduled to play anyway, as the veteran defenseman is expected to replace Michal Kempny when the ‘Hawks host the Flames tonight at United Center.
“We want to get everyone in at some point,” said head coach Joel Quenneville, per the Chicago Tribune. “We don’t want to wait too long to get him into the season here. He can be useful, gives us some experience and can play minutes against top guys.”
At 38, Rozsival is one of the oldest players in the NHL. When the ‘Hawks re-signed him for another year, it came as a surprise to many. And by the time training camp rolled around, even he wasn’t exactly sure what his role would be this season.
But not surprisingly, after last season, GM Stan Bowman would rather err on the side of too much depth on the back end.
“It’s funny, because we had these [interviews] a year ago and they were always saying, ‘Are you worried about your defense? Do you have enough depth there?'” Bowman said, per the Sun-Times. “And now you’re saying we have too much depth. I think no matter what the story is, there’s a story line to it. But I’d rather have more guys who can play. Are we going to be healthy all year long? I hope so. But I don’t know if we will. … The thing with Michal, even last year, he just played too much consecutively. He still has a lot of hockey left.”
Related: Blackhawks’ issues go beyond the penalty kill
Calgary head coach Glen Gulutzan made a noteworthy decision over the weekend, opting to sit No. 1 netminder Brian Elliott against his former team, the St. Louis Blues, in favor of backup Chad Johnson.
The move didn’t pay off. Calgary lost 6-4, with Johnson allowing five goals on 39 shots.
So now, Elliott is back in goal was the Flames take on the ‘Hawks tonight at the United Center.
Acquired to fix the goaltending issues that plagued Calgary all of last season, Elliott has gone 0-3-0 with an .839 save percentage and 4.72 GAA.
Not good, obviously — especially for a 31-year-old pending UFA that’s looking to score a contract extension.
The Flames will hope that Elliott’s former goalie partner, Jake Allen, is something of a psychic. Over the weekend, Allen predicted that Elliott “will find his game very soon,” and tonight would be a good night for that to happen — Chicago’s offense has been firing over the last four games, finding the back of the net 16 times.
That said, the ‘Hawks are facing issues of their own.
They’ll give Corey Crawford the start tonight.
— Just one other game on the ledger, as the Flyers will take on the Habs in Montreal. Philly is going with Steve Mason, who allowed three goals on 30 shots in a win over Carolina on Saturday. The Canadiens are going with Carey Price, who allowed two goals on 21 shots in a win over Boston on Saturday.
His official status hasn’t changed, but Sidney Crosby wasn’t wearing a no-contact jersey at Penguins practice today, and that’s progress.
“Sid is day-to-day, as he has been. We’ll take tomorrow as it comes,” head coach Mike Sullivan said, per the club’s website. “It’s obviously a big step when he joins the group. To have him join the group in a full-contact practice like that is encouraging from our standpoint.”
Crosby has not played this season due to a concussion. There remains no timetable for his return, and the Pens aren’t going to rush their captain. But the way things have been progressing, don’t be surprised if he plays pretty soon. The Penguins host Florida tomorrow and the Islanders Thursday, then it’s off to Philadelphia for a game Saturday before embarking on a three-game trip to California.
“I got the OK to go out there and be in a full practice,” Crosby said. “It was just good to be back on the ice with the guys. It’s not easy watching. To be out there was nice and hopefully a good step.”
He hasn’t been perfect, but Peter Budaj has been good enough to give the Kings a two-game winning streak. Now the 34-year-old goalie is just hoping to keep it going, while Jonathan Quick and Jeff Zatkoff recover from their groin injuries.
“I just want to take it one game at a time,” Budaj said, per LA Kings Insider. “I know it’s a cliché and you guys probably hate it when players say that, but it is true. You just want to look up one game ahead, and that’s what you want to look at. We won today, we’re very happy, but we’ve just got to regroup, come back to work.”
Again, Budaj hasn’t been perfect. His save percentage is just .889, which isn’t very good at all.
But for a guy who’d started just one NHL game since the 2013-14 season, simply playing well enough to give his team a chance to win is about all that could be asked, and on that he’s delivered. He was a perfect three-for-three in Saturday’s shootout versus Vancouver, recovering nicely after allowing a late goal to send the game to overtime.
Next up for the Kings is a home game tomorrow against Columbus. After that comes a visit from Nashville, and then it’s off on a two-game trip to St. Louis and Chicago.
“There are a lot of tough games coming up for us, so we’ve got to just be ready and work hard and try to focus on the next game and don’t look too far ahead,” said Budaj, “because then you’re going to get caught in the moment and the present’s going to kind of slip away from you, so you’ve just got to focus on the present.”