One of the Blackhawks’ biggest forwards wants to stay in the Windy City.
That’s what Bryan Bickell told the Chicago Tribune over the weekend, saying he’d love to stick with the Blackhawks for the long haul.
“I’d be more than happy to be back here,” Bickell, a UFA this summer, explained. “It’s where I started when I got drafted in 2004. I don’t want to be shipped around the league. I want to be with one team. The core guys here I’ve been with for a long time.
“Hopefully, I can have my career here.”
At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Bickell’s a physically imposing presence that’s turned into one of Chicago’s most versatile forwards, skating on the third line with Viktor Stalberg and Andrew Shaw.
After a frustrating 2011-12 campaign — his goal production dipped from 17 in 2010-11 to just nine — Bickell’s rebounded nicely this season, scoring 6G-10A-16PTS in 28 games while averaging 12:30 per game.
He also leads the team in hits (61) and, according to Chris Kuc of the Tribune, possesses “arguably the best wrist shot on the ‘Hawks.”
The big question will be if Bickell plays the market this summer.
Though his allegiances clearly lie with Chicago, he only recently turned 27 and is coming off a fairly modest contract (three years, $1.625 million) where he made $541,667 annually.
Given he seems to be on the verge of “putting it all together,” a team could be prepared to offer him a sizable raise.
That said, Chicago could also up the ante, as GM Stan Bowman clearly recognizes what he’s got in Bickell.
“He’s played great this year,” Bowman told the Tribune. “He’s kind of coming into his own. Originally, it was learning what it was like to be just to be in the lineup every night and now it’s more than that. He wants to be a difference-maker. He’s got a role and he’s playing that role.
“As a result, it’s noticeable how that line in particular seems to be quite effective. Some nights they’re our best line and he’s a big part of it.”