The Chicago Blackhawks seemed like they were headed into an offseason full of questions after winning the 2013 Stanley Cup, yet they’re being proactive enough that most of them could be answered before July 5.
GM Stan Bowman settled one of the bigger remaining conundrums on Wednesday, signing young defenseman Nick Leddy to a two-year contract. (This post will be updated with the financial terms when they’re available.)
Leddy, 22, is already off to a promising start in his young career. He’s played in every Blackhawks game the past two seasons.
There were some bumps in the road in 2013, however.
He saw almost a five-minute drop in regular season ice time, as he went from averaging 22:05 minutes per night in 2011-12 to 17:25 this season. That 17:25 average went down in the playoffs, too, as he logged just 14:21 per evening.
That might come down to playing less than 10 minutes per night in the last three games of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, leaving some to wonder if he was losing favor with head coach Joel Quenneville.
Still, the general feeling is that the blueliner has a bright future, which is why Chicago retained him today.
Settling Leddy’s contract along with Bryan Bickell’s big deal (after trading Michael Frolik and Dave Bolland) leaves only depth player decisions on Bowman’s plate … unless, of course, the team decides to add an impact free agent or two.
Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.
It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.
The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.
As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.
Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?
The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.
This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.
Zack Kassian may have avoided major injuries stemming from his Sunday car accident, but it likely sent the signal that he may need help.
The response: he was placed in Stage Two of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH) of the NHL and NHLPA on Monday.
According to the league’s release, Kassian “will be suspended without pay until cleared for on-ice competition by the program administrators.”
Speaking of being suspended without pay, here’s a key detail:
The 24-year-old ended up with a broken nose and broken foot from that accident. The 2015-16 season was set to be his first campaign in the Montreal Canadiens organization after a tumultuous time with the Vancouver Canucks.
Kassian spoke of becoming more mature heading to Montreal, but the Canadiens were critical of his actions, wondering how many wake-up calls someone can get.
In case you’re wondering about the difference between stage one and two: