Adam Boqvist

Long-term outlook for Blackhawks: salary cap, prospects, and more

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

Both at age 31 with matching $10.5 million cap hits through 2022-23, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews remain the headliners of the Blackhawks’ core.

While Toews in particular isn’t what he once was, the biggest problem is shaky support.

Duncan Keith is far removed from his prime at age 36, yet his contract ($5.54 through 2022-23) lingers. Quite a bit of this structure has broken down, to the point that it would be preferable for both Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw to stay planted on LTIR.

Credit Stan Bowman with trying to improve a shabby defense. Unfortunately, Bowman whiffed with Olli Maatta, Connor Murphy, and Calvin de Haan to varying degrees. Those three contracts stay on the books through 2021-22.

To Bowman’s credit, he’s experienced significant successes finding forward talent, sometimes off the beaten path. While the Blackhawks galaxy-brained themselves out of Artemi Panarin, they locked up Alex DeBrincat to a team-friendly extension.

One key question remains: can the Blackhawks find the cash to re-sign Corey Crawford? Actually, that folds into other questions. Being that Crawford is 35, should they?

Also, will Dominik Kubalik and/or Dylan Strome become core members, or stay in limbo with “bridge” deals. Can Alex Nylander cement himself? The supporting cast continues to go through auditions as if they’re in Chicago’s Broadway.

Long-Term Needs for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks face plenty of long-term needs.

Still, sometimes the biggest needs go deeper than “scoring depth” and “some actual, above-average NHL defensemen.” The Blackhawks organization needs to let go of the past, even if it means some extra suffering in the present. Otherwise, the future could be plagued by half-measures.

It would be understandable if the Blackhawks struck a short-term deal with Corey Crawford. He quietly put together a surprisingly strong 2019-20, particularly down the stretch.

Yet, how many times should Chicago really go to that nostalgia well? (To say nothing of how tough it might be to fit Crawford under the cap, as Mark Lazerus discussed here [sub required].)

This team needs more difference-makers. Adam Boqvist and other prospects figure to boost the competence of Chicago’s crummy defense, but how much?

Ultimately, the Blackhawks need to add “blue chip” talent, and hope that Boqvist, Kirby Dach, and others fall in that category. By trying to enjoy the best of both worlds of competing while getting some young talent, Chicago risks falling short of both marks. They’ve seemingly accrued good-but-not-great talent, and were moderately competitive but not legitimate contenders.

Pull off the Band-Aid already.

Long-Term Strengths for Blackhawks

As mentioned with Panarin and DeBrincat, the Blackhawks have shown some ability to unearth talent even when they didn’t have no-brainer picks like they did with Kane and Toews. (Panarin was a Euro free agent, DeBrincat went 39th overall in 2016). Dominik Kubalik looks like he could be the latest hidden gem.

Such successes have been a bit of a double-edged sword, as referenced in the long-term needs section. By finding ways to be semi-competitive, the Blackhawks have sometimes added good where a “tank” season may have provided great.

Still, there’s decent talent to work with. DeBrincat, Strome, Kubalik, and maybe Nylander can help on offense. Dach’s development is crucial.

Boqvist ranks as vital on defense, too, but he’s not alone. In ranking Chicago’s prospect pool 12th overall (sub required), The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler frequently listed defensemen. Wheeler highlighted Ian Mitchell almost as much as Boqvist, so help could be coming there. Wheeler’s Athletic colleague Corey Pronman placed Chicago’s under-23 core at a respectable 13th, so it’s not as if there’s nothing beyond Kane and Toews.

Lately, “almost” has been in painful supply for Chicago. An optimist might squint and see how things could break the Blackhawks’ way, but improving this long-term outlook will require more long-term thinking.

MORE BLACKHAWKS:
2019-20 season summary
Surprises and disappointments

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Blues’ Oskar Sundqvist fined $5,000 for roughing Blackhawks’ Boqvist

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced on Monday that St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist has been fined $5,000 for roughing Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Adam Boqvist on Sunday.

The incident happened in the second period and sparked an intense fight during the Blues’ 2-0 win.

You can see the entire sequence in the video above.

As the two players were going for a loose puck along the boards, Sundqvist flung his arm around and basically clotheslined Boqvist in the face, knocking him to the ice. From there, St. Louis’ Vince Dunn and Chicago’s Drake Caggiula dropped the gloves and went at each other.

Sundqvist was given a two-minute minor for elbowing and a two-minute for roughing on the play.

Dunn and Caggiula were each given five-minute majors for fighting.

Related: Dunn, Caggiula fight highlights Blues-Blackhawks violence

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Caggiula-Dunn fight highlights Blackhawks-Blues violence

An awkward collision between Oskar Sundqvist and Adam Boqvist inspired quite the outburst of violence between the Blackhawks and Blues, including a spirited fight between Drake Caggiula and Vince Dunn.

Chalk it up to the storied rivalry between these two Central Division teams, or simply tensions boiling over, but it was quite something.

At first, officials were going to hand Sundqvist a major penalty. After undergoing a review, they bumped it down. Ultimately, Sundqvist received a roughing minor, while Caggiula and Dunn both were whistled for fighting.

One of the most entertaining moments came when Dunn made this face following the fight:

Dunn Caggiula face

Caggiula also played to the crowd nicely after his fight with Dunn:

Caggiula crowd after fight with Dunn

 

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Blackhawks’ Seabrook to return in 5-6 months after latest surgery

Blackhawks
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The Chicago Blackhawks announced that veteran defenseman Brent Seabrook underwent successful hip surgery on Thursday and that he will be ready to return in five-to-six months. That would put him on a timeline to be ready for the start of training camp for the 2020-21 season.

His most recent surgery was his third — both hips, shoulder — over the past six weeks.

He has not played since Dec. 15, while the team announced a couple of weeks later that both he and Calvin de Haan (shoulder injury) would both be out for the season. He appeared in 32 games this season, scoring three goals with one assist.

Blackhawks’ long-term outlook on defense

What Seabrook’s role will look like next season remains to be seen. His play has not only rapidly declined the past few years, but he will be coming off of three major surgeries and be 35 years old when the season begins.

Seabrook still has four more years remaining on a contract that carries a salary cap hit of $6.875 million per season.

The Blackhawks have managed to hang around in the playoff race and play their way back into contention but still have some major flaws and question marks defensively and remain one of the league’s worst teams at preventing shots and scoring chances. The goaltending duo of Robin Lehner and Corey Crawford has helped mask that, but both are free agents after this season and remains to be seen if either one of them will be back next season.

The Blackhawks tried to revamp their defense this offseason with the additions of de Haan and Olli Maatta, but it has not really worked. Almost everyone currently on the defense is signed long-term.

Seabrook, Maatta, de Haan, Connor Murphy and Duncan Keith are all signed for at least the next two full seasons (Seabrook and Keith beyond), while rookie Adam Boqvist remains on his entry-level deal.

Erik Gustafsson, their most productive defenseman offensively over the past two seasons, is an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Buzzer: Kreider improves trade value; McAvoy pushes Bruins past Blackhawks in OT

Mika Zibanejad #93 and Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers celebrate
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Three Stars

1) Chris Kreider, New York Rangers

The power forward tallied a goal and an assist in the Rangers’ 5-3 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He won a faceoff shortly before Mika Zibanejad wired a wrist shot past Michael Hutchinson late in the first period. Then, just six seconds later, Kreider held off Leafs defenseman Justin Holl and converted on a breakaway. The winger is one of the top players available at the NHL trade deadline and performances like this are only driving up the cost. For Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton, it was a sign of relief to see Kreider rebound in a strong way after missing the previous game with an upper-body injury.

2) Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins

It’s a little late to get your first goal of the season but McAvoy was rewarded Wednesday. The steady defenseman charged up ice and raced to the net during the overtime session before tapping in a perfectly-placed pass from Jake DeBrusk to propel the Bruins to a 2-1 overtime victory against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Long Island native beat Jonathan Toews in a foot race to the left of Jaroslav Halak, then skated the length of the ice to complete the play. Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy got caught in a traffic jam at the blueline and was unable to keep pace with McAvoy.

3) Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

It is hard to imagine that David Pastrnak has fallen to third on the NHL goals list this season, but Matthews’ consistent play has helped him climb into second place, for the time being. Matthews scored twice in the Leafs’ loss but is one tally short of reaching the 40-goal mark for the second time in his NHL career. The alternate captain netted a neat backhand and hammered a one-timer when John Tavares delivered a precise cross-ice pass. Toronto has been better since Sheldon Keefe took over behind the bench, but the Eastern Conference playoff race is tightening up real quick and the Maple Leafs cannot afford to miss out on points against below average teams.

Highlights of the Night

Mika Zibanejad and Kreider scored within six seconds of each other to give the Rangers a two-goal advantage near the end of the first period.

David Krejci thought he had an easy goal until Robin Lehner made a ridiculous diving save.

Stat of the Night

Injury News

  • Adam Boqvist went to the locker room midway through the second period after Krejci delivered a nasty check from behind. Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton mentioned he doesn’t think the injury is “anything super serious.”

Scores

New York Rangers 5, Toronto Maple Leafs 3

Boston Bruins 2, Chicago Blackhawks 1 (OT)


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.