Brent Seabrook has been a solid Top 2 d-man and fan favorite in Chicago for some years now and it is time he gets recognized. With Patrick Sharp being traded to Dallas, there is an Alternate Captain spot available and Seabrook is hands down the best guy for it. Seabrook has played 763 dedicated games with the Hawks and has been impressive in every one. He is a shut down defenseman who can also put up solid numbers. Seabrook is a good mentor for the young defensemen on the team and has been on the top of his game. For the first time in his career, he was selected to participate in the NHL All Star Game via fan voting. Seabrook definitely showed up in the post season this year by scoring 7 goals in 23 games. He is also considered a clutch finisher, getting 2 game winning goals in the Hawks Cup run, one being in triple OT. Seabrook has wore the “A” in the past when Sharp or Keith have been injured, but it is time that is permanently stitched onto his jersey. The only other players that should be considered for this spot are Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa. But we all know that #7 deserves it the most.
There is a great possibility that the Blackhawks are going to make more moves this offseason, especially because they are reported to be $400,000 over the leagues $70,900,000 salary cap. But if they didn’t, what would their lines look like? Here is my prediction.
Forward Line 1:
Teravainen – Toews – Hossa
Toews and Hossa are almost guaranteed to be paired on the first line together because they have been for the past few years. Saad completed this line last year, so there is an opening. I think Teravainen deserves top 6 playing time and can learn a lot from playing with Toews and hossa.
Forward Line 2:
Versteeg – Anisimov – Kane
Kane and Versteeg started off last season with great chemistry, but after Versteeg’s injury they did not play the same together. Everyone is hoping they can restore what they had when Versteeg started off last year with 27 points in 34 games. The only problem is they won’t have the same center between them this year, as Richards signed with Detroit. Anisimov is the best fit for this position. You can read my article about the Hawk’s second line center options to find out why.
Forward Line 3:
Garbutt – Dano – Tikhonov
Assuming Bickell is traded, Garbutt can easily replace him even though he is used to playing center. Dano excelled at center for Columbus last year, but I wouldn’t put him on the second line especially after signing Anisimov to a long, lucrative contract extension. Tikhonov has played the last 4 seasons in the KHL. The former first round pick tallied 115 points in 185 games in Russia. He may have the skills to play top 6, but I’d start him on the third line because the transition from the KHL to the NHL is tricky.
Forward Line 4:
Desjardins – Kruger – Shaw
This fourth line played well together in the playoffs last year so there is no reason to break them up.
Bickell – Nordstrom – Morin – Tropp – Hartman – McNeill
Hopefully Bryan Bickell will be traded because of his cap. I believe both Morin and Nordstom will be on the main roster for injury replacement, but will not start. Although both Hartman and McNeill could play in the NHL next year, I believe they will both play one more season in the AHL because the amount of forwards the Hawks have signed. Tropp has no chance at cracking the main roster.
Defense Pairing 1:
Keith – Rundblad
These two were paired for much of the second half of the season and Coach Q liked what he saw. Keith is without a doubt one of the best defensemen in the League, and was a +12 last season. Rundblad learned a lot from playing alongside Keith and was a +17.
Defense Pairing 2:
Hjalmersson – Seabrook
These two also played a good part of last year together. Although Seabrook can play top 2, Coach Q likes to balance out all the lines. this is a defense heavy line that can keep the puck out of their net.
Defense Pairing 3:
Daley – Van Riemsdyk
Daley is a great defenseman to be playing top 6, but he is replacing Oduya. Oduya played on the third line defensive pair for most of last year (Obviously not in the playoffs) even though he could have played higher up. Like I said earlier it is about balance. A veteran like Daley can also help out a young guy like Van Riemsdyk.
Cumiskey is the only other defenseman that the Hawks have signed that is capable of playing in the NHL when there are injuries. It definitely would not hurt for them to sign another depth defenseman from free agency.
There is no doubt that Chicago’s center core is thin, especially after losing Richards and Vermette this offseason. The team has yet to resign RFA Marcus Kruger as well. Chicago isn’t known for having great second line centers. Some of them in the last few years include Michal Handzus and Dave Bolland. The way I see it, there are three players fighting for the position.
#1 C Artem Anisimov – Anisimov is a two way center that the Hawks acquired this offseason in a trade with Columbus. He is 27 years old and was drafted 54th overall in 2006. He has consistently produced more than 30 points a season playing for Columbus, but could that increase if he plays next to Patrick Kane? Chicago thinks so as they agreed to a 5 year/ 22.75 million dollar contract that starts after next season.
#2 C/W Teuvo Teravainen – Teravainen is a playmaking forward who played both center and wing during his rookie campaign last season. He is just 20 years old and was drafted 18th overall in the 2012 draft. The regular season was a little rough for Teravainen as he had only 9 points in 34 games, but produced in the playoffs with 10 points in 19 games. The young player is constantly improving and has a good shot at Chicago’s top 6 next season.
#3 C/W Marko Dano – Dano was acquired by Chicago in the same trade as Anismov. Drafted 27th in 2013, this 20 year old shows potential as he got 21 points in 35 games on a non playoff team. So could he do even better in Chicago? He’s a natural right wing but looked good at center for Columbus last season. He has just as good of a chance at getting this position as the other two.
Analysis – Ultimately I think the second line center for Chicago will be Anisimov next season. He played it in Columbus, and was on pace for 43 points. Because Teravainen played wing last season, I think he will play top 6 left wing now that Sharp and Saad are gone. Because Dano played well at center, I think third line center will be his job. Another option for second line center is Andrew Shaw but I can’t see the Hawks playing a grinder in the top 6. He will probably be a bottom 6 right wing. Let me know if you agree with who I picked!
Chicago’s prospects pool isn’t very big, especially after trading away Clendenning, Dahlbeck, and Johns during the 2014-2015 season. However they still have a few cuter NHL players on offense, one on defense and none in net. Here is my list.
(I am not including Teravainen or Dano because they both already played their rookie season)
#5 C Phillip Danault – Danault is 22 years old Canadiens center who was drafted by Chicago 26th overall in the 2011 NHL Draft. He is a smaller player at 5 foot 11 inches tall and only 162 pounds, but he can contribute offensively. Last year in the AHL he had 38 points (13, 25) in 70 games. He is projected to be a career NHL third line center and might play for Chicago next season.
#4 RW Mark Mcneill- Originally a Center, McNeill is a 22 year old Canadian right wing who was selected 18th overall by Chicago in 2011. He is a big power forward at 6 foot 2 inches tall and 210 pounds who can drive to the net. After moving to right wing, McNeill had a fantastic year for Rockford last season getting 44 points (23, 21) in 63 games. At best McNeill will be a second line right wing. He will probably get ice time in the NHL next year.
#3 RW Ryan Hartman – Hartman is a 20 year old American two way forward prospect for Chicago. He was selected 30th overall by the team in 2013 and is 5’11 and 192 pounds. Hartman has offensive and defensive upsides to his game. In his first full AHL season he had 37 points (13, 24) in 69 games. Like McNeill, he will be a second line right wing at best.
#2 D Ville Pokka – Pokka is a Finnish two way defenseman who was drafted 34th overall by the Islanders in 2012. He is 21 years old, 6 foot, and 187 pounds. Pokka is great defensively but can also put up points. In his first AHL season he had 30 points (8, 22) in 68 games. He has he potential to be a top 2 defensemen but will likely turn out to be a top 4 d-man. Pokka will probably play one more year in the AHL.
#1 C Nick Schmaltz – Schmaltz is an American Center who was drafted 20th overall by Chicago in 2014. He is 19 years old, 6 foot, and 172 pounds. Schmaltz is a playmaking center who consistently gets more assists than goals. He hasn’t signed an entry level deal yet because Chicago wants to take their time with him. He is currently playing in the NCAA and had 26 points (5, 21) in 38 games last season play for the University of North Dakota. Schmaltz could possibly turn into a first line center but will probably end up a career second liner.
Here is the future of Chicago! If they don’t trade them all away
Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman made it clear that there is a decent chance that both Bickell and Versteeg would be traded this offseason. But does it make sense to trade them both and hurt your offensive core? Here is what I think.
Bryan Bickell – Bickell is definitely an upset to Chicago fans who were hoping for much more out of him. he is 29 years old and was drafted 41st overall by Chicago in 2004. He is a big power forward who can really use his body. Many were impressed by Bickell after his 37 point performance in his first full season. His next few seasons were decent. After Chicago’s 2013 Cup win with Bickell contributing greatly, getting 17 points in the 23 playoff games, he was resigned for 16 million over 4 years. He has since declined and is a career 3rd liner who is not worth his 4 million dollar cap hit. With Chicago have cap troubles they should definitely trade him, but will probably have to retain salary.
Kris Versteeg – Versteeg is also 29 and was drafted 134th overall by Boston, but was traded to Chicago. He 53 points in 78 games during his rookie season with Chicago. He was a Calder Trophy finalist that year. After a good second season, he was traded to Toronto, then Philadelphia, and then Florida. He played decent for all 3 teams. In the 2012-2013 season he was traded back to Chicago where he played his best. He started off last season great but struggled after his injury. He finished with 34 points in 61 points. With only a 2.2 million dollar cap hit next year because Florida is retaining some of his salary, it does not make sense for Chicago to trade him. He is a point every two games player for only 2 million dollars. He can play second or third line and really contribute next year without Saad and Sharp. Trading him will hurt their offense and leave them with barely any forward depth.
Let me know if you agree with me.
1. D Johnny Oduya – Despite being 33 years old, Johnny Oduya is probably the best free agent still available. He won a cup this year with Chicago, playing significant minutes due to Chicago’s lack of defensemen. He played 76 games in the regular season and 23 in the playoffs, He won’t put up many points, but has great defensive skills. It is rumored that Oduya declined a lucrative contract by Buffalo because Chicago is expected to find a way to resign him.
2. LW Curtis Glencross – Curtis, only 32 still has some years of hockey to be played. He’s a good fit for 2nd/3rd line LW. He had a total of 71 games played with 35 points with both Calgary and Washington last season which makes you think teams would have more interest in him than they do.
3. C Eric Fehr – Eric has played for Washington his whole career and is having diffeculty finding a new home on the open market. He is very underrated and is perfect for a team that is looking for depth down the middle. Fehr has had back to back 30+ point seasons.
4. D Cody Franson – Franson is the youngest of these 5 free agents and is coming off of his highest career point total. He had 36 points in 78 games playing for Toronto and Nashville. Franson is a bigger defenseman who can make great defensive plays and can definitely get points too. With a lot of teams need blue line help I can’t imagine Franson be on the market for much longer.
5. D Christian Ehrhoff – Ehrhoff, 33, would probably be higher on this list if it wasn’t for his injury filled season with Pittsburgh which kept him off the ice for almost half the season. He played 49 games and had 14 points. His point production is lowering but he can still defend and be valuable to a hockey team.
Let me know what you think about the list.