Despite the Chicago Blackhawks not making the playoffs this NHL season, there is still a lot happening with the team as it prepares for the long summer ahead. As the Blackhawks rebuild begins, they have several Restricted Free Agents (RFA’s) to take care of this summer. They also have the upcoming 2018 NHL Draft to prepare for in June. As well as evaluating the newest crop of Free Agents (UFA’s) that will be available.
The Blackhawks also have several of their prospects playing for the Rockford Ice Hogs in the AHL playoffs. All of these will factor into how the Blackhawks 2018-19 team roster is finalized by general manager Stan Bowman and his staff.
Blackhawks Rebuild Steps
Restricted Free Agents
The Blackhawks have several players who are now RFAs after the end of the season:
Tomas Jurco and Anthony Duclair both struggled to produce for the Blackhawks when in the lineup. It will be interesting to watch how Stan Bowman handles these two players this summer. Hopefully, Bowman doesn’t overpay for them causing another salary cap problem down the line.
John Hayden and Vinnie Hinostroza are two young talented players with a plenty of potential. At 6-foot-3 and 223 pounds, Hayden has the makings of a power forward for a team sorely lacking in size up front. Vinnie Hinostroza showed flashes at the third and fourth line centre spots and is sound defensively. Both would make excellent additions to the Blackhawks lineup next season.
The Chicago Blackhawks currently have the seventh overall pick in the upcoming 2018 NHL Draft. They now have a 6.5% chance of winning the April 28th draft lottery and moving up to the first overall pick. There are many fans hoping for a repeat of the 2007 draft magic that saw the Blackhawks winning the lottery and getting the number one pick. That 2007 number one pick was used to select superstar Patrick Kane. The drafting of Kane first overall was a major part of the Blackhawks run of three Stanley Cups in six seasons. After the disappointing 2017-18 season, winning the draft lottery would help ease the pain and suffering shared by many of the Blackhawk faithful.
Barring a lucky break, the Blackhawks should be in good shape at the seventh draft position. They also have a late first-round draft pick acquired in the Ryan Hartman trade with the Nashville Predators. Overall they have eight picks in this years NHL Draft. They should be able to do well with the two first-round picks in what is being called a solid draft class.
For more on the upcoming draft rankings, check this out from Steve Kournianos of The Sporting News.
“Right wing Andrei Svechnikov was on a 60-goal pace and was the Ontario Hockey League’s Rookie of the Year after winning the same award in the USHL the season before. Rasmus Dahlin was dominant in the SHL as a 17-year-old defenseman and is all but guaranteed to be the first player taken. But neither he nor Svechnikov has done enough to definitively prove one prospect has the higher upside than the other. Signs point to the duo making immediate impacts for their eventual NHL clubs, and their expected success should render their eventual draft position as nothing but a mere footnote.”
Available Free Agents
Depending on where the NHL salary cap ends up next season, the Blackhawks may be able to secure a free agent to help their team. It would be sweet for them to sign a top two defenseman. Unfortunately they will probably not be able to afford one without making a trade to free up more cap room. Even though Bowman has his D corps locked up for next season, another top defenseman would really help out the inexperienced D crew.
For the latest on the top free agents available, enjoy this from Matt Larkin of thehockeynews.com
“The 2018 free agent class is top-heavy. At least until the best of the current pending UFAs re-sign with their clubs, which is always possible between now and July 1, the open market will produce major bidding wars for some top-notch offensive players, many of them younger than 30. After the top 10 names or so, headlined by John Tavares and followed by the likes of John Carlson, James van Riemsdyk and James Neal, there’s a precipitous drop in talent. We get a sea of aging former stars and grinder defensemen. If the big names like Tavares sign early, we might end up with one of the weakest UFA classes of all-time.”
Hogs Gone Wild
After the Blackhawks season ended, the team assigned forwards John Hayden, David Kampf, Andreas Martinsen and Victor Ejdsell and goaltenders Jeff Glass and Jean-Francois Berube to the Rockford Ice Hogs of the AHL. All of these players spent time with Chicago at the NHL level this past season. They will gain valuable experience playing in the AHL playoffs for Rockford against the Chicago Wolves.
All eyes are on the Rockford Ice Hogs as they head into game three of their first-round playoff match-up. They lead 2-0 in the series and look to close out the best of five series Thursday night in Chicago.
Blackhawks Youth Shines
Many of the Blackhawks youth are contributing to the success of the Hogs against the Wolves. Victor Ejdsell, Matthew Highmore, John Hayden, Andreas Martinsen, David Kampf, and others will benefit tremendously if the Hogs can make a long run in the playoffs. Collin Delia is also gaining experience in net for the Hogs. After leading them in the chase for a playoff spot, he’s playing solid in net. Delia has a 1.51 goals against average and a .953 save percentage in the two playoff games. Delia is also giving Blackhawks fans hope while they wait patiently to hear on the Corey Crawford injury situation.
Here’s another perspective on the Ice Hogs playoff success from Dave Melton of Second City Hockey:
“The Rockford IceHogs’ power play was ranked 25th in the AHL during the regular season. But after two playoff games, it has Rockford on the verge of the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. Three power play goals from the IceHogs led Rockford to a 5-2 win over the Chicago Wolves in Game 2 of their best-of-5 Central Division semifinal.”
Blackhawks Summer Rebuild
As the Blackhawks sadly watch the playoffs from home, there will be a lot of changes coming to the team’s roster before game one next season. The team needs to make some smart choices going forward with their RFA’s, UFA’s, potential trades, and draft picks. With Alex DeBrincat, Nick Schmaltz, and Dylan Sikura improving the lineup, next season looks better already. They will be expected to play a larger role along with the Blackhawks core in returning the Blackhawks team around.