Chicago Blackhawks 2019 Free Agent Targets

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 05: The Chicago Blackhawks celebrate after a game between the Dallas Stars and the Chicago Blackhawks on April 5, 2019, at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Chicago Blackhawks 2019 Free Agent Targets will review what free agents the team may look to sign on July 1st. These decisions will be based on roster needs after the recent NHL Draft and qualifying offers made to their restricted free agents. We are going to look at the roster as it stands now and what areas they may try to improve with free agents.

Blackhawks 2019 Free Agent Targets

The Blackhawks roster has some holes to fill as they look to get back into the playoff discussion in the Western Conference. After four seasons without a single playoff series victory, there is a lot of room for improvement. General manager Stan Bowman has been a busy man since the middle of last season and into the current off-season. He has worked diligently to shore up the team’s defence corps after two seasons without a playoff appearance. The recent addition of Calvin de Haan brought the total of signed defencemen to eight. That leaves the forward positions in need of some retooling either through free agency or promoting from the system. The goaltender position is another one that may also get addressed through free agency.

Blackhawks Current Roster

First, we will look at the current forwards signed for the 2019-20 season. They have eight forwards ready to go including Brendan Perlini who was given a qualifying offer by the team on June 25th.

Forwards

Based on the signed forwards above, the team has needs on the third and fourth lines. They also lack size and grit up front. Brendan Perlini who has size, unfortunately, plays much smaller than his 6’3″ 213 pounds. The last several seasons the Blackhawks have fallen behind the rest of the Western Conference using players with size and skill. The team has often been pushed around with other teams occasionally targeting the Blackhawks skilled players. This, unfortunately, went unanswered on most nights with the exception of responses from 5’7″ 165 pound Alex DeBrincat. “The Cat” was one of the few players to step up in defence of a teammate when he was on the ice.

They did address the size factor with the recent NHL Draft by selecting only one player less than 6’3″. However, that does not help the season ahead. That brings us to the free-agent forwards available July 1st. There are some interesting forwards that could fill out the available spots on the third and fourth lines.

Blackhawks 2019 Free Agent Targets – Forwards

The first thing to consider is the Blackhawks current salary cap space. Per capfriendly.com the team has $11,936,539 million cap room. While this unfamiliar cap space has the Blachkawks faithful salivating we must remember that there are several roster positions currently open. They will need to bring up some young forwards to help fill some of those open spots in addition to any free agents they sign. 

We are going to look at a few of the free-agent forwards that are in Last Word’s own Gabriel Foley’s recent top ten free agent forwards list. Mr. Foley used the salary cap projections from the fine folks at Evolving Wild in his piece. We will list their salary projections with the players we have listed as potential targets by the Blackhawks. There are several forwards that appear to fit the needs of the Blackhawks 2019 free agent targets list.

1 – Mats Zuccarello – LW 

At age 31 he is projected to be worth around $6,091,779 million per season. Zuccarello scored 40 points in 48 games last season. He had injuries in the second half of the season which cut his production short of expectations. While not the size of the player the Blackhawks need, Zuccarello does bring grit to the game. He is pest and agitator with offensive skills. His style of play would quickly make him a fan favorite in Chicago.

2 – Joe Pavelski – C/RW

Pavelski is an interesting free agent the Blackhawks may target. However, there are two things that make Pavelski a risk for the Blackhawks. One is the projected salary-cap hit over $7 million and the other is his age at 34. On the plus side is his offensive talent and leadership. He scored 38 goals last season in 75 games. The Blackhawks are a team in need of secondary scoring, which is something Pavelski would bring to the team. The key to signing him would be if the Blackhawks could get a short term deal so that they are not cap-starved when it is time to qualify Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome next summer.

3 – Anders Lee – LW

Lee would be a tremendous addition to the Blackhawks. He fits all the needs with his 6’3″ 231 pounds size and willingness to use it. He also chipped in 28 goals and 51 points last season in 82 games. At 28 his potential playing on the first or second line with the Blackhawks would be limitless. Thoughts of him riding shotgun for DeBrincat and Strome bring large smiles to many who have longed for a true power forward on the Blackhawks. Lee’s only downside would be his projected cap hit of over $6 million a year. It is possible that a GM bidding war develops that pushes Lee’s cap hit well over $6 million. Bowman would have to make some other roster moves involving trades to clear room for a long term deal for Lee.

4 – Ryan Dzingel – C/LW

Dzingel is a free agent that would fit the Blackhawks needs on the third or fourth line. He brings versatility and is a solid two-way forward. He is also a local boy that would fit in well with the current roster. The Wheaton-native Dzingel also has always had great games against his hometown team since coming into the league. There are many who would love to see him in a Blackhawks sweater. With his projected salary cap a bit over $4 million, that would also help keep the Blackhawks salary cap in line going forward.

5 – Brett Connolly – LW

Connolly may be the most economical free agent the Blackhawks may target. His salary projection is around $3.4 million making him a popular target for many teams. He doesn’t take any shifts off and also has the size at 6’3″ 195 pounds that would improve the bottom six forwards immediately.  Connolly also contributes on the scoresheet for his team. Last season he had 22 goals and 46 points in 81 games. Bowman would be wise to sign the 27-year-old winger to a multi-year deal on July 1st.

Those are our top five free agents that should be on the shortlist for the Blackhawks 2019 free-agent forward targets. Up next we look at another aspect of the team that needs addressing.

Blackhawks 2019 Free Agent Targets – Goaltenders

While it is not being talked about much concerning free agency, the Blackhawks have some issues in net. Their starter is Corey Crawford who is in the last year of his $6 million per season contract. Crawford has had two straight seasons with concussion issues and presents a huge question mark in goal. His backup is slated to be Collin Delia who did well in goal when Crawford was on injured reserve last season. Delia stepped up to the NHL last year and eventually took the net from Cam Ward. He was a pleasant surprise and proved he was a battler in goal.

After Delia, the next goalie up is Kevin Lankinen who did incredible in the recent World Championship helping Finland win the tournament. Lankinen turned a lot of heads with his stellar play in goal and has a bright future it appears.

The larger question beyond the health of Corey Crawford is what is in store for the future in net for Chicago. Everyone is hoping that Crawford stays healthy this season but another concussion would make the end of his career potentially be moved up sooner. Are the Blackhawks willing to enter the 2019-20 season with only the current goaltenders? If not, they may look to add another short-term backup goalie as insurance as they did last summer.

They also have a dilemma facing them at the end of next season. As of today, the only Blackhawks goaltender with NHL experience signed past 2019-20 is Collin Delia. Could the Blackhawks look to sign one of the top free-agent goalies this summer? While it is doubtful, they will have to address their long term needs in goal in the near future.

Restricted Free Agent Update

In our last piece regarding the impending restricted free agents, we looked at the players that may or may not receive a qualifying offer from the Blackhawks. We are listing below the players that were restricted free agents and their current status with the team. There were no major surprises with the players involved and several who got offers will have a chance to be a part of the opening night roster.

RFA’s – Status

Blackhawks 2019 Free Agent Targets Wrap Up

There are many more free agents available that the team may choose over our top ten list or the five listed today. Due to Stan Bowman’s unpredictability the last few off-seasons it is anyone’s guess what players he may sign. The majority around Chicago are hoping things go a lot better than last summer when social media blew up in Chicago after the Blackhawks announced their signings. No matter what happens on Monday Last Word On Hockey will be there to cover it for you.

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