Chicago Blackhawks Offseason: Mid-Summer Check-In

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 05: Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Slater Koekkoek (68) celebrates his goal with teammates during 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)

Our Chicago Blackhawks offseason Mid-Summer Check-In will get you current after a very busy stretch for the team. We will look at the current lineup, and also prospects who will be vying for a spot on the opening night roster. We will also cover what remains to be done as the Blackhawks prepare for the upcoming 2019-20 NHL season.

Chicago Blackhawks Offseason

Our Blackhawks offseason check-in finds the current team with a dramatic new look. Stan Bowman has been an active and motivated man since the end of the 2018-19 season. It’s almost as if someone whispered in his ear that he had better turn the ship around fast or else. It can be argued that most general managers would have been let go after two straight first-round playoff losses followed by two straight seasons out of the playoffs.

In Chicago, Bowman has been given a longer lease on life than the norm in the NHL. It certainly does help that this off-season began with a lot more salary-cap space ($16+M) than usual for the team on a rebuild. Bowman was able to maneuver with much more freedom than in the previous four off-seasons which were less than spectacular, to say the least.

Blackhawks Mid-Summer Priorities

Bowman’s first priority was to address the team’s shaky defence corps and as a byproduct the worst penalty-killing unit in the NHL last season. He deftly accomplished that by acquiring Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan in trades. Both are coming off of injuries but will shore up the defence immediately next season. His next bold move was to sign free-agent goalie Robin Lehner on July 1st. The one year $5 million dollar contract was a shocker at first. It will, however, be greatly appreciated if Corey Crawford suffers another injury next season. Bowman also addressed another issue on his team this summer. He added some grit to the lineup by trading for Andrew Shaw and Zack Smith.

Reversing A Trend

The Blackhawks were definitely smaller and less hard to play against over the past few seasons. This was a result of Bowman’s preference for smaller more mobile players. Unfortunately for Bowman, the rest of the Western Conference was getting bigger and harder to play against. For more on this trend, check this out from Barry Rozner of the dailyherald.com who writes:

“It helps that the Hawks have added some size and energy in a league that is starting to get bigger again after years of leaning toward the diminutive.”

“All things being equal, if you have a player of equal ability, big is nice,” Colliton said with a smile. “It doesn’t hurt. You wear on people. You don’t have to run people over. You lean on them.”

Mr. Rozner is right about the team being soft to play against the last few seasons. It has been especially maddening when one of the few players stepping up in defence of a teammate was the diminutive Alex DeBrincat. At 5’7” 165 pounds, “The Cat” should not be the one doing the heavy work when a teammate is levelled.

Roster Status

While Stan Bowman has been busy, the 2019-20 roster has taken shape. Below we have the forwards currently signed for the upcoming season. Some of them signed during the Blackhawks offseason.

Forwards

As you can see, the team has currently only 10 forwards signed for next season. The wildcard in this group is still Brendan Perlini. The team’s only restricted free agent who has not agreed to the team’s qualifying offer made earlier in the Blackhawks offseason. Perlini has until December 1st to sign in order to be eligible to play in the 2019-20 season. Assuming he will sign before training camp, that leaves one or two forward positions open to competition from the prospects.

Forward prospects

With Jonathan Toews and Dylan Strome as the only true centers on the current roster, will the door be open for 2019 number three overall draft pick Kirby Dach to make the team? Despite several players who can play centre such as Shaw, Smith, David Kampf, and Ryan Carpenter, Dach will be given a serious look. He signed his entry-level contract recently and will certainly be competing for a spot. He can also earn at least a 9 game look before being sent down for more seasoning. At 6’4” 195 pounds, there are a lot of high expectations for the rookie. A strong showing in training camp, preseason, and then making the team will go a long way to making people forget Bowman’s passing on Bowen Byram at the NHL Draft.

Other forward prospects competing for a spot on the team include Dylan Sikura, Anton Wedin, Dominik Kubalik, Alexander Nylander, Philipp Kurashev, Mackenzie Entwistle, Matthew Highmore, Aleksi Saarela, John Quenneville, and Alexandre Fortin. We will feature more on them in a piece in the near future when it is time for the annual NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan. The annual tourney includes prospects from the Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, among others. The tourney will run from September 6th through September 10th. It has always been a great showcase for future players on each team to show their stuff.

Defence

The defence corps currently consists of these eight defencemen all signed to one-way deals for next season. These “one-way” contracts require them to clear waivers if they are sent to Rockford in the AHL. The suddenly crowded blue line of the Blackhawks was a big part of the reason Bowman recently traded highly touted defence prospect Henri Jokiharju. The trade brought Alexander Nylander who may help the Blackhawks upfront in the near future as opposed to Jokiharju spending another year in Rockford waiting his turn.

Defence Prospects

This same fate is facing the Blackhawks’ newest top defence prospect Adam Boqvist. He signed his entry-level contract and will most likely begin the season In Rockford. At 6’0” and only 165 pounds Boqvist is nowhere near ready to face the NHL.

Behind Boqvist are Dennis Gilbert, Nicolas Beaudin, Chad Krys, Lucas Carlsson, and Joni Tuulola. We will also feature any of them that play in the upcoming Prospects Tournament in Traverse City. It will be interesting to see who stands out in the tourney this year.

Blackhawks Mid-Summer Wrap Up

The last couple of months have seen a radical change in the Blackhawks roster. The team appears to have embraced the need for size, skill, and grit with their draft picks, trades, and free-agent signings. How these players will gel as a team will be fun to watch. They have a chance to return the Blackhawks to relevance in the NHL and maybe into the playoffs again. One thing is for sure, both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane cannot have another career year go to waste like last season.

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