There are plenty of intriguing names on the Blackhawks training camp roster, which finally was released on Wednesday. There are Jan Hejda and Lubomir Visnovsky, respected, aging defensemen on tryouts, hoping to make one last Stanley Cup run on the cheap. There are Tomas Kopecky and Jake Dowell, names from the past looking to reignite their careers. There’s Daniel Paille, another veteran on a tryout hoping to snag one of the Hawks’ vacant left-wing spots. And there are defensemen Michal Rozsival and Kyle Cumiskey, who never left, yet never re-signed.
There will be plenty of interesting stories at Hawks camp this weekend at Notre Dame. But in the eyes of the hockey world, only one name on that roster matters, and only one story will dominate — Patrick Kane, the Hawks’ biggest star, and the subject of an ongoing police and grand jury investigation in Western New York.
The Hawks confirmed Wednesday that Kane is “expected to attend” when camp opens at Compton Family Ice Arena on Friday, as is every other player on the camp roster. However, when asked to confirm that his client would be at camp, Kane’s agent, Pat Brisson, did not. He declined to comment, and simply said the situation would be explained on Thursday.
Hawks president John McDonough, general manager Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville, along with some players, will talk with reporters on Thursday afternoon. It’s standard operating procedure for the day before training camp, but this press conference will be anything but standard. Reporters from Buffalo and around North America are expected to fly in and attend, CSN Chicago is airing it live on TV, and it will be the first time any of the Hawks brass addresses the Kane situation since the news of the investigation broke in early August.
Will Kane be there on Friday? Will he talk on Thursday? Has there been a resolution in the case? All of these questions that have been up in the air for six weeks could be answered as soon as Thursday.
Meanwhile, the on-ice situation at camp is looking interesting, as well. With just six defensemen on the roster and about $900,000 in salary-cap space, the Hawks are still hoping to add a veteran defenseman to a suddenly shallow blue line. Both Hejda and Visnovsky could fit that bill. Hejda is a 37-year-old, nine-year veteran who played 81 games for the Colorado Avalanche last season. Visnovsky is a 39-year-old, 14-year veteran who had five goals and 15 assists in 53 games with the New York Islanders last season. At the height of his career, Visnovsky was one of the more prolific offensive defensemen in the league, three times posting at least 58 points. He had a career high 68 (18 goals, 50 assists) in 2010-11 with the Anaheim Ducks.
Rozsival, who suffered a gruesome broken ankle in the second round of the playoffs and was still wearing a cast during Cup celebrations in late June, is another obvious option, a familiar safety net for Joel Quenneville.