Bryan Bickell got through waivers and is expected to play when the Blackhawks face the Dallas Stars on Saturday night.
That doesn’t mean he should get comfortable.
Bickell cleared waivers but will remain with the Hawks to start the season. He has a $4 million cap hit and went through waivers unclaimed, which gave the Hawks a chance to send him to Rockford and gain $950,000 of much-needed salary cap space.
Despite that, they chose to keep him in the NHL and try to jump-start a career that has faltered.
“I’m just taking it as an awakening, to set a fire. I look at the clock it’s 11:16 so I’m still here and looking to play tonight to really show them I can get that game back,” said Bickell, who officially cleared at 11 a.m. “I want to be a Blackhawk forever and (it’s a) second opportunity.”
Bickell still needs to make the most of this chance. The Hawks can send him down in the next 30 days or before he’s played in 10 NHL games without exposing him to waivers, meaning Bickell isn’t secure.
Coach Joel Quenneville said Bickell would start with the Hawks and get a chance. At Saturday’s morning skate, he was on a line with Teuvo Teravainen and Ryan Garbutt.
“I think organizationally we know the player… Bicks can bring a lot to our team,” Quenneville said. “We’ll talk to him individually, like we will all the players on Monday, go over their roles and job descriptions. I think he can be a factor and we need him to be. So that’s where it’s at.”
Bickell is in the third year of a four-year deal he signed after the 2013 playoffs. His free agency two years ago was well-timed, as he was coming off a postseason when he contributed 17 points in 23 games.
Since then, Bickell’s output has tailed off and that deal has become an albatross for the Hawks, who went through a salary-cap purge this summer. He was somewhat productive during the 2014 playoffs (10 points in 19 games), but struggled during the 2015 postseason and dealt with vertigo, adding to a regular season when he put up 28 points in 80 games.
“It was a little bit of a shock but, again, we always talk about those business calls,” Bickell said. “There’s always two sides of it. Guys move and players stay and, to be put on and clear it’s kind of deflating but I get some spark here and say I’m still here and looking forward to play tonight and prove myself.”
Bickell said he used Friday to regroup after being told he was on waivers. Clearly, it wasn’t a pleasant day.
“I’m sure it was a tough day for him yesterday,” Patrick Kane said. “He’s close with a lot of guys in here, so we all feel for him and I think we all hope he’s here.”
A day later, Bickell was clearly glad to still be in Chicago but knows it’s a sign he needs to do more. He thinks the Hawks need a physical presence, one he can bring when he’s playing well and producing.
“There’s obviously decisions that are going to be made,” Bickell said, “but I just need to control what I can do on the ice.”