The Blackhawks have been trying to unload Bryan Bickell’s $4-million cap hit for months. With no takers, they on Friday took the dramatic step of placing the 2013 postseason hero on waivers. Should Bickell clear waivers —and considering the Hawks couldn’t move him even when offering to retain some salary, it seems highly unlikely he’ll be claimed — they can send him to Rockford of the AHL on Saturday morning.
Joel Quenneville declined to go into specifics, saying he’ll address it at the morning skate on Saturday. The Hawks also cut down their roster to 13 forwards (including Bickell) on Friday. There’s virtually no chance the Hawks open the season with just 12 forwards, so more moves likely are on tap.
“We had a lot of business decisions to make, and hockey decisions to go along with it,” Quenneville said. “We’ll [get] deeper into that [on Saturday] when we see what happens.”
Bickell earned his four-year, $16-million contract after his superb performance in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, when he had nine goals and eight assists in 23 games. He was strong again in the 2014 playoffs, with seven goals, but after another inconsistent regular season (14 goals, 14 assists), he struggled mightily in the 2015 postseason, with no goals and five assists in 18 games. He’s also been battling vertigo since the Stanley Cup Final, though Quenneville said he’s fine and that the condition has nothing to do with the move.
Patrick Kane said most of the team found about it either on the ice or just before Friday’s practice at Johnny’s IceHouse West. He seemed to think Bickell was bound for Rockford.
“Bicks has been a big part of our team for a long time,” Kane said. “He had some big-time performances for us and sometimes on a day like this, you’re kind of hoping no one will pick him up, [he’ll] do what he has to do, and be back up here as soon as he can.”
NOTEWORTHY: Artemi Panarin returned to practice on Friday and could play in Saturday’s preseason finale against the Dallas Stars.