DALLAS — Coach Joel Quenneville admitted Friday that he hasn’t seen any of the NHL Draft prospects play live, but he certainly has his eye on some players already in the league. And for the first time in several years, he might be able to land some of them.
So while general manager Stan Bowman’s conversations with the scouting staff have been about the future, Bowman’s conversations with Quenneville have been about the present.
“We’ve had discussions on what, potentially, could be guys we’re targeting,” Quenneville said. “[With] maybe a little bit more cap space than we’ve had in the past, now you get to maybe think a little differently about potential players.”
Regardless of whether the Hawks trade Marian Hossa’s contract or put him on long-term injured reserve, they have between $10 million and $15 million of cap space. And they certainly have needs, particularly a goaltender and a top-four defenseman. Whether they’re filled via trade or free agency (which officially opens July 1, though teams can begin speaking with free agents after the draft), the Hawks have some roster flexibility.
Asked if Quenneville had a blue-liner in mind, the coach just smiled.
“I certainly think if we can improve our team — and Stan’s philosophy is exactly that — we’ll definitely look to do that,” he said.
One goalie who might have fit the bill for the Hawks, who are looking for a contingency plan for Corey Crawford, was Phillipp Grubauer. But the Capitals traded him (along with Brooks Orpik) to the Avalanche shortly before the draft began.
Quenneville was slightly less cryptic than Bowman when discussing goaltender Corey Crawford’s health but admitted he hadn’t spoken to Crawford recently. Crawford has not been on the ice yet, but Quenneville said there’s “some progress now” and that the Hawks are “very encouraged” that he’ll be good to go in the fall.
“Reports are he’s doing well,” Quenneville said. “A lot of guys are training in Chicago, and we expect him soon. I think he’s going to be fine going into camp.”
The Hawks signed 2017 first-rounder Henri Jokiharju to a three-year entry-level contract June 12, and Quenneville is eager to see if the kid can crack the lineup at just 19 years old.
“He’s pretty excited about coming into camp and trying to make our hockey team,” Quenne-ville said. “He’ll make that decision for us.”
Typically, draft day is full of big trades, with all 31 GMs under one roof — witness last year, when the Hawks traded Artemi Panarin and Niklas Hjalmarsson the morning of the draft. But this year, the only major deal was the Capitals-Avalanche trade. Dealing Orpik should free up enough cap space for the Caps to re-sign defenseman John Carlson.