SOUTH BEND, Ind. – As the Blackhawks purged their roster to get under the salary cap, Bryan Bickell kept coming up. Halfway through a four-year deal worth $16 million, he was viewed as an under-performing piece the Hawks might shed to create space.
That didn’t happen, and Bickell is happy he’s still with the Hawks.
“You don’t want to leave a team like this where we’ve been through, where I’ve started in this system, as a team,” Bickell said. “Hopefully I can stay here my whole career. If that was written down on paper I’d take that for sure.”
The Hawks would certainly take more from Bickell, who hasn’t built off the strong 2013 playoffs that helped him earn his contract. He scored only 28 points (14 goals, 14 assists) last season and struggled to put together multiple good performances.
“Bick is one of those players you’d like to find that consistency in his game,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “If he puts that all together, he’s that power forward that every team craves for.”
Bickell also has to deal with his health, and he said he’s still experiencing some symptoms of vertigo that plagued him during last season’s playoffs.
“It’s going to I think still take some time but I think I’m ready to play hockey and get ready for the (Oct. 7) home opener,” Bickell said.
That was more of his focus this summer, and not whether he’d be dealt.
“I was just trying to get myself ready to be a Blackhawk and I’m happy to be back and wearing the Indian head and back to Chicago,” he said.
Not full strength
J.P. Barry, the agent for Marcus Kruger, said via an email to the Sun-Times the center’s visa couldn’t be processed until after he signed a new contract, which was announced last Friday. Barry said the visa should be ready soon and that he will travel early next week.
Kruger, who’s still in Sweden, wasn’t the only absence.
Defensemen Michal Rozsival and Kyle Cumiskey are both recovering from injuries. Rozsival underwent surgery in May to repair a broken left ankle he suffered during the second-round sweep of Minnesota, and Quenneville said neither would be long-term issues. Quenneville said Cumiskey underwent a lower-body “procedure” and is close to 100 percent.
Quenneville estimated both would be back next week “or in around that time.”
After the glut of changes, the Hawks are going through camp with many open spots. There’s uncertainty all over the roster, and Quenneville and the coaching staff will have to make calls on a lot of players.
“I would say whether it’s the toughest it will be the most decisions we’ve had to make,” Quenneville said. “Whether they’re tough or not we don’t mind that part of it. But it probably will be the most decisions we had to make.”
Quenneville said “a lot of guys would be cut to a shorter group” after the Hawks’ first four preseason games. The fourth game is Sept. 26.