Unable to unload Bryan Bickell and his $4 million salary cap hit, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said he still is holding out hope for Plan B in the Bickell conundrum — that the veteran forward currently with the AHL Rockford IceHogs can contribute in another Hawks playoff run.
“Anything’s possible,” Bowman said when asked about the chances that Bickell could be traded or be a factor in the playoffs. “I can’t handicap either of those scenarios.
“I gotta credit Bryan for what he’s done. He’s gone down to Rockford. He’s playing well. He’s getting his game going — that was the thing we spoke of when we went him down was [that] he wasn’t playing a lot of minutes when he was here. It’s hard to recapture your confidence and your swagger when you’re not playing a lot.”
Bickell, 29, was sent to Rockford for the second time this season on Jan. 17. He has four goals and 11 points with a plus-2 rating and 30 shots on goal in 15 games. In his last six games he has three goals, five points, a plus-1 and 20 shots on goal.
As is often the case with the 6-4, 233-pound Bickell, it seems to be more of a hurdle mentally than physically. This is the same guy who had nine goals and 17 points and was a plus-11 in 23 playoff games when the Hawks won the Stanley Cup in 2013. He backed that up with seven goals and 10 points and a plus-1 in the 2014 run to the Western Conference final. But struggled in last year’s playoffs — no goals and five points (and a plus-3) in 18 games. He played only in Game 3 of the Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“He’s been playing a big role in Rockford,” Bowman said. “He’s scoring some goals and I think he’s feeling better about his game. That had to happen — and where it goes from there I can’t really predict.”
Bowman would not address any trade talk that might have involved Bickell. And he disagreed with the notion that — after swinging deals to acquire Andrew Ladd from the Winnipeg Jets and Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann from the Montreal Canadeiens — getting Bickell’s cap hit off the books would be a particularly problematic trade-deadline transaction.
“No. I wouldn’t say that. I don’t characterize it that way,” Bowman said. “First and foremost we’re trying to find a way to recapture what he can do. We saw what Bryan can do when he’s playing his game He’s a force. Hopefully we can get that back.”