Blackhawks notebook: Many top free agents remain, but Hawks likely won’t be calling
Friday’s relatively quiet opening day of free agency left many of the best UFAs still available entering the weekend, but the now-rebuilding Blackhawks won’t be sniffing around them.
The so-called NHL free-agent frenzy Friday lacked the frenzy.
With the five-day ‘‘talking period’’ between teams and other teams’ pending free agents eliminated this year because of the delayed and condensed offseason schedule, relatively little happened once the window officially opened at 11 a.m.
As a result, the vast majority of the unrestricted-free-agent class (outside of the goaltenders) this year remains on the market entering the weekend.
None amongAlex Pietrangelo, Taylor Hall, Mike Hoffman, Evgenii Dadonov, Tyson Barrie or Tyler Toffoli had signed contracts as of Friday evening. Among skaters, new Blues defenseman Torey Krug and new Maple Leafs defenseman T.J. Brodie were the biggest names to sign.
But while tracking each of their eventual landing places will be interesting, one city can be crossed off the list: Chicago.
After committing to a youth movement or a full rebuild — depending on one’s interpretation of general manager Stan Bowman’s words — the Hawks almost certainly won’t even sniff around that group of pricey veterans.
Bowman wasn’t the most active suitor for big-name free agents the last few offseasons, either, but his signing of Robin Lehner and acquisitions of Calvin de Haan, Olli Maatta and Alex Nylander probably qualify the summer of 2019 as an active period nonetheless.
The fall of 2020 won’t be a repeat of that.
It remains to be seen how wholeheartedly Bowman will commit to this rebuild. Whether players such as Brandon Saad and de Haan are traded in the coming weeks will determine that. And after the re-signings Friday of Dominik Kubalik and Malcolm Subban, Dylan Strome is now the Hawks’ only restricted free agent.
Regardless, don’t expect any splashy outside acquisitions to happen, even if the pickings around the league remain plentiful.
Crawford’s destination unknown
The goalie market was the one area of free agency that was busy Friday. Henrik Lundqvist signed with the Capitals, Braden Holtby bounced to the Canucks, Jacob Markstrom shuffled to the Flames and Anton Khudobin returned to the Stars.
But Corey Crawford, after parting ways Thursday with the Hawks, hasn’t picked a new team yet.
The Hurricanes, Avalanche and Oilers are the three teams reportedly most eager to add a goalie who did not do so Friday, making those the most logical landing places for Crawford moving forward.
Defensive depth needed
The Hawks presumably will need to add some defensive depth, at least at the minor-league level, this month.
Veteran American Hockey League defensemen Ian McCoshen, T.J. Brennan and Joni Tuulola departed the Rockford IceHogs as free agents, and they’ll need some replacements.
The Hawks have only 13 defensemen under contract in the entire organization, and only five — de Haan, Duncan Keith, Connor Murphy, Brent Seabrook and Nick Seeler — are older than 23 years old.
The Hawks want their many prospects to fight for vacant NHL spots next season, so they might not seek any unrestricted-free-agent defensemen looking for one-way contracts to keep those spots open. But they should add at least a couple on two-way contracts who can be stashed in the AHL and provide injury insurance.
Trade-up attempt failed
Hawks scouting director Mark Kelley said Tuesday the Hawks (picking 17th) tried to trade up with the Jets (picking 10th), Predators (11th) and Panthers (12th) during the first round of the draft but weren’t able to come to an agreement.
Bowman expounded on the situation Thursday.
‘‘We were trying, but there just wasn’t that much interest,’’ he said. ‘‘The feedback I was getting was: ‘We’re not interested in going that far back.’ When that happens, then you call around and see if there’s any other opportunities. When there isn’t, you focus on your list.’’