Blackhawks notebook: Pending free agent Drake Caggiula hopes to re-sign in Chicago

Plus, Olli Maatta returned to practice Saturday after being “unfit” for one day, and Ryan Carpenter talked about stopping the Oilers’ power play.

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Drake Caggiula is trying not to think about his expiring contract as the playoffs approach.

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Winger Drake Caggiula has an expiring contract.

That makes him part of a free-agent class that already has resigned itself to uncertainty.

For the first time since 2014, the salary cap isn’t rising. Many teams, including the Blackhawks, won’t be able to keep all their free agents. Other teams won’t be able to pay those free agents fair value. The start date of free agency, normally so predetermined that July 1 has become a sort of annual hockey holiday, hasn’t even been set yet.

But Caggiula, 26, has a playoff series coming up first against the Oilers, who brought him into the league. So he’s trying not to think too much about all that uncertainty.

“I’m in playoff mode; I’m all business right now,” Caggiula said Saturday. “It’s time to play hockey, and I don’t want to be having any friends out there [in Edmonton]. I’ll be friends with them after the series is done.”

Injuries limited Caggiula to 40 games in the regular season. He suffered another concussion — his latest in a long history — then missed the last game before the coronavirus stoppage with a hand injury.

During the last four months, the Toronto-area native focused on healing his hand and head. He said both feel great. Caggiula also got engaged to his fiancée, Laura Kirkpatrick, and they announced they’re expecting a baby boy.

Refreshed after the time off, Caggiula entered training camp focused.

“Especially going into free agency . . . I want to prove my worth,’’ he said. ‘‘I want to prove that I’m the type of player that can excel in these types of games. I think my style of play definitely does [lend itself] to playoff hockey.”

Only after this postseason run ends will his thoughts be forced to drift to contract negotiations. His salary this past season was $1.5 million; he’ll presumably try to get a small raise.

But his first choice is to stay in Chicago.

“With the situation we’re all in right now, nobody knows what’s going to happen for next year,” he said. “This is an amazing place to play. It’s close to home for me, [and I] grew up as a Blackhawks fan as well, so I’d love to play here the rest of my career. But hockey can be an unpredictable sport.”

Maatta returns

Defenseman Olli Maatta returned to practice after missing Friday and being declared “unfit to play” by coach Jeremy Colliton.

Fellow defensemen Calvin de Haan (family emergency) and Connor Murphy (“unfit”) and goaltender Corey Crawford (“unfit”) remained absent.

Maatta and Murphy had been skating together the first three days of camp, but Maatta returned to his usual pairing with Slater Koekkoek on Saturday.

Carpenter talks PK

The Hawks will need their much-improved penalty kill to be at its finest against the Oilers, who had the No. 1 power play in the league thanks to Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

Ryan Carpenter, who led Hawks forwards in short-handed ice time per game, mentioned the things the team must focus on to slow down the Oilers’ vaunted power play.

“You know, as a killer, you’re going to give up shots, [and] sometimes you’re going to give up chances,” Carpenter said.

“But [the key is] trying to limit the touches of McDavid and Draisaitl if you can. You have to try to keep the shots to the outside and do the best you can to let the goalie see the puck and be detailed on clears. All those little things.”

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