For the first time in four years, the Blackhawks’ offseason began in April. And once again, it’ll be a busy offseason, and possibly another heartbreaking one for fans, as the salary cap continues to take its toll. Let’s put a bow on the 2015-16 season with one last Twitter mailbag.
#HeyLaz Any possibility of Shaw taking a team friendly deal for a year a la Kruger to make it work?
About half the nearly 100 questions I got over the past couple of days involved Andrew Shaw in some way. I wrote extensively about how difficult it will be to retain Shaw next year in Thursday’s paper (read it by clicking here). With about $69 million in cap space tied up in 17 players, Shaw probably would have to take a significant pay cut in order to stay. Maybe he’s willing to do that, but it’d be highly unusual for a player as accomplished as Shaw (20-goal scorer, two-time champ, playoff hero).
Even a qualifying offer of $2.5 million (which would prevent him from becoming an unrestricted free agent) likely would be too expensive for the Hawks. By far the likeliest scenario involves the Hawks trading Shaw before free agency begins on July 1. Unless they can move Bryan Bickell’s contract (which Bowman has been trying to do for more than 15 months), it’s hard to envision Shaw staying. He wants to stay, and the Hawks want him to stay. And he’s surely talked at length with old buddies Nick Leddy and Brandon Saad about how the other half lives. But that’s just the nature of the business.
Bolero San @bolero_san
#HeyLaz where do you think Teuvo plays next year center or wing?
Teuvo Teravainen was another frequent topic this week. He’s in a difficult spot. He’s a top-six kind of player, but he can only play center or right wing (left wing was a failed experiment early this season). Ahead of him at center are Jonathan Toews and Artem Anisimov. Ahead of him at right wing are Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane. So he spent most of this season on the third line, as both a wing and a center. He did an admirable job of adapting to a defensive role, and Joel Quenneville used him as the ultimate utility man, plugging Teravainen in any and every role as players went in and out of the lineup. That said, he disappeared in the postseason, which, given the impact he made during the conference final and Stanley Cup Final last spring, was a disappointment.
I can’t read Quenneville’s mind, but here’s what I’d do. I’d put Teravainen on the right wing next to Toews, and move Hossa to a more defensive-minded role on the third line. We saw how well that worked when Andrew Ladd, Marcus Kruger and Hossa were put together as a mega-checking line, and Hossa’s not the type of player to kick up a fuss about being “demoted.” Hossa’s offense has tailed off a bit (he’s always around the net, but can’t seem to score), but he’s still among the best defensive forwards in the world. Moving Teravainen to the top line and Hossa to the third could go a long way toward solving a lot of the Hawks’ balance and depth issues up front.
Also, you can’t completely rule out the idea of trading Teravainen, perhaps as a way to convince a team to take Bickell’s contract. I don’t expect it to happen, and I wouldn’t do it. But the hard truth is Teravainen doesn’t look quite as untouchable now as he did a year ago.
Jonathan Bilyk @journofkabilyk
#HeyLaz, will Marcus Kruger get his real sweater back, so you and I don’t keep thinking he’s on the ice when he isn’t?
On Wednesday, he was wearing Niklas Hjalmarsson’s No. 4 warmup jacket, so I don’t know what to believe anymore.
Joel T. Bennett @joelben
#HeyLaz Think the Hawks can keep one of the three — Weise, Panik or Flash or are they goners?
A few weeks ago, I would have said Tomas Fleischmann was a no-brainer to keep. He had four goals in his first month with the Hawks, and it seemed unthinkable that a guy so skilled didn’t even have a contract when the season started. But it turns out the knock on him — that his occasional flashes of brilliance are offset by maddening inconsistency and disappearing acts — was right on the money, and he was a healthy scratch the last three games of the playoffs.
Richard Panik clearly is the guy to keep. No matter where he was in the lineup, he looked pretty good. The finish wasn’t there, but he was creating offense on a consistent basis. Talking to him on Wednesday, he certainly wants to come back, and the Hawks surely could get him for six-figures, and Stan Bowman needs all the sub-million-dollar guys he can gets his hands on to flesh out his cap-strapped roster.
Alaina Neal @miscalainaeous
#HeyLaz if you could sum up the season in one Hamilton lyric (or full song, if you must) what would it be?
Well, I could go obvious: “You will never be satisfied.”
I could go subtle: “Grandpa just lost his seat in the Senate. Sometimes that’s how it goes.”
I could go optimistic: “You’ll be back. Soon, you’ll see.”
Or I could go pessimistic: “Oceans rise. Empires fall.”
#HeyLaz do the Capitals win the Cup? Or does it stay in the west?
I’d love to see Alex Ovechkin finally lift the Stanley Cup, and with the Kings, Ducks and Hawks all out of the playoffs, the Capitals look like clear favorites. But if I were a betting man (and I am), I’d lean toward the West, which has won five of the last six Cups. I think St. Louis and San Jose are both legitimate championship-caliber teams.
Todd Erskine @toddersk
#heylaz if a Gordie Howe hat trick is a goal, fight and an assist, what do you call a Shaw game with a penalty, slur and bird, too?
I’d call it dumb. And hopefully it’s the last time it happens.
Steve Simmons @stevesimmons626
Which UFA D-man is the best fit for the Hawks? And can they make it work given salary cap woes? #HeyLaz
Well, the most interesting defenseman on the market mightbe 2010 champion Brian Campbell. He’s 36 years old, and he just made more than $57 million over the last eight seasons. Having already cashed in, would he be willing to come back and chase another Cup on a cheap one-year deal? Who knows? What we do know is both Quenneville and Bowman insisted they’re comfortable with the defense as currently constituted, with Quenneville saying the lack of a four-line rotation up front was the Hawks’ biggest problem, not the back end. Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook, Trevor van Riemsdyk, David Rundblad, Erik Gustafsson and Viktor Svedberg are all under contract for next season. And Bowman mentioned Ville Pokka as a Rockford player who was “trending” toward the NHL. Chances are, the Hawks won’t have the cap space to make a big splash in free agency. But perhaps a Shaw trade could land a cheap and capable blue-liner in return.
#HeyLaz Do you think a trade for Hamhuis/Vrbata would’ve better helped the #Blackhawks problems? Or did StanBo do the best thing?
As I wrote at the time, I thought a No. 4 defenseman was a bigger priority than depth scoring. And Christian Ehrhoff wasn’t that guy. The Hawks were in on Dan Hamhuis all the way to the buzzer on deadline day, but the Canucks wouldn’t take Bickell’s contract in return, so it fell apart. That would have been the absolute best-case scenario for the Hawks — shedding Bickell’s cap hit and landing a viable No. 4 defenseman in the process. Bowman tried. He just couldn’t get Vancouver to bite.
#HeyLaz what are your thoughts on Kane this postseason after what happened/didn’t happen last postseason
My colleague Mark Potash summed up Kane’s season, and looming offseason, perfectly in his season-ending 5-on-5 piece. Read it by clicking here.
#HeyLaz given his playoff ice time, do you think Rundblad has a shot at getting a more permanent D-position?
Rundblad is still under contract next season, so he’ll get a chance. Quenneville was relatively pleased with Rundblad over the last few games, and said he improved while spending a few months playing in Switzerland. Rundblad is a competent puck mover with a real good shot. He still needs to shore things up in his own end, which is a significant concern, but options are pretty thin for the Hawks. There’s no reason to think Rundblad wont be in the mix.
Angelo Auriemma @UhOhAngelo
I’ll give you a break from hockey Qs —what are your favorite films, shows, and musicals? Thanks for all your work this season! #HeyLaz
Favorite movies: The Natural and The Godfather and a million dumb comedies
Favorite TV shows: Deadwood, The West Wing, Sports Night, Futurama, The Simpsons, Breaking Bad, and countless others.
Favorite musicals: Les Miserables, Hamilton, Urinetown (trust me on that one; it’s brilliant), Rent, Jesus Christ Superstar.
Ricky Kemp @Rick_Flare32
#HeyLaz do you think Kane and Toews took too much money? Even though they’re great players?
Kane and Toews deserved that money, and probably could have gotten more on the open market. It’s easy for fans to say that they should have taken less in order to ensure the Hawks had cap flexibility moving forward, but you have to look at it from the players’ perspective. Aside from wanting to get paid what you’re worth, Kane and Toews are in a union, and part of the brotherhood of players. And a rising tide lifts all ships.
Brian Brown @bulletbrowny
Would buying out Bickell’s contract to spread cap hit over two years allow them the keep either Shaw or Ladd? #HeyLaz
It wouldn’t hurt. I asked Bowman if a buyout was still on the table, and he didn’t rule it out. If the Hawks buy out Bickell, they’d carry a $1-million cap hit next season and a $1.5-million cap hit in 2017-18. If they keep him in Rockford all season, they’d carry about a $3-million cap hit this coming season and nothing at all in 2017-18.
#HeyLaz I know your opinion on Crow. Feel the same way but any chance you think Bowman deals him saves about 5.5M using Darling
Having a great goaltender is like having a great quarterback in football. If you don’t have one, you’re not going anywhere. Crawford has gotten better every year, and that six-year, $36-million contract looks better each year, if you ask me.
#HeyLaz if there were no cap & Hawks could’ve kept their guys, would they have eclipsed the NYI/EDM as 4x champs?
Probably not, because the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Red Wings would have ridiculous $150-million rosters by now.
Jeff Everson @EVR551
#HeyLaz Does Tyler Motte have a real chance to make the Hawks out of training camp? Is the FO high on him?
He’s cheap and he can score goals. He’ll certainly get a long look in camp.
Tweets & the Maytals @Hawksfans5
#HeyLaz Since 2010, the Hawks D seems to get weaker every year. What does Bowman/Q see that the fans don’t?
The salary cap?
Avid Chi Fan @AvidChi
#HeyLaz Would you rather have Daley or Rundbland playing that Game 7? In hindsight it was a mistake to trade away Daley, right?
The Trevor Daley situation was weird from the start. He just never seemed to fit in. Quenneville wants his defensemen making quick exit passes out of the defensive zone, and Daley’s a guy who likes to skate the puck up the ice. For whatever reason, neither side was able to adjust to the other. Of course, it’s easy to watch Daley playing 20-plus minutes with the Penguins and think he could have made the difference against St. Louis. We’ll never know.
The Zoomiest @Brain_in_jar
Mark, Which three teams haveyour favorite goal songs, in order? #HeyLaz
1. Edmonton, Stadium Love by Metric
2. Buffalo, Let Me Clear My Throat by DJ Kool
3. Pittsburgh, Party Hard by Andrew WK
That said, if Minnesota uses Let’s Go Crazy by Prince next year, they’ll crack this list. I also love how Vancouver has player-specific goal songs.
Are you a bagel snob? #HeyLaz
Damn right I am. I’ve spent 16 of the last 19 years in the Midwest, and I haven’t found a single decent bagel.
#HeyLaz what are your opinions on the Crawford snub?
I’m not shocked, but I felt he should have been the third choice behind Braden Holtby and Ben Bishop. (The league’s GMs vote on the Vezina Trophy). Perhaps missing the final few weeks of the season hurt his cause, but anyone who watched the Hawks this season knows they got to 103 points with smoke and mirrors — also known as an incredibly productive power play and brilliant goaltending. Even during the high point of the season — the 12-game winning streak after Christmas — Crawford stole at least three or four of those games. People are always quick to dismiss Crawford’s accomplishments because of the team playing in front of him. This year, he was the one bailing his teammates out.
Mike Stromberg @pastromisandwic
#HeyLaz what would it take for the NHL to change its divisional playoff format? 3 and 5 in the league shouldn’t play 1st round
I don’t hate the division playoff format as much as most people do. Had it been the old 1-8 seeding this year, the Hawks would have drawn San Jose, which wouldn’t have been much easier than St. Louis. The league wants to foster divisional rivalries like the good old days of the Norris, Smythe, Patrick and Adams divisions, and I’m OK with that. If this happens enough times, I can see the outcry convincing the league to go back to the 1-8 format, which is fine. I just don’t see it as that big of a deal. You’ll have to beat a great team or two eventually if you want to win the Stanley Cup. It’s just a matter of when.
#HeyLaz is the Blackhawks organization that good in terms of player treatments that top level guys like Ladd would take a cut to stay?
In theory, yes. Every time a new player comes to Chicago, they’re practically slack-jawed when talking about how “first-class” the organization is. It was pretty funny how Richard Panik raved about the fact that breakfast is provided for them every day, describing playing for the Hawks as an “all-inclusive” vacation.
But there’s a difference between wanting to stay and actually staying; and between being willing to offer a hometown discount, and being willing to take a massive hometown discount. A whole lot of teams would want Andrew Ladd as a free agent. And the Hawks will need to offer more than just breakfast to keep him.
#VoteBlueJays 10-12 @NickWCuming
#HeyLaz Any plans for the summer?
I’m renting a Dumpster next week and cleaning out my garage. And I’m way too excited about it.
Johnny Lombardi @jlombardiTV
#HeyLaz, Hawks championship window is open for ______ more years (roughly)
I think the window is still wide open for at least three or four more years. Kane and Toews are just 27, Panarin’s just 24, Niklas Hjalmarsson’s only 28, and Duncan Keith will be able to play at a high level until he’s in his 40s. But Marian Hossa’s decline is on the horizon, and Brent Seabrook has a lot of hard miles on him for a guy signed for eight more years. Eventually, all these well-earned massive contracts will catch up to the Hawks. But if they have three or four (or more) Cups to look back on, that’s a pretty darn good tradeoff.
David Chasanov @david_chasanov
#HeyLaz Should Bowman be shaking his head right now looking back at his tinkering with the roster at the trade deadline?
He went for it. I’ll never fault a GM for recognizing the championship window is open and going for it. That’s what you want as a fan and as a player. But I’m sure Bowman is disappointed with how it all turned out. Ladd did a nice job but wasn’t a difference-maker. Dale Weise had one moment in the sun and was otherwise invisible. Tomas Fleischmann disappeared. And to get them, the Hawks gave up two cheap, NHL-ready prospects in Marko Dano and Phil Danault, and a first- and second-round pick. That’s a full-blown disaster, even if it was well-intentioned.
Brandon Newberry @bnewbs16
Graduating in May as a communications major w/ concentration in journalism. Any tips for the future and job hunting? #HeyLaz
Read, read, read, and write, write, write. The most important thing a young writer needs to do is find his or her voice. And you can only do that by relentlessly reading and writing. Read great contemporary writers such as Chris Jones, Gary Smith, S.L. Price, Steve Rushin, Bruce Arthur, Wright Thompson, Charles Pierce, Albert Burneko, and on and on and on. Learn what you like as a writer, and turn that into your own unique style and voice. And write. Write for the local paper as a stringer. Write for a website. Write for yourself. As for job hunting, well, that’s the hard part. Try to get your foot in the door somewhere as a freelancer, and be so good that you make it a no-brainer when a position finally opens. Good luck. I’m not one of those doomsaying journalists that tell prospective writers to get out of the business. I don’t know what the journalism business will look like in five or 10 years, but I know this: There will always be a need for great reporters and great story-tellers. Always.