In The Valley

Stephen, see that gray haired dude on your left? Yeah, he's never going to leave you alone.

So we've reached the point after the draft but before free agency, and things are kind of tense in some ways.  And yes, we will be doing our live blog for free agency on Thursday, so make sure you swing by and drive your productivity at work straight into the toilet.  Hey, time for bullet points!

-Unlike last season, we were able to qualify all our restricted free agents.  Let me say this now, I will be shocked if Andrew Ladd and Hammer are not Hawks next season.  It is next to impossible to get a RFA to switch teams.  And I don't know what kind of offer would scare the Hawks off.  Is some team really going to offer Ladd over 3 million a year?  I just can't see it.  It would be bad business for them, he's a max 20-goal scorer, and more likely a 15-goal checking winger.  Those are valuable to a team for sure, but not in a money sense.  Similarly, as the Fifth Feather pointed out the extension just handed out to Johnny Boychuck (two years at 1.8 and then 2.0) would seem to be about the market for Hjalmarsson.  Again, some team offering Hjalmarsson $3 million or 3.5 would simply be bad business for them.  You can't pay a second pairing d-man that much.  Sure, on some piss poor teams he'd be a top line d-man, but you don't get better by overpaying and overplaying free agents.  Wasn't anyone watching those Adrian Aucoin years? 

-Kris Versteeg will be headed out this week, or at least he'd better be.  Still got some payroll to flesh out.

-Thursday will be interesting to see if the Hawks sign a goalie.  We'll know how negotiations with Niemi are going then.  Cory Crawford is going to be the backup regardless, they've been waiting on him forever.  With Detroit, Pittsburgh (to an extent), and now the Hawks proving you can win a Cup without a complete stud in net (yes, I just said Marc-Andre Fleury is not a stud.  I'll stand by that), are teams really going to break the bank for a guy who really only played half a regular season and only put together four or five really good playoff games?  I'm doubtful.  But if Niemi can get 3.5 million somewhere else, best of luck to him.

-Once the payroll clearing is done, the Hawks very well may need a winger.  Right now, your lines look something like: Brouwer-Daydream Nation, Sharp and The Slovaks, Bolland-Ladd-....what?  Skille? Bickell? Dowell?  The Hawks should be able to find a moderately priced veteran I would think.  Or Marc Savard.  That works too. 

-They may be also looking for the correctly-paid third pairing d-man that Sopel wasn't, but I wouldn't be opposed to Nick Boynton filling that role next season. 

-Bob Bradley is a moron.

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