The Summer of Stan

Bruce Bennett

Stan Bowman addressed the media during locker room clean out day with a lot of talk of the future.

If you listened to Stan Bowman speak today, you shouldn't expect the Blackhawks to make any big moves this summer.  While speaking about the immediate future Bowman said  "Ways to improve would be... looking for growth from within. We've still got a lot of young players that play big roles on our team, and I think you saw that this year."  He did say there will be some "new faces" next season but don't expect the "big splash" type of move, which isn't Stan's style anyways.

I think Bowman's biggest summer splash will be the contract extensions of both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.  Technically, the Blackhawks can not sign the duo before July but you have to believe the deals are already in the works even if it's just the preliminary stage.  Bowman will want to erase the sting of the season's end as quickly as possible so I really think these deals will get done as quickly as possible.  19 and 88 will be locked up long term before the Blackhawks Convention, book it.  Ben Smith tops the list of RFA's that need to be reupped as well.  I expect him to get a new deal along with backup goaltender Antti Raanta and Joakim Nordstrom as well.  The most interesting RFA is Jeremy Morin.  We all know he is not one of the Joel Quenneville's favorite, but Bowman seems to feel his still has a future in Chicago.

The Blackhawks won two Stanley Cups without a real 2nd line center, but their lack of depth in the middle never became more apparent than in the seven games against the Los Angeles Kings.  Granted there are not many teams that have the luxury of Mike Richards centering their 4th line, but the Hawks do need to get stronger at the position.  As of now you only really have two true centers in Toews and Marcus Kruger.  Joel Quenneville fell in love with Andrew Shaw centering the second line during the last three games but he is not a long term solution in my opinion.  I think Shaw is better on the wing than in the middle but a summer of work in the circle could make a full time switch doable.  Michal Handzus will be gone so the Hawks will need to add at least one center to the mix.  Many people think/hope that Teuvo Teravainen will be able to fill one of these slots right off the bat next year, but I don't think that is going to happen.  We all know how Q feels about young players and he is going to have to earn his trust much like Ben Smith did during the course of this season.  This summer's free agent class at center leaves much to be desired.  Other than Paul Stastny there isn't much out there. Do guys like David Legwand, Steve Ott, Derrick Roy or Vernon Fiddler excite you? Nope. The one guy I'd love to see in an Indian Head sweater next fall is Mikhail Grabovski, but after the season he had for the Capitals and the weak center class I fully expect him to be out of the Hawks' price range.  One veteran I can see Stan taking a flyer on if the price is right is Olli Jokinen, who scored 25 goals for the Jets this year.  He fits the trustworthy veteran mold Q loves to play.  Maybe we see Stan bring back Peter Regin on a one year deal too.

I think the defensive core will get a shake up this summer.  A lot of people are saying Nick Leddy might get moved but he is one of Stan's guys despite what Q thinks of him.  I have been saying for a long time that Johnny Oduya gets moved on draft day for picks.  He has looked very good paired with Niklas Hjalmarsson at times, but the Hawks need to clear up some cap space and make room for a crop of young defensemen on the horizon.  Sheldon Brookbank is out of contract so I don't expect him to be brought back.  Michal Rozsival has one year left on his deal so I can see him being used as the seventh defenseman next year, if he doesn't retire.  Don't forget that David Rundblad is still on the roster and with young guys like Klas Dahlbeck, Adam Clendening and Stephen Johns waiting in the wings, the defensive core will be the most interesting storyline of training camp.  The Hawks organization is high on Johns and I wouldn't be surprised if he makes his NHL debut at some point during the 2014-15 season.

With Kane, Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Bryan Bickell, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Corey Crawford all coming back next year you can understand with the "Summer of Stan" should be a rather quiet one.

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