After the Chicago Blackhawks were swept out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2017, general manager Stan Bowman called it “unacceptable.” After missing the playoffs altogether in 2018, Bowman used the phrase “extreme disappointment” and said “we’re clearly not happy with where we are.”
So, what have the Blackhawks done since then?
- Signed top defensive prospect Henry Jokiharju to an entry-level deal
- Signed forwards John Hayden and Vinnie Hinostroza to two-year contract extensions
- Opted to not tender qualifying offers on forwards Anthony Duclair and Tomas Jurco
- Drafted prospects who won’t see the NHL for at least another season or two
- Traded depth goalie Jean-Francois Berube for depth forward Jordan Schroeder
- Signed goaltender Cam Ward
- Signed veteran forward Chris Kunitz
- Signed likely third-pairing defenseman Brandon Manning
So, if the last few seasons haven’t met Bowman’s standards, the Blackhawks can’t be done making moves this offseason, can they? There have to be more transactions coming this summer, right? Because, at this point, the 2018-19 Blackhawks don’t look like they’re going to be all that much better than the teams from the last two disappointing seasons.
Sure, a healthy Corey Crawford would be a massive improvement over the revolving door of goaltenders the Blackhawks trotted out last season. And players like Brandon Saad could rebound from subpar performances in 2017-18. But it still feels like there’s a piece or two missing from this puzzle, and that a Chicago roster as currently constructed, even factoring some of the above hypotheticals, is still going to be looking up at new the Central Division powerhouses: the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators.
The Blackhawks were discussing a trade with the Hurricanes for defenseman Justin Faulk in June and Carolina reportedly wanted Brandon Saad in return. As recently as June 27, Sportsnet reporter Elliote Friedman wrote “It sounds like Chicago continues to monitor the possibility of a Justin Faulk deal.”
Perhaps the best trade piece the Blackhawks had is no longer in its possession after opting to use the No. 8 pick on young Swedish defenseman Adam Boqvist (because they’re not going to trade him now). But the Blackhawks do have eight picks in next year’s draft (two fourths, no fifth, two sevenths) and they’ve added some depth in what had been a depleted farm system, so Bowman has pieces at his disposal to assemble a worthwhile offer for the top-four defenseman Chicago so desperately needs. They probably won’t be able to nab Erik Karlsson in a deal, but a player like Faulk or some other proven NHL player could be on the way to the United Center in the coming weeks.
Bowman said, “I’m not sure I buy into that,” in this February Chicago Sun-Times article when asked if the Blackhawks championship window had closed. Bowman repeated the same thing in March.
If he’s going to keep that window open for the upcoming season, the trio of free agents he signed over the weekend cannot be the final move he makes this summer.