Projecting the Blackhawks’ 2017-18 lineup after the start of free agency

Time for a projection now that the big moves have happened.

The Chicago Blackhawks may be done making big moves for the summer. They’re ready to be cap compliant for opening day using some tricks, even without Marian Hossa on long-term injured reserve, which will likely happen on the second day of the season.

We’ll likely see a minor signing here and there, but the group you see now with the Blackhawks is likely what you’ll get in training camp. To do a quick summary, here’s who left, and who has entered the picture:

Losses: Artemi Panarin, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Scott Darling, Marcus Kruger, Brian Campbell, Johnny Oduya, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Tyler Motte, Dennis Rasmussen, Andrew Desjardins, Brandon Mashinter, Mac Carruth, Lars Johansson, Michael Latta, Kenton Helgesen, Nolan Valleau

Additions: Brandon Saad, Connor Murphy, Anton Forsberg, Patrick Sharp, Tommy Wingels, Jean-Francois Berube, Laurent Dauphin, Lance Bouma, Jan Rutta, Darren Raddysh, Jordan Oesterle, David Kampf

There are also new prospects like Alex DeBrincat, Alexandre Fortin, and Nathan Noel added to the mix.

2017 NHL free agency: Grading the Blackhawks’ signings on the 1st day

Also, regarding opening night, the Blackhawks will likely send down someone who is waiver-exempt to the AHL in order to get below the cap just for that day. Then on the second day of the season, Hossa goes on LTIR, and the Hawks can fill back up their roster however they want because they’ll have his LTIR space to work with. So don’t be surprised if they go a day with 12 forwards or six defensemen.

Here’s a look at a projected roster:

2017-18 Blackhawks projected lineup

F1Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Richard Panik
F2Patrick Sharp - Artem Anisimov - Patrick Kane
F3Tomas Jurco - Nick Schmaltz - Ryan Hartman
F4Lance Bouma - Tanner Kero - Tommy Wingels
D1Duncan Keith - Connor Murphy
D2Michal Kempny - Brent Seabrook
D3Gustav Forsling - Jan Rutta
GoaltenderCorey Crawford - Anton Forsberg

And, yes, there’s always a chance that DeBrincat is so good in training camp that he gets the spot at second-line left wing next to Anisimov and Kane. That’d allow you to roll Sharp-Schmaltz-Hartman as your third line, which would be awfully sweet. But there’s always a chance DeBrincat ends up in the AHL to start the season since he’s not getting buried on the fourth line.

Other players in the mix for spots include Jordin Tootoo, Vincent Hinostroza, and John Hayden. The seventh defenseman will presumably be Michal Rozsival again.

Here are some quick thoughts on my choices up there:

  • I think it’s worth trying Sharp at 2LW and Schmaltz at 3C. Yes, there’s a chance neither one will work out in those roles, but it’s the ideal balance if you want guys in their proper positions. Schmaltz is a natural center who badly needs to get better at faceoffs. Maybe you put Wingels on that line instead of Jurco so he can help take draws.
  • Part of why you want Schmaltz at 3C is that the alternative is Kero at 3C and a player like Bouma at 4C. That’s a recipe for disaster if this team wants to get three lines rolling offensively.
  • That top line seems set in stone for opening night at this point. Not gonna lie — it’ll be  fun to see whether Toews can elevate his game again with a couple of big, skilled guys next to him for a while. You gotta think he can crack 60 points next season.
  • Let’s be honest, Bouma and Wingels are getting the fourth-line gigs out of the gate unless something crazy happens. The Hawks signed those guys to get tougher, and I doubt they meant in Rockford with that.
  • The Hawks clearly like Jurco since they protected him in the expansion draft. He could be an interesting fit next to Schmaltz and Hartman on the left, although he wouldn’t be able to help with draws like Wingels could.
  • Murphy goes over Seabrook on the top pairing just because you gotta see what happens, right? What if Keith and Murphy have good chemistry? It’s not like Keith-Seabrook was a raging success of late, and in fact, Kempny-Seabrook was one of the Hawks’ better pairings last season. So let’s roll with that top four out of the gate.
  • Forsling seems locked in as the third left-handed defenseman, so the question is who fills the third right spot after Seabrook and Murphy. Rutta seems like the favorite there for now, but Raddysh is interesting, too, and there’s always a chance older prospect Ville Pokka bursts back into the limelight.
  • Forsberg is clearly the backup for now, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Berube gets a shot as backup should Forsberg struggle at some point. Berube’s AHL numbers have been pretty good. /