Photo: Aerys Sports

Okay, this is it! Free agency starts at 11am Chicago time. Speculation is rampant as to who the Blackhawks will go after, so we thought we’d add to the prognosticating with a quick summary of who, why (or why not), and what the chances are.

Probably

Brent Sopel: His wife and kids never left Chicago, and it’s a reasonably good chance that returning to the Blackhawks was the plan all along. It’s likely that Sopes will take a home-town discount to put on the Indian Head sweater again, and his return would make the Blackhawks very difficult to score against.

Maybe-Leaning-Probably

Andrew Brunette: There’s a history here, as Coach Q had him on his squad in Colorado. Brunette is an Iron Man, having missed only 7 games during the last 11 seasons. He never failed to deliver 45+ points in that same stretch of time. 6′ 1″, 212 lbs. of workhorse. Now if only he played center.

John Madden: Mad Dog has expressed an I-wouldn’t-mindedness to return to Chicago, though it is unclear if he’d be willing to take an even bigger cut in pay than he did to suit up in Minnesota. Why? Because we have the next guy on this list to consider also.

Ryan Johnson: Eight months ago Johnson was calling his agent every day asking if he had heard from anybody. He finally got the call from the Blackhawks, resurrecting what many believed to be a career that was over. He’ll play for league minimum again I would guess, and his face-off percentage makes him a good pick-up at that price.

Chris Drury: This guy became available when the Rangers bought out his contract earlier this week, and that means there’s really no reason that Drury can’t pick where he wants to go. He’s got a nice chunk of cash coming in from NY, why not pick a winner that can give him a chance at the cup? His down side is injuries: finger and knee kept him out of 58 games last year. Is he healthy? And will he stay that way?

Should, But Won’t

Steve Sullivan: The former Blackhawk, loved by fans and teammates alike, made a triumphant return to the NHL after sitting out an entire year with a back injury. Sullivan is a serious pain in the ass to play against, as his size and speed allow him to dart out of a corner with the puck and race behind your defensemen — as he has shown the Blackhawks MANY times playing for Nashville. He’d fit in great on the 4th line, but money and that nagging back will stop Stan Bowman from sending a fax to his agent.

Brandon Dubinsky: A consistent 40+ point player over the last 5 seasons, Dubinsky had a career year in 2010-11 with 24 goals and 30 assists. Problem is, he’s a restricted free agent, meaning the Rangers can match any offer he gets, and we’d owe compensation if we landed him. I think that’s too much for Bowman to swallow.

Maybe-Leaning-Won’t

Ville Leino: Forget that this is the guy Patrick Kane deked out of his Underoos on his way to scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal in June of 2010. He’s young, he’s a decent size, has a great scoring touch, and excellent feet. But he’ll be a hot commodity, and the Blackhawks aren’t ones to get into a bidding war.

Andrew Ladd: Ladd is Winnipeg’s captain, they aren’t going to just let him walk. He’s a restricted free agent and Jets’ GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will match any offer he gets. I personally think Laddy’s waiting to see if any offer sheets shows up tomorrow, but nothing from the Blackhawks will be among them if there is.

Not A Chance

Brad Richards: Like we’ve got $10 million per year to spend.

Shea Weber: Weber is going to arbitration, and Nashville would be smoking crack not to accept the ruling.

Tomas Kaberle: …and thank God we aren’t!

Ed Jovanovski: See above.

James Wisniewski: Brent Seabrook would bash his head in the first time they saw each other in the locker room.

Tomas Vokoun: Players go from Chicago to Florida, not the other way around.