2010-11 Offseason

Tampering Week: Eric Belanger

The Blackhawks are poised to make some changes after a disappointing 2010-11 season, and with cap space to spare this offseason there’s potential for some quality moves. Blackhawk Up will take a look at who’s available for Stan Bowman to pursue over the next week. However, Bowman cannot negotiate before July 1 – or should he? On the docket today is Phoenix Coyotes center Eric Belanger.

Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

CONTRACT STATUS: Unrestricted Free Agent; $750,000 cap hit in 2010-11

2010-11 STATS: 82 GP; 13 G; 27 A; 36 PIM; plus-11; 2 GWG, 71 hits

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Tampering Week: Brooks Laich

The Blackhawks are poised to make some changes after a disappointing 2010-11 season, and with cap space to spare this offseason there’s potential for some quality moves. Blackhawk Up will take a look at who’s available for Stan Bowman to pursue over the next week. However, Bowman cannot negotiate before July 1 – or should he? On the docket today is Washington Capitals’ forward Brooks Laich.

Photo: HBO

CONTRACT STATUS: Unrestricted Free Agent; $2.067 million cap hit in 2010-11 ($2.4 million salary)

2010-11 STATS

: 82 GP; 16 G; 32 A; 46 PIM; plus-14; 3 GWG, 113 hits

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Tampering Week: Brandon Dubinsky

The Blackhawks are poised to make some changes after a disappointing 2010-11 season, and with cap space to spare this offseason there’s potential for some quality moves. Blackhawk Up will take a look at who’s available for Stan Bowman to pursue over the next week. However, Bowman cannot negotiate before July 1 – or should he? On the docket today is New York Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky.

Pucker up, buttercup. (Associated Press)

CONTRACT STATUS: Restricted Free Agent; $1.850 million cap hit in 2010-11

2010-11 STATS: 77 GP; 24 G; 30 A; 100 PIM; minus-3; 2 GWG

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Tampering Week: Introduction

"My lips are sealed."

Last offseason became one of expected loss as Stan Bowman faced the daunting task of keeping the Blackhawks salary-cap compliant. With that and a disappointing 2010-11 season behind us, it’s time to enter another offseason of change – this one hopefully for the better.

With July 1 approaching and the ‘Hawks possessing some wiggle room under the cap, we’re going to take a look at who they may be able to afford when the time comes. However, Bowman isn’t allowed to speak to potential free agents until the clock officially strikes midnight.

That’s where Tim and I come in. We’ll be breaking down free agents over the next week (maybe longer) to determine who Bowman should risk the fine for to get a jump on other teams, and who he should leave alone until it’s legal – or at all.

Of course, we all know the Blackhawks would never dream of breaking NHL rules and couldn’t possibly ever even think of tampering with a potential free agent. However, for the sake of having some fun, let’s play along.

The posts will start shortly, but we wanted to give you the opportunity to tell us your suggestions for who the Blackhawks may pursue. Make a case and we’ll put together a post.

Fire away, ya’ll.

*Thanks to our friends at Nets are Scorching for help with the idea.

The Greatest Moment I Didn’t Know Happened: Happy 1-year, ‘Hawks Fans

"Yeah, you can just engrave my name right .... here." (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

With the next goal determining either a long-awaited championship or an anything-can-happen Game 7, the last thing I ever wanted to experience was confusion.

At 10:06 p.m. on June 9, 2010, those who packed into the tiny J&M at Augusta Blvd. and Oakley were just as bewildered as I. The puck was gone, the Philadelphia Flyers looked stunned and Patrick Kane was undressing faster than a slut on prom night.

It must’ve gone in. Did it go in? I think it went in…

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Tim Calls It: What Does 2011-12 Look Like?

Photo: Chicago Breaking Sports

The Blackhawks’ off-season has begun, sooner than any of us would want, to be sure. But this is when us erstwhile robo-pundits take off our pants and open up the spreadsheets. Who is coming back? Who is being let go? Who is getting a qualifying offer, and who isn’t? Which free agents are available? Who is trade bait? And which of the farm team wanna-be’s are going to be part of the rookie class of 2011-12?

All of it makes for a worn-out keyboard, angry spouses, and sore… umm, hands…

Fortunately the news for the Chicago Blackhawks is not nearly as apocalyptic as it was last season. We were all still hung over from the Stanley Cup Championship parties when, almost without us noticing, five of our middle-tier players were shipped out of town. We’re not facing that kind of purge this year.

In fact, the real questions coming out of the Blackhawks’ camp have more to do with free agents being re-signed. We’ll get to that very soon. Let’s start with the easy stuff…

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‘Hawks sign Crawford to 3-year deal

Breaking news via every Blackhawks beat writer on Twitter: Goaltender Corey Crawford has signed a three-year deal. A conference call is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. central time, when more details should be shared on the situation.

After the debacle with Antti Niemi following last season, it’s nice to get this done early to save for any stress. I’ll be on to update things as they come along, including the dollar amount.

UPDATE: Multiple reports say Crow’s deal is for $8 million, making his cap hit $2.6 million per season. Crawford is now making more money than Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick and Detroit’s Jimmy Howard.

Overall, this is fantastic news for the Blackhawks for a couple of reasons. First, there’s no more wondering who is going to be the starting goaltender, meaning for the first time in four seasons the ‘Hawks will enter training camp without any sort of goaltending questions. Secondly, the dollar amount is slightly more than we may have expected, but it’s not by much.

Between getting Crawford locked up and being able to do it for this price, the Blackhawks did very well on this one.

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Season Review: Channeling The Captain, Jonathan Toews

For those of you familiar with the Boxing feature here at Blackhawk Up, you’re well aware I have the extreme privilege of channeling the mind of ‘Hawks captain Jonathan Toews. Despite the fact the Blackhawks are currently making tee times, I was once again able to get into the mind of the fearless leader and read his thoughts on his individual season.

It was very difficult, I might add. Toews doesn’t much care for singling out players, including himself. If you remember when Toews skated back toward his teammates holding the Conn Smythe Trophy after the ‘Hawks won the Stanley Cup, he clearly reinforced the team accomplishment by stating, “This is for you guys.”

He’s the clear definition of the consummate team player – unselfish, willing to be the voice when needed and perfectly able to lead when asked. And, more importantly, capable of putting an entire team on his back to win for them, not just him.

That Selke Trophy nomination? Great. I’m sure he’d like to add more hardware to an already impressive collection. But it’ll never mean as much to Toews as that big silver chalice or gold medal, simply because it represents team.

Here’s a look at his season stats, followed by Toews’ season review of himself and my grade, since he’s too humble to possibly grade himself.

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Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should

Most folks are looking at this latest Patrick Kane incident the wrong way. I’ll try to summarize. Should he be able to live his life? Should he be able to chase every bit of tail in Chicago? Should he be able to drink himself to the ER, get into fights, stiff the cabbie, or strip naked in a limo?

It doesn’t matter. That’s not the point. And as long as he’s an NHL superstar, the point is this: he’s being a fucking idiot and putting his CAREER at risk by doing this shit. Furthermore, he’s risking disappointing Blackhawks fans who expect him to be with the team for another 4 years. Let me explain.

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Raising The Bar: Norris Winner Keith Stumbles After Award

Photo: Comcast SportsNet

The Chicago Blackhawks’ defensive “crisis” in the off-season centered around Niklas Hjalmarsson, and the offer sheet dropped on his lap by traitor scum-bag shit-hole Doug Wilson, now GM of the San Jose Sharks. (You’re going to pay, Dougie — Logan Couture’s contract will expire at some point…) But once that was resolved, Blackhawks’ fans settled into the knowledge that they had arguably the best top-four defensive corps in the league, anchored by Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith.

Oh, how quickly things can change.

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A Pleasant Surprise: Corey Crawford Responds with Stellar Season

No time soon will Blackhawks fans forget Antti Niemi and his contributions during the Stanely Cup run last season. What many may not remember is Niemi and Corey Crawford were viewed equally for the backup goaltending job behind Cristobal Huet prior to 2009-10.

With Niemi out of AHL options and Crawford’s contract still at two-way status, Niemi may have won that job simply based off default and not talent. Rather than collecting a Stanley Cup ring, Crawford toiled in Rockford for another season and didn’t give up hope his time would come.

He got his shot this season, and what a hell of an impression he made.

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The Lesson Learned: See Ya, Marty

Photo: CBS Chicago

So you ask your girlfriend to prom, and she hems and haws for a while until right before the dance, then her dad tells you she’ll only go with you if you pay her $2.75 million dollars. So you break up with her right then and there, and she goes off to prom with some other guy, even though he only paid her $2 million and you’re the reigning Prom King. But by this time all of the hot girls are either already have dates or are going to prom at some Russian school. Your previous girlfriend was too much hassle, and you wouldn’t want to go with her anyhow — and besides, her family is moving to Switzerland.

Now what?

Well, your friend from Dallas just broke up with his girlfriend: will she go with you? And more importantly, will she put out?

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Want to Trade Him? Think Again: Season Review of Patrick Kane

Credit: Brian Cassella, McClatchy-Tribune

Patrick Kane hasn’t always been the model citizen during his tenure with the Blackhawks. Between cabbie incidents, limo parties and random drunken photos, Kaner has put himself in positions fans – and the ‘Hawks themselves – have frowned upon.

But for all the tomfoolery, I’m stunned at the amount of discussion regarding Kane being shipped out of town. Remember, most of that partying wouldn’t have been possible without his Stanley Cup-clinching goal which sent us fans into many nights of inebriation.

His numbers speak pretty highly of his value. Kane has amassed 303 points in 317 career regular-season games, and another 48 points in 45 playoff contests.  Did expectations rise among fans after the cabbie incident? After the limo party? Sure, and he responded with the most famous goal in franchise history.

I’d say those standards were met, and then some. Here’s a look at Kane’s 2010-11 numbers:

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Get On Your Hossa — PLEASE!

Photo: CBS Chicago

Every Blackhawks pundit, journalist and blogger has asked the same question during the playoffs the last two years. In fact, most pundits, journalists and bloggers for the Blackhawks’ opponents have asked the question also. So far, we don’t have an answer.

When is Marian Hossa going to show up?

This would be just a mere curiosity if we were talking about some bottom-six winger two years into a three-year deal at the league minimum salary. But we’re talking about a player with elite talent who just wrapped up the second year of a 12-year contract with the Blackhawks worth over $62 million.

The mere fact that we’re asking the question at all — and in the playoffs no less — is more than troubling; it suggests that we may have bought a horse whose Derby days are behind him. It also makes one think it might be better to find another buyer before the situation gets even worse and the market dries up completely.

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One Bright Spot: Brent Seabrook Shines in Contract Year

Photo: CBS Chicago

There were very few players on the 2010-11 Blackhawks’ roster to which the word “consistent” could be applied. Fortunately there were at least a few, and fortunately one of them happened to be on the blue line — else who knows how many more games we would have lost.

Rare was the night that Brent Seabrook scored the winning goal, or stopped a breakaway, or dropped the gloves. But game in and game out, there he was, doing his job. Which is more than can be said for about 80% of the roster.

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A Handsome Season: Patrick Sharp

There’s no question Patrick Sharp is a very handsome man. His numbers this season were awfully attractive as well.

With secondary scoring taking a hit due to departures during the offseason, Sharp provided the Blackhawks with a boost through to his unfortunate injury toward the end of the regular season. It was evident how valuable his presence was during the stretch run, when the ‘Hawks had to fight to the final day for a playoff spot.

Here’s what Sharp did this season:

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What Happened? The Sinking of the Defensive Corps

Photo: Rich Lam/Getty Images

For the longest time the Blackhawks drafted players backwards. The foolishly misguided ‘Hawks brass went into each draft looking for defensive forwards and offensive defensemen. One by one the picks were wasted on players that had barely a snowball’s chance in hell of making the team. Dumbest thing I’ve ever seen, and it was a key reason for the Blackhawks missing the playoffs so many years in a row.

The Blackhawks have very few of the remnants of that offensive defensemen draft strategy with the team now. What we do have is a defensive corps that went from having arguably the most effective top-four D-men in the league last year, to a group of four underperforming and disjointed blueliners this year — without losing a single member of their top-four. Making matters worse, the bottom pairing went from bad to worse to downright heinous before two additions to the team stabilized the situation — albeit way too late.

This, more than any other area of the team, was a disappointment for the Blackhawks and their fans during the 2010-11 season, and we’ll take a look at all of the culprits one by one.

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Season Review: Blackhawks Forwards

For all the deficiencies of the Blackhawks’ defense – which Tim will get to tomorrow – the offense actually played pretty well. Scoring didn’t seem to be the issue, as the ‘Hawks finished fourth in the NHL with 252 goals – just six behind league-leading Vancouver.

Jonathan Toews (76), Patrick Kane (73) and Patrick Sharp (71) each put up a good amount of points, but neither of those three will be on today’s list. The three who made up the top line for a good part of the season – plus Marian Hossa - will be reviewed on their own in the coming week.

Here’s a look at the rest, with a 4-Indian Head grade being the best.

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