All summer, Blackhawks fans and followers have been talking about all of the bodies leaving Chicago’s roster.
Now, as the end of August approaches, the roster is starting to look crowded, and there might actually be too many bodies for the number of available spots.
With the addition of Fernando Pisani on Wednesday, Joel Quenneville will have a number of options when training camp opens. And, in a fairly surprising turn of events, the Hawks will likely have some salary cap space to play with as well.
All summer, GM Stan Bowman has been adding players for little/no money, and Pisani is the latest example of some quality that could eventually force another player off the roster.
Given his multi-year deal and performances in limited action, Bryan Bickell appears to be the closest thing to a lock among the youngsters trying to make the roster in training camp. Six of the Hawks seven primary defensemen from the playoffs are back, so there is healthy depth on the blue line as well.
Where does Viktor Stalberg fit into the top three lines?
What happens to kids like Jack Skille and Jake Dowell?
Is there room for Igor Makarov or Kyle Beach to see the NHL this year?
How do Shawn Lalonde and Ivan Vishnevskiy figure into the blue line mix?
Is John Scott still necessary?
Does Jeff Taffe even see the NHL?
All of these are questions the Hawks will have to answer when training camp opens. And there may be answers coming in the form of early-season deals.
Last year, the Hawks moved Aaron Johnson for a draft pick early in the season. That deal didn’t appear to mean much in the overall picture, but it added another draft pick to Bowman’s arsenal, something that could easily be repeated this fall.
Pisani is one of the better penalty killing forwards in the league, and could replace John Madden in that important role. Early in the postseason, it appeared that Marty Reasoner might be the PK specialist to replace Madden, but when he was dealt to Florida for Taffe to cut payroll, few imagined a player the caliber of Pisani would be available for $500k to replace him.
Scott was added to provide size to the roster. His career stats indicate that he’s little more than an enforcer, but he has experience playing both defense and forward.
Looking up and down the roster, there is a good chance one or two veterans are moved early in the season again.
Scott might be a player of value somewhere else, especially if the Hawks see any value in either Hugh Jessiman or Jassen Cullimore. Both players are listed as at least 6’4, and could be the size the Hawks wanted when they signed Scott.
But moving Scott wouldn’t be an impact move bringing back much value.
If Cullimore, Lalonde or Vishnevskiy look good, either Hendry or Boynton could be moved early in the season. Lalonde appears to be the next top prospect to be ready for the jump to the NHL, and could push veterans for playing time this season. Meanwhile, Vishnevskiy could be a better power play point man than either Boynton or Hendry, and could push for one of their spots as well.
But, again, moving Boynton or Hendry wouldn’t figure to bring back exceptional value.
Which brings us to a potential trade candidate that could be valuable to another team to bring back quality prospects or picks.
Kopecky, like Dustin Byfuglien, is remembered by short-term memories for playing well in the playoffs and finishing the season with strong play in March and April. However, before the Olympic Break he was largely seen as a wasted contract despite only carrying a relatively small $1.2M cap number.
In December, January and February - a span of 33 games – Kopecky scored only three goals and added just six assists, all while averaging under nine minutes per month; in December and February, he averaged under eight minutes per contest. While averaging 11:27 per night in 12 November contests, Kopecky added only one assist.
Indeed, Kopecky scored nine of his career-high 21 points in 16 games in March and April after his playing time increased post-Olympics.
Is Kopecky deserving of additional playing time? Is he only effective when skating with Marian Hossa? And how does he factor into the rotation in 2010-11 with all the young talent trying to crack the roster?
Certainly Dowell and Skille are on the bubble, but a strong preseason could cement their spots on the roster. If any other forwards – specifically Beach or Makarov – show that they’re ready for the NHL, it might be Kopecky that’s on the move early in the season.
In fact, Beach has a nearly identical cap number to Kopecky with bigger potential. At just 20 years old, Beach figures to be a big part of the Blackhawks’ plans moving forward. If Pisani looks capable as a prime-time penalty killer, Kopecky’s spot on one of the bottom two lines could be in jeopardy.
Even if he is Hossa’s wing man, Kopecky might be in for a fight to keep his spot on the 2010-11 Blackhawks.