Blackhawks, IceHogs Blue Line Decisions Coming

With last week’s announcement that the Blackhawks had signed defensemen Theo Peckham and Mike Kostka, the organization’s pool of defenseman for the 2013-14 season is taking shape.

Peckham, 25, was the 75th overall selection by the Oilers in the 2006 NHL Draft. Last year, he played four games with the San Francisco Bulls (Edmonton’s ECHL affiliate), four games with the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton’s AHL affiliate) and four games with the Oilers. He registered one assist and 46 penalty minutes in those 12 games.

Kostka, 27, was credited with eight assists and 27 penalty minutes in 35 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs after the lockout ended last year. Before joining the Leafs, Kostka posted six goals and 28 assists in 34 games with the Toronto Marlies (the Leafs’ AHL affiliate).

Peckham and Kostka would figure to join Adam Clendening, Klas Dahlbeck, Dylan Olsen and Shawn Lalonde on the IceHogs blue line. Also battling for ice time with the IceHogs will be AHL signings Viktor Svedberg and Jared Nightengale.

Lalonde, 22, is a restricted free agent this summer. He did receive a qualifying offer from the Hawks but has not yet signed a new deal with the organization (as of Monday morning). He posted five goals and 18 assists in 59 games with the IceHogs last year.

UPDATE: Lalonde has reportedly signed to play in Germany during the 2013-14 season.

Clendening, who will turn 21 in late October, was the 36th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft. He led Rockford defensemen with 46 points (nine goals, 37 assists). In his rookie season with the IceHogs, Clendening was named to the AHL All-Star Game and received postseason recognition as well, earning Second Team honors on the 2012-13 AHL All-Star Team.

Dahlbeck, 22, was a third round pick by the Blackhawks in 2011. He played 70 games for Rockford last year, scoring one goal with five assists. He showed promise to be a good, stay-at-home defenseman.

Olsen, 22, was the Hawks’ first round pick in the 2009 NHL Draft. After seeing action in 28 NHL games with the Hawks in 2011-12, he disappointed in Rockford last year with only two goals and nine assists in 50 games. With only one year left on his entry-level contract, and a number of talented players coming soon, this will be a crucial season for Olsen’s future with the organization.

Svedberg, listed at 6-8, signed an AHL contract with Rockford in May after spending the 2012-13 season with Frolunda HC of the Swedish Elite League. Nightengale, 30, played with Duncan Keith at Michigan State during the 2002-03 season. Rockford announced the signing of Nightengale on Monday.

The Blackhawks did not extend a qualifying offer to Joe Lavin, who is an unrestricted free agent.

One position that is intriguing is who will be the seventh defenseman on both the AHL and NHL roster for the bulk of the 2013-14 season.

Ryan Stanton could in the lineup for either Chicago or Rockford when the season begins, and would figure to have a good shot of making the NHL roster… if there weren’t seven defensemen back from the Stanley Cup team in front of him.

The depth in both Chicago and Rockford raises a couple questions.

Will the Hawks move Sheldon Brookbank before the season starts?

And who will be the odd men out in Rockford?

The Blackhawks have already dumped one dead weight piece – Daniel Carcillo – to make room for younger players. With Stanton appearing to be ready for a chance, and Clendening not too far away, the organization might look to make a move with Brookbank before (or during) training camp.

Meanwhile, are Lalonde and Olsen playing their way out of the organization? With a crop of good, young players entering the system and a couple – Stephen Johns and Justin Holl – entering their final seasons in college, ice time could become scarce for underwhelming players.

With the contracts already on the books, and assuming Lalonde is back, there are far too many bodies for the available roster spots with the Blackhawks and IceHogs. Look for something to give before October arrives.

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21 Responses to Blackhawks, IceHogs Blue Line Decisions Coming

  1. Cam says:

    Tab, according to the hawks article you linked to, they also signed Drew LeBlanc for two more years, but the information isn’t up on Cap Geek yet. In your opinion, is that setting us up to try Pirri and/or LeBlanc at 2C to start the year before the AHL season starts?

    Thanks, as always, for your ongoing articles and insights.

  2. Tab Bamford says:

    Capgeek doesn’t have anything listed for LeBlanc, Kyle Beach or Ryan Stanton yet, but all three are signed.

    I’m not on the “LeBlanc is NHL ready” brandwagon, Cam. I think he could use a full season in Rockford, and personally like Pirri more at the next level this year. But there will be a battle between a few IceHogs to win the last roster spot or two in Chicago during training camp. Should be fun to watch.

  3. Cam says:

    I haven’t seen Pirri in action, but I understand he was a force in the AHL last season, plus he’s been in the system for some time, paying his dues. I would like to him get a chance in the bigs. Also, I remember LeBlanc looking lost a fair amount in the two games he played last year with the Hawks. As you suggested, I think it makes sense for LeBlanc to spend some time in Rockford — maybe not even the whole season, depending on injuries and performance. Hopefully they have LeBlanc on a 2-way contract and have the option to move him back and forth. Bring on training camp!

    How are these guys at the dot? Does that even transfer from level to level?

  4. Sr. Brad says:

    Another great article Tab, thanks.

    I agree 100% with Tab that LeBlanc will benefit with a full season in Rockford, but LeBlanc did not look too far out of place in his two games…the puck seemed to follow him around, he made a number of nice plays and was active at both ends…he was a little lost with his positioning in the defensive zone, but I am sure that was largely due to all the rocket’s red glare still swirling in his eyes…it was a whirlwind couple of weeks for Drew. I think he becomes a good NHL’er for the Hawks, probably only a year away.

    Brookbank is being shopped now, but likely won’t get moved until teams open camps and find out what they have. Stanton is definitely the 7th guy in Chicago this season. I think everyone here knows my feelings on Clendening, and while I don’t think another year or part year in Rockford will hurt him, honestly I don’t think he needs it. Come 2014, its going to be interesting to see how things play out on the Hawk’s blueline with a number of guys ready and a full NHL roster…the good news is that the Hawks can trade any existing player quite easily to make room for the young guns.

    Too bad for Joe Lavin, he actually really turned his game around mid point last season and was heading in the right direction, but obviously there isn’t a lot of room in either Chicago or Rockford with all these great young Defencemen coming…we all have to remember that at the end of the college season both Johns and Holl will be signed to pro contracts…and the Hawks like Svedberg. Dahlstrom is only a year away from Rockford.

    I hope Shawn LaLonde resigns, I really liked the improvement he made last season and obviously it saved his career. Based on what I saw from Shawn over the last 2 months in Rockford, I think LaLonde has a good year and a shot at the NHL. The guy really on the bubble as Tab said is Olsen…another stinker like last year, and there’s no room for him…HUGE season for the former first round pick. The guys coming to the Hawks (Stanton, Clendening, Dahlbeck, Dahlstrom, Johns and Holl) are the real deal…we are loaded with D on our NHL roster, there is no room for a mediocre Dylan Olsen.

  5. SouthSideHawkMan says:

    Holy loaded farm system Stan! As I’ve said before on the board, I have my eyes on 2 blueline players this year Olsen and Lalonde. Both need breakout seasons. I’ll admit I like Olsens game but not Lalonde’s as much. Both are former 1st/2nd rounders so it shouldnt be to hard to get some value for them. Clearly the Hawks are loaded on the blue line so they mine as well find a team with different needs and find a fit. One of Dale Tallons best trades was finding Sharp for Matt Ellison(who??I had to look him up). Clearly Stan knows how to build a championship team so lets hope he can take a crowded blue line and get something out of the extra players. Clendening is going to be a NHL STUD and will be wearing the warrior sweater very soon!

  6. wall says:

    The Puck did seem to find LeBlanc a ton… which to me is a very good sign…
    and he is a scholar student which seems to translate to the Puck always finding him… and hopefully high Hockey IQ… he was out of position on D…

    Pirri is a better shooter- but I think that LeBlanc has Higher IQ… Pirri has never impressed me skating wise in practices… LeBlanc has a bigger ass/lower body which means he can hold the puck longer (like Hossa)…

    Lastly- Pirri has the edge w/ AHL experience – but it should be interesting.

    Let’s dump 17 asap!!!

  7. Sr. Brad says:

    Great comments SSHM and Wall…thanks…as to LeBlanc, Wall you’re right…he has that huge lower body that means he will be tough to push off the puck, thus he fits our system very, very well…but what a lot of you will be surprised to find is that Pirri has strength, and plays the puck possession game quite well. He’s a load with the puck, and he won the scoring race by holding on to the puck and then making quick, accurate passes to set up goals.

  8. Tim G says:

    Is it October yet?

  9. AC says:

    A quick question. What are the chances that they move Lalonde to Wing? I had heard something similar earlier in the offseason, but nothing since. I know that Holl is moving back to dman at Minnesota and that Big Buff bounced around positions when he was moving up.

  10. Mike says:

    The Hawks have plenty of trade bait, which includes Brookbank. Hawks are not as deep with forwards. If Zues/Pirri are the 2C, the elder statesman on our bottom 6 is Kruger……at 23.

    Smith is ready and a
    3d line of Saad, Shaw and Smith is going to be one to watch

    Not convinced that a 4th line featuring Morin, Kruger and Hayes/Bolig will be as good as everyone hopes……Krugs will have his hand full in the transition from offense to defense. Not sure Hayes is ready and Morin will be on a short leash. These guys could very well be outplayed at camp.

    Maybe the Hawks should look for an inexpensive wing, like a Vinny Prospal to work 40-50 games to add some leadership to the 4th line.

  11. Sr. Brad says:

    Mike I agree about that 3rd line…Smith is a very good hockey player, and very strong on the puck…this trio will spend a lot of time in the opposition end controlling the puck, which is the best defence.

    As for the 4th line, we are going to be more than fine…IMO Hayes, Morin and Pirri are all ready, as many of them have shown already.

    As Wall always says, Hayes just needs to stay on his feet.

  12. Peter says:

    Great comments all. I think Bowman has a lot of flexibility to find what the team needs next season. One step could be jettisoning Brookbank or other less serviceable D-Men down in Rockford. It could also include trading a solid D Man from the Hawks or the minors to get what we need. I don’t think Bowman would trade a “good” prospect for a rental, but he may trade a prospect for an NHL player who still has some team control. I just really think he has done a pretty good job.

  13. Tab Bamford says:

    to Mike’s comment that the Hawks aren’t as deep at forward as they are on the blue line, I disagree. Not only are they as deep (if not moreso), but the consistent “problem” for prospects in both positions is a lack of available NHL ice time…. which is why a guy like Vinny Prospal makes no sense.

    At some point, Morin, Hayes, Pirri, Smith, Ross, Danault, McNeill have to either get a shot at the NHL roster or move on. Last time I checked, the team only skates 12 forwards on a nightly basis and they’re bringing back 9 regulars from the Final. To say Kruger is the elder statesman of the bottom six at 23 isn’t a bad thing… when you consider that Kruger, Shaw & Saad all played a significant role in a Stanley Cup championship.

    3 years ago when the Hawks had little/no depth as a organization and little/no cap space, a move like a Prospal might have made sense. Not any more. The system has solid depth across the board and the two centerpieces of the franchise – Toews & Kane – are still in their mid-20s.

    With all of that being said, the idea that Lalonde might transition to forward is entirely possible and probably makes sense if he is going to fit into the future of the organization longer than 12 months. He’s a good skater, and played forward some late in Rockford’s season and with Hawks in the season finale in St. Louis.

  14. Mike says:

    Tab….no real argument with your points and I love the youth movement. But it looks like the Hawks are going to replace Frolik and Bolland with some combination of Smith, Morin, Hayes, etc. I agree that it is a step forward for the organization in the long run and they have others on their heels. But for the 13-14 season this is not a step up in talent.

  15. Tab Bamford says:

    I think you’re confusing experience for talent, Mike.

    Frolik & Bolland combined for 10 goals and 14 assists in 80 regular season games last year. Frolik was a key part of the PK, but Bolland had become an overpaid 4C by the end of the year.

    Morin has 3 goals and 2 assists in 15 career NHL games. Smith has 4 goals in 20 career NHL games. From a production standpoint, they should be able to replace Bolland & Frolik effectively, if not exceed the production the Hawks received from them. The trick will be replacing the chemistry… but the fact that there are so many recent IceHogs on the Hawks’ roster (Kruger, Shaw, Bollig, Leddy) should soften the transition.

  16. Mike says:

    You see a lot more of them than I do so I will keep the faith. I worry about Hayes and Morin getting beat in transition though. But we are too far to turn back so let the games begin!

  17. Morrison says:

    Like these guys are saying, the younger players dont have to carry the team in any way. Just add to what we already have/role players.

    Every other top team doesnt have as much depth as they had & they dont have as much reinforcements as the Chicago Blackhawks do.

  18. Sr. Brad says:

    Excellent comments Tab, and as Morrison said, Smith, Morin and Hayes will only be asked to play hard and follow Q’s system, which is ferocious back checking…not save next season. Pirri, to some extent, has more focus and pressure on him in that 2nd line Centre role, but consider that Handzus is there to teach and fill in, plus Pirri would likely be centering Sharp and Hossa, not too shabby of line mates.

    As I have said here time and again, all 4 kids can flat out play…I think Ben Smith will become a top 6 forward over time, as he does everything well.

  19. wall says:

    Mike, I agree with what you are saying about 4th line… the young guys don’t skate as well as Frolik or 36… and still have a lot to learn (NHL)… they aren’t as quick- so D-wise … the new guys will be a downgrade— Can their Offense make up fopr the this downgrade??? Only time will tell!

    Also, agree w Tab and Brad… these kids do have more scoring talents, shooting talent.

    Danault, Nordstrom, and??? will be better long term replacements for the guys that have left- in time. That is not to say that Smith, Morin, and or Pirri won’t stick/succeed. But they might be better pieces in other roles… IMO

  20. McKay says:

    Yeah, I agree with Mike on speed – at least with Hayes. He’s slow. You can always continue to improve footwork to improve quickness (and certainly experience helps with anticipation) but can only increase speed by so much at that age.

  21. bowmanboyz says:

    People talk as if everyone has to be a top six forward. Frolik embraced the role as a defensive forward and became good at what he did. Bolland is a clutch player who comes up big in big games. That said, I don’t mind seeing them moved and the young guns get a chance at the NHL. I wasn’t overly impressed with Smith, but I did like Hayes in his short NHL stint, and I would like to see Clendening in a Blackhawk sweater.

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