Blackhawks Summer Fixes: Blue Line Help Possible

Now that we’ve looked back at the free agents Stan Bowman signed last summer, let’s look at a guy they should spend some of the Brian Campbell-created cap space on this summer.

There were some obvious issues with the group of defensemen available to coach Joel Quenneville at the end of the year, and both Bowman and Quenneville noted the need for an improvement on the blue line in their season-ending media time. Thankfully, there is a player hitting free agency that the Hawks should pursue.

First, let’s name the elephant in the room: the 2011-12 Blackhawks were soft. In the regular season, 203 players in the NHL were credited with more than 100 hits. Only three of those were Blackhawks: Brent Seabrook (198), Bryan Bickell (128) and Jamal Mayers (102).

The defenseman we’re looking at had 113 hits in 82 games this year. He’s listed at 6’0 and 200 pounds, but plays a physical blue line.

The other screaming need on the Hawks is help on special teams. They were bad on both the power play and penalty kill, and desperately need help on both units.

We’re thinking of a defenseman who fits a number of specifics the Hawks are desperately searching for. He had 20 power play points this year while averaging 3:16 per game with the advantage, but also skated 1:56 per game short-handed.

What’s more, this defenseman is a righty shot; of the defensemen under contract next year, only Seabrook and Steve Montador share that in common with him. Duncan Keith, Nick Leddy, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Dylan Olsen all shoot lefty.

Final statistics show that the Blackhawks had four defensemen – Seabrook, Keith, Johnny Oduya and Hjalmarsson – that blocked at least 100 shots this season, but obviously the majority of Oduya’s came in Winnipeg before the deadline.

The defenseman we’re considering had 132 blocked shots this season.

What’s most important about this defenseman than even his 11 goals and 36 assists or 23:54 average ice time is his contract status: he’s an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Who are we referring to?

Dennis Wideman, who played the entire 2011-12 season with the Washington Capitals after splitting last year between the Panthers and Caps.

Wideman, who won’t turn 30 until the end of March next year, is coming off a four-year deal he signed with Boston that carries a cap his under $4M per season. He was selected to represent the Caps at the 2012 NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa.

For as good as Oduya looked next to Leddy at the end of the regular season, Wideman would be an upgrade on everyone not-named-Seabrook in a Blackhawks sweater next season. He can skate, hit, play the puck and is willing to pay the price by getting between the puck and the net.

Obviously if the Hawks add another defenseman this summer, whether it’s by signing Oduya to an extension or looking to another player like Wideman, they’ll likely need to move someone off the NHL roster.

Leddy and Dylan Olsen figure to be part of the organization’s future plans and wouldn’t figure to be going anywhere. However, the future status of Montador, who struggled throughout the second half of the season with concussion problems, isn’t clear, and Hjalmarsson has been underwhelming since he got paid a couple years ago.

A few other names that might be intriguing to Blackhawks fans are Philadelphia’s Matt Carle, Florida’s Jason Garrison and, of course, Nashville’s Ryan Suter. But considering age, resume and likely cost, Wideman is the guy Bowman should target early this summer.

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34 Responses to Blackhawks Summer Fixes: Blue Line Help Possible

  1. Peter says:

    Like it a lot.

    I just want to send a quick shout out to Tab for all of the hard work that he puts into this site. He is very even keel in his assessments, comes up with intriguing ideas/players/scenarios that I do not always think about, and is straightforward. I appreciate the insight!!!

  2. Tim G says:

    Keith/Seabrook
    Oduya/Leddy
    Wideman/Olsen

    I Can get with that. I know HE wont be on the block, but the type of player we need is Max Pacioretty. Big Body Scorer. Grity, tough, hardworking. Stalbergs value is really high and we could pack him with Hammer/a Pick/Monty… whatever. I could be down with a Saad/Toews/Hossa Line if we can get a better Winger or True 2c to play with Sharp and Kane. I think our 3rd Line looked fine toward the end of year with Bicks/Bolland/Shaw (even though Bicks disappeard for much of January and February, and Bolland disappeared in April). Kruger, Hayes, Carbomb, Bollig, Frolik and rotate on the Fourth line for now. Pirri and Morin can rotate in with injuries as needed.

  3. Nancy Anne Johnson says:

    Tab, your articles are thoughtful, interesting and entertaining, I appreciate the updates you provide us international Hawks fans. You always raise our level of consciousness to a higher degree with it comes to our perceptions of certain players, their strengths vs weaknesses.

    Question: A reference was made in today’s news conference regarding Jamal Mayers sitting out those last games and it had something to do with Hossa’s injury? I didn’t quite understand the reference to Mayers and Hossa. Could you explain???? Thanks.

  4. Tab Bamford says:

    Nancy & Peter: Thanks for the kind words; they’re appreciated.

    re: Hossa-Mayers, someone in the media asked if Quenneville benched Mayers for not being the guy who responded when Torres hit Hossa. Quenneville quickly put that idea to bed.

  5. Tab Bamford says:

    re: Tim’s d pairs – Wideman would be an upgrade from Oduya; they wouldn’t be here together.

  6. Nancy Anne Johnson says:

    Tab Bamford says:
    April 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Nancy & Peter: Thanks for the kind words; they’re appreciated.

    re: Hossa-Mayers, someone in the media asked if Quenneville benched Mayers for not being the guy who responded when Torres hit Hossa. Quenneville quickly put that idea to bed.

    Thank you Tab. I thought someone in the media was attempting to lay the blame on Mayers, but was confused by the question.

  7. Blackhawk Up says:

    Never really thought of Wideman as a possibility. Very interesting. He was dynamite for the Capitals this season.

    The Capitals could also have some serious salary cap issues this summer. Semin, Wideman, Green and Carlson all need extensions and if they lose tonight and suffer another playoff disappointment, I would imagine some big, big changes are coming for them. I think the Hawks have a better chance of getting Matt Carle from the Flyers, but Wideman is an intriguing possibility.

  8. chambo says:

    Just curious as I didn’t hear the press conference. Did Q explain why after 40 minutes of domination, he totally changed the lines etc. It was obvious in the 3rd period that this was a bad move. Yes Smith was playing well, but as all teams stress patience is sometimes required.

  9. 5th Feather says:

    Ryan Suter is headed to Detroit in my estimation. That leaves the Hawks to look at other options.

    Hjalmarsson? Seems very clear Bowman is going to move him. Which is sorta too bad because I like Nik and think he is unfairly maligned. But he’s definitely a goner, so my opinion doesn’t matter.

    Oduya? He won’t be back. Not with Montador under contract and not with Bowman adding a primetime blueliner. Oduya’s pricetag will be higher than you think too.

    Wideman? I’m okay with that. But don’t rule out making a substantial trade for a physical d-man. Bowman has the young talent and supposed depth to tap into. And I have no problem with overpaying for the right guy in terms of talent given up.

  10. Johnny says:

    IMO I don’t really like Oduya. Hawks really need someone that can hit people on that second line defense.

  11. Dave says:

    Im gonna need to see more of Leddy before I concede his being a part of the future…that being about 15 pounds of muscle. The guy skates as well as anyone, but his grossly lacking physical game was exposed in second half of the season and glaringly in the Pheonix series. Was easily muscled off the puck and unable to regain position when beaten on plays, which were far too often against the Yotes. Not writing him off, but Nick Leddy as presently constituted is not going to be an elite defenseman.

  12. jeff says:

    What Dave just said. Big time. I don’t know why he isn’t talked about as a liability. Brutal 2nd half of the year. Right now he’s a kid playing a man’s game. Hope he fills out, and quick!

  13. Blackhawk Up says:

    Its unfair to criticize Leddy. He is what he is: a 20-year old in the NHL. You cant expect a 5-year old to know advanced calculus.

  14. BHawk 78 says:

    This type of move would be ideal. Oduya was a nice deadline pick up but the Oduya/Leddy pairing was awful in the playoffs. Two non-physical d-men are a bad pairing regardless of what team they’re on.

    If Leddy is going to remain on the 2nd pairing he needs to be with a guy that is the opposite as him and Wideman or some other bigger/physical top 4 d-man fits the bill. One of Hjalmmerson/Montador need to be moved most likely and I hope it’s Monty. Hjalmmerson still has value and is a top 4 d-man on most teams and still is the team’s best shot blocker. Him and Olsen on the 3rd pairing would be ideal while a Monty/Olsen pairing scares me and is the type of pairing that will only play limited minutes per night and increase the top 4’s minutes. The Hawks had that most of this year with a 3rd pairing of Monty/OD/Scott/Lepisto and Olsen. Can’t have that again.

  15. Ted says:

    Tab…just throwing this out there…. Am I being unreasonable to think a big-name trade could help us with the blue line and in the crease? What about Kane (and ?) to Carolina for Gleason and Ward (and ?). I read that Rutherford, is looking for a big name to bring into Raleigh this year (Parise?). Thoughts?

  16. Tab Bamford says:

    Rutherford is going to throw the kitchen sink at Parise, that’s true. But trading Kane to Carolina for anything less than Staal is an epic failure as a trade. If your (and ?) is four first round picks, the deal might make sense. No to trading Kane. Sorry.

  17. Brad Stevenson says:

    Wideman is a great suggestion, and considering the bidding war for Suter (with Detroit having the greater CAP space and need (see Lidstrom), it is an excellent suggestion…

    Sebs/Keith
    Wideman/Leddy
    Oduya/Olsen

    I know I didn’t mention Montador, who is under contract, but I simply can’t…IMO he is an awful DMan and shouldn’t have been signed…maybe his concussion will force him to retire…one never knows…

    The group above is one I could live with, although, I would prefer a more physical DMan than Oduya, but he makes a good pairing with Olsen, in fact all 3 groups pair off nicely.

  18. Brad Stevenson says:

    Trading Kane isn’t wrong…for the right player(s) it is the right thing to do…there are markets that need fans for survival, they will overpay to get a Patrick Kane…the name alone will sell more tickets…but we would have to be looking at players like Nash, Staal, etc in return.

  19. stealthwise says:

    Wideman was on the ice for something like 8 5-on-5 goals against in the playoffs so far this year. No thanks.

  20. Logan Reilly says:

    Yea…thats a good call, Tab.

  21. BHawk 78 says:

    Wideman or no Wideman the Hawks need a physical top 4 guy next to Leddy. What might be realistic is the Hawks dealing Hjalmmerson for another top 4 guy with that type of skill set.

    That being said after this past year I’m not even giving Leddy a 100% chance of being back(although pretty damn high that he is). I think aside from Keith and Seabrook everyone else on defense isn’t untouchable. The 2nd/3rd pairings need some type of serious shake up in my opinion. This year there was Oduya and Leddy (puck possession guys), Hammer (shot blocker), Monty (not very good and concussed), Olsen (still very raw, not ready for real minutes yet), OD (break in case of emergency) and Lepisto (never got a real chance and wasn’t an answer anyways). This probably sounds redundant but the Hawks defense needs to get more physical and smarter defensively in my opinion. Moves have got to be made.

  22. Dave says:

    Stop with the Nick Leddy is 20 already, Christ! He’s an NHL defensemen, and MANY an expert has him pegged as a top 4 on this team, so it’s not only fair, but justified to criticize him. He played with the big club significant time last season and came into camp this year no bigger, and no more physical. Is he to blame or the organization? Not important. What’s important, moving forward, is that the issue be addressed and fixed. He’s a great skater and has skills that cannot be debated. HOWEVER, when you can’t move anyone off the puck you quickly become a liability. I’m not giving up on this kid….not yet. If he comes into camp MUCH stronger next year, I expect better things for Nick Leddy. If he doesn’t, I expect him to be skating in Rockford or another NHL city. A year and a half of putting up with the “growing pains” is more than enough…either he starts growing, or it’s time to move him along.

  23. Chris C says:

    Tab-
    Thanks for all the hard work this season. I stumbled across your blog and have found it one of the most even-handed, well researched reads on any sports team. I like how you call it, and your suggestions always make sense. Playoff hockey seems to be built from the defensive zone first, and while not every team can have a shutdown goalie, they can all make the commitment to moving guys out of the crease, hitting people, and blocking shots. Too much parity in the game anymore to think that you’ll win every game by 5. I’ll be interested to see what moves happen over the summer!

  24. Tom Jaremka says:

    Yes, Nick Leddy is an NHL defensman, but he is only 20. Critisize him all you want, but the only way he is going to get better is to play a regular shift at the NHL level. His body will grow, he will get stronger and he will get smarter. Players like Leddy, Brian Campbell, the Niedermayer brothers, Karlson (Ottawa Senators) and a VERY few others have a God given talent to not only skate fast, but quickly manuever their feet in very tight situations and be able to get to open ice.

    It’s not that Leddy skates fast that’s impressive, he skates from the slot area to the side boards(40′ for you kids) extremely quick. He also gets from the front of the net to the rear boards(15′) fast, also. He can “turn and burn” better than any of our defenseman.

    His skating stride is a thing of beauty. You can’t teach people to skate like that. They are born with it and they enhance their ability at a very young age. We stole this kid from Minnesota and he will only get better. I think what Bowman saw was a very young version of Brain Campbell. With a little size and strength Leddy may be a carbon copy of soupy in a couple of years.

    So let Nick Leddy go out there and make some mistakes and learn from them. Because he can skate like the wind, he’ll be able to overcome most of his mistakes. He has to learn coverage shemes and what teams will try to do to him on a game by game basis. The only way for him to get better is to play!!

  25. 5th Feather says:

    Nick Leddy was a substantial liability the 2nd half and in the playoffs. There’s no debating his innate skill or ability to move the puck…BUT on a team starved for physicality and blueline presence he is lousy fit. If you’re going to say Keith and Seabrook are your top pairing and that you have a lot of finesse guys offensively, then the imperative is to have a blueline force on that 2nd pairing. It just is. Leddy needs to be your 4th or 5th defensive guy. I don’t care that Leddy is only 20. He is what he is.

    So what we’re saying is that the Hawks are in the market for primetime phyisical blueliner that rounds out a top 3 with Keith and Seabrook.

    Oduya? He won’t be back because he will command too much money, isn’t the physical blueliner needed, and there already is Leddy, Montador and Olsen taking up roles.

    Hjalmarsson? He’s gone. Stan has made that very clear if anybody really paid attention.

  26. Logan Reilly says:

    5th…

    I agree. I think Oduya will ask too much since they were loading up his icetime . They’ll only want to pay so much for him unless they give him the cash that Hjalmarsson is paid and trade him away…but that still makes little sense.

    The Montador signing still has me scratching my head. Here was a guy Chicago signed to 4 years, decent cash but his last 20 games or so in Buffalo was losing his confidence as was the coach. His erratic play continued in Chicago up until he got knocked out for the season.

    I like Leddy but I do fear a a Hjalmarsson repeat in that he stalls his progress the minute he gets the big payraise.. I hope to God not.

    I’d like Ryan Suter but I’m sure the money thrown at him will be crazy. I think Dennis Wideman will be similar too as everyone wants this type of player. For the most part Chicago is frugal with signing players from the outside…which is mostly a good thing. Because when players get overpaid they underwhelm that first year of the new contract.

    Where does that leave us? Another Sean O’ Donnell. LOL I’m kidding!! Or…am I? dun dun duuunnnnn!!

  27. Dominic says:

    Some friends are putting together wish list lineups for 2012, so here is mine. Go ahead and take it apart!

    FORWARDS
    Rick Nash ($7.800m) / Jonathan Toews ($6.300m) / Patrick Kane ($6.300m)
    Patrick Sharp ($5.900m) / Saku Koivu ($1,500m) / Marian Hossa ($5.275m)
    Brandon Saad ($0.925m) / Dave Bolland ($3.375m) / Andrew Shaw ($0.565m)
    Daniel Carcillo ($0.825m) / Brandon Prust ($0.800m) / Brandon Bollig ($0.578m)
    Marcus Kruger ($0.900m) /
    DEFENSEMEN
    Brent Seabrook ($5.800m) / Duncan Keith ($5.538m)
    Barret Jackman ($3.625m) / Dylan Olsen ($0.870m)
    Steve Montador ($2.750m) / Nick Leddy ($1.117m)
    GOALTENDERS
    Tomas Vokoun ($1.500m)
    Ray Emery ($1.150m)

    Trade: Stalberg, Hammer and Crawford for Nash, sign Koivu, Prust, Vokoun and Jackman

    I believe that would make it under the salary cap. Koivu has said he wants to stay in Anaheim though. Plus it is a perfect world scenario of course.

  28. esposito man says:

    hawks really need a big body like byflien who could crash the net and create havoc in front of great goaltenders like the ones we faced this year. defense and goaltending should be top priorities this summer. crawford is no neimi and montador is no buff!

  29. tysimmo says:

    Oh, and his quality of competition has been 3rd behind Keith and Seabrook each year, so it isn’t that he’s playing against inferior competition.

  30. JS says:

    Everytime someone mentions Dustin Byfuglien I want to put a gun in my mouth.

    I can also assume anyone missing Antti Niemi hasn’t watched much Sharks hockey.

  31. Chris says:

    @Dominic – That might be the most unrealistic and idiotic capgeek roster I’ve seen yet. Bravo.

  32. Michael says:

    Other readers: The Hawks have several holes to fill. The minor league system in Rockford is DEPLETED of NHL quality defenseman after Dylan Olsen was called up in 2012. There is NO ONE at Rockford that would be or could be a top 6 defenseman in the the Blackhawks organization in 2012-2103. Solution: Draft a physical defenseman in the 1st Round. There is a guy the Hawks should look at:: Cody Ceci playing for the Ottawa 67’s . If the Hawks are looking for a forward, look at Tom Wilson playing for Plymouth in the Ontario Hockey League.

    Meanwhile, use Marcus Kruger as trade bait in the 2012 June draft. Get rid of Michael Frolik while they might just get a low round pick for him. Sign Joe Thornton to a minimal contract with incentives. Go after either Shea Weber OR Ryan Suter (you won’t get both) as free agents. Trade Hjalmersson and get rid of his salary. Put Kane at center in 2012-2013 because he is NOT BIG enough to play wing. Trade Bollig for Steve McIntyre.

    Bring up Kyle Beach, and allow him to play left wing opposite Jimmy Hayes on right wing.

    The line could look like this:

    Forwards

    Carcillo – Toews – Hossa
    Thornton -Kane – Sharp
    Saad – Bolland – Hayes
    Beach or Bickell – Mayers – Shaw

    Alternate: LW Steve McIntyre

    Defense

    Seabrook
    Keith
    Suter or Weber
    D. Olsen
    Leddy
    Oduya (if resigned)

  33. Tab Bamford says:

    Other readers: Michael is clearly unaware of the Blackhawks having the rights to one of the bigger, more physical defenseman in college right now (Stephen Johns at Notre Dame) and also having one of the top d-men in college (Adam Clendening) coming along. They also have Justin Holl at Minnesota, who’s a smooth puck mover. I invite everyone to consider players that aren’t in Rockford before blasting the entire organizational depth.

    Furthermore, the pipe dream of getting Weber or Suter needs to be extinguished. Not only is Weber restricted (meaning Nashville can block him from going to any team in the Central), but Suter will end up in one of two cities next year, and neither of them is Chicago. We need to be realistic.

  34. Gou says:

    Tab, Great insight as always especially at the end.

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