NHL Free Agency: 10 Unrestricted Targets For The Blackhawks

On Sunday, the third team from the Central Division was bounced out of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs when the LA Kings swept the division-winning St. Louis Blues.

What we’ve seen is the Kings, who were the eight seed, hammer the top two teams in the Western Conference with ease; they have needed only nine games to move into the conference finals. We’ve also seen an evolution in the Western Conference as whole, as the formulas that worked so well during the regular season have been regularly destroyed in the playoffs.

So how do the Blackhawks approach this summer’s free agency? Let’s take a look at 10 players that could fill a role on the 2012-13 Blackhawks and get them closer to competing for a championship, and who (importantly) will be unrestricted free agents this summer.

First of all, there are two unrestricted free agents you won’t find on this list: Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Both are obviously the top of their respective positions this summer on the open market, and (unfortunately) rumors are that both could end up in Detroit. The Blackhawks don’t figure to be major players for either of them this summer.

1. Dennis Wideman, defenseman
Age: 29
2011-12 $: $3,937,500

We already discussed Wideman at some length on this site. He’s physical and can handle the puck well. The biggest question with Wideman, a 2012 NHL All-Star, is how much a 46-point defenseman is worth after Suter signs. His 20 power play points would certainly be a catalyst the anemic Hawks unit could use moving forward.

2. Matt Carle, defenseman
Age: 27
2011-12 $:  3,437,500

Carle’s the odd man out in Philly, who have already thrown money at too many defenseman to keep him around. He blocked 164 shots last year and skated an average of over 23 minutes per game, making him an ideal top-four guy that could cut down on the minutes of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Carle was also a big contributor to the special teams in Philly this year, averaging 1:43 short-handed and 2:38 on the power play.

But being younger than Wideman, he’ll likely be asking for a longer-term deal that the Hawks might not want to give with the prospects coming up through the organization. Carle might be the biggest winner this summer as the consolation prize in the Suter Sweepstakes.

3. Chris Kelly, center
Age: 31
2011-12 $: $2,125,000

Kelly might be a diamond-in-the-rough that has potential to become a second line center for the Hawks. In just 14:44 per game last year, Kelly was plus-33 for the Bruins and scored 20 goals in a checking line role. He won 51.8 percent of over 800 faceoffs and blocked 56 shots. Also of note, he’s averaged 80 games per season over his seven years in the NHL and has always scored double-digit goals for Ottawa and Boston.

He might be on the “wrong side” of 30, but Kelly has shown offensive flashes that make him an intriguing name for the Blackhawks to consider.

4. Josh Harding, goalie
Age: 27
2011-12 $: $750,000

Maybe he doesn’t appear to be the grand slam people want with a 13-12-4 record for Minnesota last year, but he would come cheaper than many other potential “fixes” between the pipes and his .917 save percentage was certainly better for a more porous defensive group than either guy Chicago had last year. He has a .916 career save percentage, but has only played in 117 games.

5.  Jarrett Stoll, center
Age: 29
2011-12 $: $3,600,00

Maybe the price point is a bit high for a team that claims to have pretty good depth coming up at the center position. And maybe his six goals don’t scream “second line center” enough. But consider he won 55 percent of over 1,200 faceoffs last season and was credited with 165 hits while averaging over two minutes on both special teams and 16:40 total ice time per game.

6. Jason Garrison, defenseman
Age: 27
2011-12 $: $675,000

They probably want him back in Florida, but Garrison fits the Blackhawks need for a defenseman that will impact the power play. He exploded onto the scene next to Brian Campbell this year for the Panthers, posting 16 goals while averaging over 23 minutes on the ice per night. He had nine power play goals and three game-winners from the blue line while racking up 124 hits and 127 blocked shots.

The tricky part with Garrison is how trendy he’ll be on the market this summer (if Dale Tallon lets him get there). At 27, he’s only played 190 games in the NHL. But coming from a bargain basement cap number, he could be an affordable fit on the Hawks second pair.

7. David Jones, forward
Age: 27
2011-12 $: $2,500,000

Jones has scored 47 goals over the last two seasons in Denver, and could be an interesting right wing candidate if the team decides to stick with Patrick Kane as the second line center. His name also makes the list because he was one of the secondary players on an Avs power play unit that ranked ninth in the NHL last year (Jones averaged 1:52 with a man-advantage last season). He had three power play goals, one short-handed, and five game-winners for Colorado last year.

Listed at 6’2 and 210 pounds, he might be looking for a longer-term than the Hawks are willing to give this summer… but the Avs have to deal with almost their entire roster in free agency this summer and odds are he’ll be wearing a different sweater next season.

8. Johnny Oduya, defenseman
Age: 30
2011-12 $: $3,500,000

Oduya’s a bit of a known commodity now after the Hawks acquired him at the trade deadline. He was fantastic next to Nick Leddy after the deadline and was spoken about at length by Stan Bowman at the end-of-season media sessions, but his playoff performance left a lot to be desired.

Oduya’s return will likely depend on how much money – and how many years – he wants, and if the Hawks can move a veteran in a trade this summer. If the front office thinks a guy like Adam Clendening is going to be ready within the next 2-3 years, it’s doubtful they’ll sign a 30-year-old Oduya for longer than that timetable.

9. Olli Jokinen, center
Age: 33
2011-12 $: $3,000,000

Is he older? Sure. Does he have a history of disappearing at the end of seasons? Yup. Certainly those two concerns, couple with recent abdominal surgery and winning under 47 percent of his faceoffs last year, make this a tough sell.

But his 61 points and nine power play goals would be the reason to buy on Jokinen with a short-term deal. He’s coming off a strong offensive season on a bad Flames team and could be viewed as a rental at the second line center position if he would take a shorter term deal.

10. Jonas Gustavsson, goalie
Age: 27
2011-12 $: $1,375,000

Still very rough, Gustavsson’s  career record (39-45-15, .900 save pct) doesn’t look like one of a guy that will get an enormous raise this summer. But that’s where the gamble becomes interesting. Despite his struggles last year, he did post four shutouts and could be a guy that pushes Corey Crawford for the top spot on the depth chart more than Ray Emery was able to last season.

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28 Responses to NHL Free Agency: 10 Unrestricted Targets For The Blackhawks

  1. Borje Salming says:

    Wideman = Yes
    Carle= Maybe
    Kelly= No- Talent
    Harding= No- injuries
    Stoll= No- price
    Garrison= Yes -if not to expensive
    Jones=Yes
    Oduya=No -Price
    Jokinen=are you freaking Jokinen NO
    Gustafson= No a Moster disappointment

    Bryan Allen should be high on the list of needs.

  2. Tim says:

    Wideman if you can get him cheaper than he was making which I doubt they can, I’d pay Garrison long term if its at or under $3 million a year cap hit. The rest, no thanks. Especially Jones, the Hawks need another RW like they need another concussion. They need to shop their plethora of rw’s this summer in hopes of improving the blue line or getting that all important second line center. And no one ever seems to mention they still need a true #1 LW.

  3. Marko Milincic says:

    Wideman = No
    Carle = Yes
    Kelly = No
    Harding = Probably not
    Stoll = Maybe (Price)
    Garrison = Yes
    Jones = Absolutely Yes!
    Oduya = Maybe
    Jokinen = (Chuckle) No
    Gustavsson = No

    I’ll add one more name to that list. He would be bottom six guy, but he is a big dude with decent feet and decent hands: Taylor Pyatt

    He is a bowling ball forechecker who has double digit goals and assists for almost every year of his career. And his cap hit was 1 million this year and won’t get too much of a raise.

  4. Tab Bamford says:

    Not surprised by the laughter the Jokinen appearance is getting. And, as I said pretty openly, it’s a 50:1 longshot not worth heading to the OTB with. But if the team is looking just for a short-term rental 2C that can put up points on the power play, he’s worth mentioning. Frankly, he makes more sense than Andrew Brunette ever did.

    What does surprise me, though, is how many people are ready to jump on the Garrison bandwagon after really one decent NHL season. The suggestion that some would lock him up “long-term for around $3M” scares me more than the next three years of Montador being under contract here. I’d prefer someone with a longer track record than 75 games for my long-term money. But he is intriguing if for no reason more than he did have a big year and is coming off a bargain basement contract.

  5. Brad Stevenson says:

    Thanks very much for this Tab…the Hawks if they are not going after Suter, then HAVE to land one of the 3 DMen listed here…Carle, Wideman, or Garrison…this will secure the defence, help Crawford get better, and improve the special teams…

    Then we focus on the forward…I am not sure that player is in amongst your list, but the Hawks had better take that spot seriously…Hossa is far from sure to return this season, or ever…the Hawks MUST add a top notch forward to the roster…that, with the full season additions of Saad, Shaw and Hayes will give this lineup the makeover it needs to compete at the highest level…

    Next season will always come down to goaltending…the Hawks are in a tough spot with CCs contract, so he has to get better this summer and get back to a high level for us to have a chance…and Crawford can do it…personally, I believe that he will.

  6. AJ says:

    Stoll makes them better immediately. Exactly the type of big hard nosed in your face smart player this team is lacking who can win an important draw and put up +50 points if he has some weapons with him. May be tough to get him away from LA though if they go yard.

    Kelly for 1.5 – 2.0 anchoring the 4th line would be OK for 2 years. Give the kids time to develop. Again someone who can win a draw not named Toews and under 35 would be super.

    2nd pairing defender may solve problems… Having someone on the bench who knows how to manage minutes/shifts on the Defensive end and perhaps give some useful instruction on point shots and zone coverage may do the same thing…

    This is all predicated on the idea that the Hawks are trying to win a Cup next year not piss in the wind like the last two.

  7. wall says:

    Reality Check…

    Nobody wants to bring it up… But Hawks Management better consider the possibility that Hossa may be out for ????????????????????

    Tab or anyone out there know how the NHL/Cap is effected by a “Pronger” type injury, where the player is basically out of commission??? Or even, Monty’s Concussion? is that guaranteed money or “Cap” money if the guy can never play again?

  8. Zesty_N says:

    I know he is not a free agent but Derek Roy is probably going to be on Bowman’s radar. He’s a solid 2nd line center that has been a solid scorer every year up to last and Buffalo seems desperate to get rid of him to clear cap space after giving Leino a ridiculous contract they will have to work around, so we may get him without having to sacrifice a lot. As for the list I’m all for Wideman or Garrison other than that nobody seems like a good fit.

  9. Gou says:

    Tab, As usual another great topic to help us get through this painful spring.

    Roy and Carle with some of the kids that can bring the energy that Shaw or Hayes did and I am ready to roll the dice.

    A great deal of hockey sense here, but I have one request, please do not mention Jokinen to Reddsteel in any way shape or form again. The guy looks like he should be making wooden boats to attack unsuspecting European coastal cities.

  10. Brad Stevenson says:

    I am not sure how a long term injury would impact our Cap situation Wall, but you are right…Hossa could potentially be out for a long time…perhaps even done…that is why the Hawks cannot afford to skimp on the money they spending adding to the top 6 this summer!

  11. boom-boom says:

    “Tab or anyone out there know how the NHL/Cap is effected by a “Pronger” type injury, where the player is basically out of commission??? Or even, Monty’s Concussion? is that guaranteed money or “Cap” money if the guy can never play again?”

    It depends on how old the player is when they sign thier contract. For Pronger, since he was over 35, his salary number will count against the cap until the contract is over. If Hossa or Montador can never play again, his number can be wiped from the salary cap since they signed thier deals before age 35.

  12. boom-boom says:

    Getting Derek Roy this offseason to be the #2 C would be a coup if you ask me. I’ve for this since the talk leading up to the trade deadline this past season.

    I know I mentioned this in another thread but no one commented on it, what about bringing in Shane Doan to be a LW on the first or second line. He’s physical, can score, and help on the power play. And being a captain I would assume he some sort of leadership qualities.

  13. shaacul says:

    I miss one think, 4th line upgrade. I´ll resign Bollig, maybe Mayers too. But upgrade need´s to be done, our PK was great dissaster. We need to add guy like Burish or Campbell in our 4th line. And If I can ask for one under radar RFA, I´ll call Bergevin for Emelin. He´s quick, strong as a bear and hit like no one else. We miss that in our defense.

  14. AJ says:

    http://www.fearthefin.com/2010/9/18/1697231/hockey-101-long-term-injury

    Long Term Injury Reserve explained…

    My only issue is Derick Roy is 5’9 180. I mean hes a solid player wins 50% at the dot but honestly not what this team needs right now. With Kane / Kruger / Shaw / Frolik… Unless 2 of those guys go I am pretty opposed to this pick up. Better off getting a big mean winger who can pot 20/20 than throwing money in this direction.

    PK is more scheme than personal IMO…

  15. Mark L says:

    Doan would be nice, but he’ll be 36 in October and currently has a $4.5M cap number on his expiring contract. Not sure that he would be willing to take a big pay cut to join the Hawks.

    If the Sabres want Stalberg in part of a trade for Roy, I would move him in a heartbeat. I’m not sold on his long-term consistency. I think his value peaked this season, despite disappearing in the playoffs, and we’ll get the most return by moving him this offseason.

  16. AC says:

    I like all the dmen listed here, if we aren’t going to take a run at Suter. Getting one of them would be nice. I love David Jones, especially at his price point. I understand the theory around putting Olli and Gustavsson on the list and Jonas may be a nice risk to take. I was thinking more about Montoya and Justin Peters at Goalie, though, and maybe Joey Crabb at wing.

    And like others have said, this all goes out the window if Hossa is done, then we have to be in the discussion with the big name FAs, like Parise and Semin.

  17. Tab Bamford says:

    AC: you do realize the Hawks had Joey Crabb for about 10 minutes two years ago and didn’t think enough of him then to keep him around, right?

    & I don’t see how Montoya or Peters is better than Crawford, which is why I left them off the list. They’re 3-5 years from being where Emery is now. Gustavsson is intriguing at least from a potential perspective. But, then again, so is Salak…

  18. JJ says:

    No to all except maybe Wideman and Stoll. Would rather see:
    1) UFA Ryan Suter (pay the 7+M)
    2) UFA P.A. Parenteau ($3M)
    3) Trade Boland/picks/prospects for Jordan Staal ($4M).
    4) Trade Frolik for picks and for the Love of Pete just get rid of Hjalmarsson for anything.
    5) Fill out the roster with prospects and you still have $1M under next year’s cap.

  19. wall says:

    Amen JJ…

    Staal would be awesome…

    Hawks should have made a strong play for Dustin Brown when Tab brought up Kings were looking for offers… Kane for Brown would have been a blessing…

    did you see the Kane photos from this weekend??? He is a punk!!!!!!
    Brown is a STUD!!!! Leading Kings to finals!!!

  20. Tim says:

    You have Garrison at 190 games played not 70. He hits, blocks shots, can play the pk and pp. Remember when the Hawks had a shitty power play a few years back and it improved when they brought in a puck carrying dman, Campbell. Next few seasons their pp was great. They get rid of Campbell and pp goes back to shit. They need a dman who can carry the puck up the ice and get them in the o zone. At 27 I’ll take my chances on giving Garrison a 3 year deal at UNDER $3 mill a year. I never said at $3 a year. He’s young and brings a lot to the game. And I still don’t understand why anyone wants Jones, do the Hawks not have enough rw’s already, and thats even if Hoss is out long term. They need a true #1 lw.

  21. JJ says:

    Tim.

    I think we have 3 good RWs (Sharp, Hoss, Kane) and a load of unproven LWs. But there are no good, affordable, UFA LWs available. And Sharp is better on LW.

    Also, I like Garrison. But he has been average in the past and was on fire the first 9 weeks – then disappeared. He is a hot commodity right now, and he will be overpaid in the market. Suter should be bought and we can get the lineup below with a cool $1M below the cap. If you want Wideman, then you can “rent” Ray Whitney or Steve Sullivan to play 2nd LW for a year or two. But we know how that old guy rental experiment is an 8th grade science project destined to go bad.

    Here is the balance with Staal, Suter, and Parenteau (fixes the PK and PP):

    Sharp LW (speed) / Toews (2-way) / Kane (finesse).
    Stalberg (speed) / Staal (2-way, net presence, 62 GP, 163 PK mins) / Hoss (finesse)
    Shaw (2-way, grit) / Kruger (2-way, grit) / Parenteau (18, 49, 89 pims, 235 PP mins)
    Carcillo (grit) / McNeill (rook) / Hayes (rook)
    Bickel/other prospects

    Keith / Seabrook
    Suter / Leddy
    Olsen / Montador
    Stanton (Rook)

  22. Tab Bamford says:

    Jordan Staal & Ryan Suter aren’t even pipe dreams… they’re the result of drinking the bong water.

    The team hopes the top-six LW they need is Brandon Saad (a natural LW).

  23. AJ says:

    @ Everyone who thinks this – Hahaha Jordan Staal… Really? If Pitt has any Cup aspirations next year they probably want to hang on to him at least up until the deadline with Crosby and Malkins injury history.

    @JJ – Shaw / Kruger / Parenteau = checking line of midgets, or little people or disaster waiting to happen

    @Tim – You realize it was Keith, Kane, and Toews who drove the power play in 2010? Campbell had more than a half hour LESS PP time than Keith… Assuming Campbell had anything to do with any type of PP success is ridiculous and more importantly incorrect. They were 4th best in the league last year sans Soupy. Congratulations on following the team.

    And regarding Garrision… Remember how awesome Hammer looked next to Campbell? Avoiding that mistake again would be neat.

    Has anyone actually looked at the cap numbers? Or the fact that they only have 2 proven centers “natural” centers on their roster right now? Someone tell me the last team to win a Cup without 3 competent guys up the middle and 2 of them being guys who can win important draws consistently. Sorry but Kruger and McNeil running 3/4 is probably not going to win a Stanley Cup.

    Read a book

  24. AC says:

    Tab: I do realize that Crabb was Hawks’ property for about 10 minutes (in the Versteeg trade?), but he has evolved his game since then and might be the kind of 4th line player they could use.

    I am looking at goalie as a challenge to Crawford, not a replacement. Comparing Crawford’s first 2 full seasons to Jimmy Howard’s first 2 seasons, they are extremely similar, so I don’t believe it is time to bail on him yet. I just do not trust Emery as a solid backup.

  25. JJ says:

    Tab – Have you done the cap math or did that bong water you referred to get in the way?

    AJ – Yeah, I have looked at the cap numbers. Pit cannot meet their cap crunch to pay Malkin, Crosby, Letang, etc. when Staal’s contract is up after next year. He can be had for a solid less expensive 3rd center plus prospects and picks now. Why would they let him go in free agency for nothing in return? It’s business 101 – have you read any of those books?

    Midgets – Bolland 6’0″ 180/Parenteau 6’0″ 198/Kruger 5’11” 172/By the way, Shaw 5’10” 180 is a center. The 3/4 lines are just that – 3/4 lines. Swap out any of them for Carcillo/Bickell/Hayes/Saad/etc. Whatever combination gets the job done.

    And give me a better reason than bong water as to why the Hawks can’t be in the Suter derby? If you do the cap math we can afford both Suter at $7+m and Staal at $4+M. If you don’t go after a 3rd forward and live with Saad that makes those moves even more affordable. If you don’t throw another UFA forward into the mix and dump $9M in cap Bolland/Hjalmarsson/Frolik, you are now at $2M under the cap, which makes re-signing Staal and the prospects in 2013 a reality. Another wing is not a necessity. A big ass center and second D pairing is.

  26. AJ says:

    Staal makes 4 million. He will not make more than 5.

    Crosby makes 8.7 as a cap hit. He will be signed for life realistically around 9 until the end of time. At the most around 10.

    Pretty sure with the way the cap increases while using common sense and simple addition that they can afford to give those two players 2.3 million dollars in raises on the very high end.

    Letang is signed for two more years at 3.5. Depending on how the next two years go he will get probably get between a 2 and 3 million dollar raise predicated in injuries and playoff meltdowns or lack there of. Again with the cap increasing the way it has been and the expiring contracts the next year, this should not be an issue. Bottom line is they can very easily keep their core intact and should feel zero pressure to do otherwise.

    The Hawks can afford Suter if they want to dry hump the cap again. Which works when you have expiring contracts or plethora of young talent to cash in on. Kind tough when Buff, Ladd, Versteeg turn into Stalberg, Kruger and Bickell in terms of assets to get return on…

  27. Tab Bamford says:

    @ JJ – I appreciate you wondering if I’ve done the math to figure out cap space. And yes, I have. Please feel free to continue with your pipe dreams.

    To everyone that continues to lust for Jordan Staal and Ryan Suter, including JJ, I offer this brief visit to the realities of NHL finances.

    Something we must keep in mind is that we can no longer assume the cap is going up every year. There are some out there that think the cap could actually come down next year, or at best stay where it was last season.

    The Blackhawks roster, as it currently stands, has around $7M in cap space available if you use the 20 players that were on the roster at the end of the year (this includes Shaw, Olsen, Jimmy Hayes and the increase for Daniel Carcillo’s two-year extension that begins next season). That’s a dollar amount that might afford the team Ryan Suter alone, in a bubble where we cannot assume trades taking money off the roster or amnesty allowing the team to dump a bad deal (cough, Montador).

    The next step in this discussion is the long-term realities of the roster. The Blackhawks have their top two defensemen signed long-term already, and Nick Leddy is 12 months away from needing an extension. If the Blackhawks add another veteran long-term, there is no room in the team’s top 4 for a potential star to emerge because of financial considerations. So if Dylan Olsen or Adam Clendening or Stephen Johns or someone else comes along at some point that is good enough to be a top-guy, the opportunity just won’t be there.

    Re: Staal, assuming he won’t get more than $5M makes me laugh. If Patrick Sharp is getting $5.9M per on his new deal, there’s every reason to think Staal could ask for a similar dollar amount and get it from someone – including one of the teams already paying one of his brothers (Carolina specifically). Why would the Blackhawks mortgage the resources to go get a player like Staal for one year, and why would he take less money to be with an organization he’s been with for only one year? There are simply too many variables for Staal to be the guy. I agree that his skillset is absolutely perfect for this team as the second line center, but the situation simply doesn’t fit.

    The final piece we all have to own is that, if Crosby is going to “get signed for life for $9-10M per,” how much will the Blackhawks have to pay Toews and Kane in 2015? Yes, that’s three seasons away… but when we start talking about locking up players to long-term deals now, you’re impacting the Blackhawks’ future spending power. If Crosby’s worth $9M per, my opinion is that Toews is as well. The Blackhawks need to plan to have at least $5M in available cap space in 2015 to raise the deals of Toews and Kane. I know opinions differ on Kane’s future with the organization, but any player that theoretically replaced Kane would undoubtedly need to get paid well at some point in the next 3-5 years also.

    That’s the reality of the finances of the game right now for trolls like JJ and others that are simply lusting for another superstar. The Blackhawks have an elite core, and do have some good cap space to add one or two decent veteran players this summer if they choose to do so. They also have some good prospects coming, including Brandon Saad, that aren’t included in the 20-man roster or cap amount quoted earlier in this response.

  28. Jella says:

    Forget about the cap math even, it’s not like in economics 101 there couldn’t easily one of the other 25 teams desperate for a #1 or #2 center walk in and offer a blue chip prospect or a high overall draft pick for the draft in frigging Pittburgh and render your whole pipe dream of getting Staal for Bolland and picks moot.

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