Chicago Blackhawks Summer Preview: Unrestricted Free Agents

Blackhawks fans are all-too familiar with the concept of summer departures, and this year’s roster has its share of players that need new paper.

In this look towards the coming summer, we’ll examine the unrestricted free agents from the 2010-11 Blackhawks roster, and evaluate whether or not each has a future in Chicago.

Here are the players that will be unrestricted free agents this summer, both at the NHL level and some players from Rockford:

  • Tomas Kopecky
  • Fernando Pisani
  • Ryan Johnson
  • Jordan Hendry
  • Marty Turco
  • Jeff Taffe
  • Hannu Toivonen
  • Garnet Exelby
  • Jassen Cullimore

First of all, there are a number of players on this list that will not be back in Chicago under any circumstances. Pisani was a disappointment this year in the NHL and is no longer needed.

Turco will likely have other, better options than Chicago, and Toivonen wasn’t anything special in Rockford. The presence of Alexander Salak will make Turco a luxury the Blackhawks do not need to afford.

Cullimore may opt for retirement, and Exelby will probably test the waters of free agency after providing a strong season of leadership in Rockford. Hendry will be recovering from a major knee injury and, like Turco, may become a victim of numbers in Chicago and will be looking for work when next season starts.

Taffe shouldn’t be back, and that statement is not a reflection of his effort in Rockford this season. He led the IceHogs offense this year, but wasn’t ever able to stick in Chicago. It’s hard to imagine that he won’t get a look from team in need of experience.

The two players that raise the biggest questions this summer are Johnson and Kopecky.

Johnson was an ideal fourth center late in the year and into the playoffs, but the concerns about his ability to stay healthy remain. Because of his performance in Chicago, he may receive more money or years than the Blackhawks are able/willing to offer him from another team. However, he would be a welcome return on a one-year deal.

Kopecky is a unique situation, and it may be best for both parties if he leaves Chicago.

From a value perspective, there weren’t many veterans to bring more to the table this season that are hitting unrestricted free agency this summer. Kopecky had the best season of his life, posting 42 points (15 goals, 27 assists). To put that into perspective, Kopecky had 40 points in the previous two seasons combined. And he did it with a $1.2M cap number.

In a soft class of free agent forwards, Kopecky will undoubtedly have a list of suitors. Considering someone like Alex Frolov had a $3M cap number last year, it’s reasonable to think Kopecky could anticipate his cap number nearly doubling this summer.

Looking at the Blackhawks organizational depth and needs, Kopecky is not a fit moving forward. Furthermore, the projected $1.8-2.5M cap number he stands to make should be allocated to other places.

Added to the likelihood that Kopecky will cost too much is the reality that coaches in Chicago have regularly showed a willingness to use him in a manner that does not suit his abilities or the team best; Kopecky is, at best, a third line forward who was used as a top-six player too often by Joel Quenneville.

Stan Bowman would be doing himself and Quenneville a favor if he removes the temptation to skate Kopecky with his homeboy, Marian Hossa. Let someone else overpay him for his career year and Stanley Cup Finals experience, and clear a forward spot for someone like Ben Smith for a full season.

2 thoughts on “Chicago Blackhawks Summer Preview: Unrestricted Free Agents

  • May 3, 2011 at 9:31 am

    It’s too bad that the Hawks can’t get any value back for Kopecky. They probably should have traded him in the middle of the year when he was generating career numbers in points. Now the Hawks get nothing.

  • May 3, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    I think we have both been on the same page with Kopecky all along…he is a decent hockey player…he helped out a lot this year, especially with injuries, but Kopecky is NOT a physical, bumper/grinder type player.

    By resigning Kopecky to a relatively high number, we are getting a great guy, who tries hard, is hit and miss with scoring and with hitting…this is NOT the player we need to turn the corner…we need a guy who can put up Kopecky’s numbers, but with a lot more toughness and grit…

    We should be able to find this player, solving two needs, for less than what it would cost to re sign Kopecky…

    Again, I LIKE Kopecky…he has been a good player for us, but we need to get tougher and more physical, Kopecky is a good 3rd or 4th line chaser, a tenacious guy, who doesn’t give up…and yes, we can use this, but we really don’t have many open vacancies and somehow, someway we have to get tougher…

    It is the same argument for Campoli…who is a good defenseman, not great, but does NOT give us what we need…a stay at home defenseman who is physical and tough…same situation…

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