The NHL’s free agency period starts on Friday morning, and teams will be looking to fill in gaps as they pursue a Stanley Cup championship next season.
As is usually the case, the Blackhawks won’t be big spenders in the free agent market, focusing instead on adding pieces to give their roster depth rather than adding high-profile players. Their last major free agent signing was Marian Hossa way back in 2009, and although they’ve made additions such as Brad Richards during that span, none of them have ever come close to matching the yearly salary or term that Hossa received on his 12-year deal.
Even with that in mind, the Blackhawks will still be looking to add a few veterans, and we’re previewing the positions that they’ll need to address as the free agent signing period begins.
The Blackhawks have already made an addition in this area over the offseason, bringing in Czech-born defenseman Michal Kempny on a deal, but they’ll still likely be looking for a veteran puck-mover to help bolster their blue line for the coming year.
That’s where Brian Campbell comes in. The defenseman has gone on record saying that he would love to return to Chicago, and although he would have to take a pay cut to do so, the Hawks do have $5.2 million in cap space to play with, and he would certainly help the team offensively and give Brent Seabrook a reliable partner to play with on a nightly basis.
The Blackhawks had to part ways this season with Teuvo Teravainen, and it seems highly unlikely that the team will be able to bring back Andrew Ladd on a new contract. Add to that the fact that Joel Quenneville will likely be cautious about breaking up Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane, and that the team will likely try to ease Nick Schmaltz into the lineup instead of throwing him straight into the fire, and there is certainly an argument to be made that this area presents a need.
Players like Kyle Okposo will be out of the Blackhawks’ price range, but a player like Thomas Vanek, who was just bought out by the Minnesota Wild, could conceivably be a fit. A player like P.A. Parenteau could also be a possibility depending on how much a Campbell contract would cost, but the Hawks would have to be very careful on how much money they dedicate to this position.
Veteran Bottom Six Winger
The Blackhawks are going to hit the market needing to replace guys like Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise in their bottom six, and it seems unlikely that they’ll want to just go into the season with players like Vincent Hinostroza and Ryan Hartman as the players filling those roles.
A reunion with Weise is possible, but with the way Quenneville approached his usage last season, it’d be hard to blame him for not wanting to come back into the situation. A player like Chris Stewart could also be an intriguing option, but he seems to be a player that a team will overpay for in the belief that he could still be a serviceable top-six forward rather than a depth player.