2016: First Round Playoff Exit
2017: First Round Playoff Exit
2018: Did Not Make Playoffs
Once upon a time, those three finishes in succession weren’t a big deal. Hell, from 1998 to 2008, the Hawks sniffed the playoffs just a single time. As it turns out, drafting a pair of once-in-a-generation players and winning three Stanley Cups can change year-to-year expectations dramatically.
What to do with an offseason following the most disappointing season since Toews and Kane were teenagers? The answer to that can span from very little to a whole lot. I’ll take a look at five directions the Hawks could go this summer:
Enter The John Tavares Sweepstakes
Two things right off the bat: the likelihood of this happening is low and center is definitely not the No. 1 priority for the Hawks this summer.
Still, when you have someone hitting the open market who’s as talented (84 points in 2017-18), durable (four-straight seasons of 77+ games) and young (27) as Tavares, it’s worth at least mentioning.
Now…he’s going to get PAID. Probably somewhere in the range of $10-12 million per year. With the Hawks having just $14.76 million in cap space (24th in the NHL) at the moment, it’s not a match made in heaven. That would mean for them to make a push they would have to do some serious maneuvering of contracts, and would certainly have to dump one of the larger ones…Jonathan Toews, I hate to say I’m looking at you, but I may be looking at you.
Remind Brandon Saad That He’s Good At Hockey
Okay, so I’m cheating having this be an offseason ‘direction’. It’s my blog though, damnit. It’s tough to imagine the Hawks not being markedly better with even a slight improvement from Brandon Saad. 2017-18 was Saad’s fifth full season (played 46 games in 2012-13) in the league and he set career-lows in:
- Goals (18)
- Assists (17)
- Points (35)
- +/- (-10)
- Power Play Points (1)
- Shooting Percentage (7.6%)
“It’s something where maybe I was gripping the stick too tight, thinking about it too much,” Saad told NBC Sports Chicago at the end of the season. “Other games maybe just puck luck. I think there are still some positives you can take out of the season and some things I did well. Just fine-tuning a couple things and a few details should be back on track to go.”
We just need a little bit of puck luck (new favorite saying). Entering 2017-18, Saad had a streak of three seasons with 50+ points. I’d put a lot down on saying he won’t suffer another sub-ten shooting percentage season (let alone sub-eight) which in and of itself will translate to more offensive production for he and his teammates.
Make A Good Defenseman Appear Out Of Thin Air
Basically what I’m saying is that the Hawks try to do the opposite of whatever Thanos was doing to people in Avengers. Something like that.
They could also go the traditional route and try free agency or the trade market.
There’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that the Hawks are in need of a top-four defenseman. Honestly, these days, you don’t talk about the Chicago Blackhawks without mentioning it in the same breath. Here are a handful of guys who could be candidates for a move to Chicago:
- John Carlson (WASH)
- Ian Cole (CBJ)
- Tobias Enstrom (WPG)
- Jack Johnson (CBJ)
- Mike Green (DET)
Among these names (there certainly are other possibilities), John Carlson is your top-end, expensive option. He just earned himself a boat-load of cash during the Caps’ Stanley Cup run — the dude was PLUS-ELEVEN over the course of twenty-four games.
Mike Green is another guy who could prove to be a better option than he looks on paper. He missed the tail-end of the year with Detroit due to injury, but can be a boon to the power play — something the Hawks could certainly use given their No. 23 ranking in PPG.
Trade For Erik Karlsson
You need a defenseman? Just trade for one of the best currently playing the game, Erik Karlsson. See, Stan Bowman? Running a professional hockey team is not hard.
This would be a hard one to swing, no doubt. It essentially would be an ‘all-in’ move for the Hawks with Karlsson entering the final year of a seven-year/$45.5 million contract.
If this were to happen for Chicago, it more-than-likely would occur on draft night. With the Hawks owning picks No. 8 and 27, they could package one of those two along with a whooooooole lot more. Artem Anisimov would almost certainly be included if a deal were to be done — he’s owed a team-friendly $4.55 million/year for the next three seasons.
Did you see what I did with the title?
Staying put is the unsexy option that would include adding a defenseman or two, upgrading with two first-round draft picks (although all indications point toward them trading No. 27 regardless) and trusting that many like Saad, Toews, Duncan Keith, etc. will enjoy bounce-back seasons.
As I mentioned earlier, the Blackhawks aren’t flush with cap space, so despite plenty of attractive targets, it might not be the time for a blockbuster signing/trade.