The offseason is here which means the mail is starting to pile up. Time to open up some of it:
Q: I am against trading Patrick Kane. It would be almost impossible to get equal value in return. He did have a wrist injury last season, and that takes a long time to heal (see Derrick Lee). He should have a better season if they keep him at wing. -- Joe (Las Vegas)
A: I think I’m with you especially about not getting full value. In my mind, his only problem with the recent incident was the decision to go to a very public party place like Madison, Wis. It’s not in-season, most guys who aren’t playing are having a good time but to do it there where real trouble could easily erupt was a dumb decision. Now, if he’s doing these things in-season, that’s a different story. But to trade him based on some partying and nothing more seems like a mistake and knee-jerk. However, they know more about his situation than we do so they’ll have to make that decision. I’m sure he’s not a choir boy in-season but how it affects his play, I just don’t know. Again, hockey players like to party. Most just do it a little more quietly. Just don’t go to one of the most public party places in the country next time.
Q: Reading between the lines, in your opinion, what did Bowman mean when he said the Kane situation is a "private matter and has been handled internally?" Is Kane being given one last chance or is he gone? Also curious as to how this came up on the conference call. -- Patty (Chicago)
A: First off, Bowman was simply asked if the Hawks had a comment about Kane’s recent, very public, display of partying in Madison. Or alleged partying. Or whatever you want to call it. I don’t know about one last chance. Again, what did he do except put himself in a precarious position to get into some real trouble? He didn’t get into real trouble so he was lucky in that sense. I mean, did they tell him not to pose for pictures or not to drink alcohol publicly? I think the bottom line is they told him (again) to be more careful or he’ll end up in a hospital or jail or somewhere nefarious like that. And that means making a better decision than going to Madison with college kids on a party holiday.
Q: Jesse, I agree with you that Dave Bolland is our best trading piece in terms of our ability to internally replace him as well as the value he could fetch. But is Jordan Staal the best option? With his injury history (and I know-injuries can happen to anyone at any time) I'm a bit wary of entrusting our 2nd line to him. The two guys I'm most interested in are Joe Pavelski and Brayden Schenn. Any thoughts on those two being a fit and what it might take to get them? As always, love your insight-keep up the good work! -- Robert (San Antonio)
A: Sure, I would take either of those guys but I wrote about Staal for a variety of reasons including the fact that he’s big. And if Pittsburgh traded him they would need to replace that third line role immediately and Bolland is as good as it gets. The point wasn’t to focus on Staal but the idea that Bolland could be redundant in the lineup if you believe in Marcus Kruger. Then you go out and see what Bolland fetches you as part of a bigger package. I’m open to anything but love Staal’s size.
Q: Why would Stan Bowman sign Jamal Mayers and Johnny Oduya? They both disappeared in the playoffs when it counted. Shouldn’t we have saved that cap space to make some more significant moves in the offseason? As a fan, I’m not happy with what Bowman is doing and the direction this team is going. -- Aarib (Chicago)
A: I’m sure a lot of people are wondering about those signings. I don’t have a problem with Mayers returning for minimum money. You know what you’re getting from him despite the playoff benching. He’s probably motivated to make sure that doesn’t happen again. He was one of the lone solid penalty killers, and he’s still a good leader. Not a big deal there. Oduya coming back at that price of $3.3 million is a big gamble in the sense that now Bowman has locked himself into this team unless he makes a bold trade. Basically, it’s going to look the same as last year minus Andrew Brunette and Sean O’Donnell unless Bowman pulls the trigger. I would have liked for him to wait until the last minute and see how things are transpiring, whether that be late June or even into July. They had money for one really good free agent, and I’m not sure Oduya is it. And I’m not sure he needed to be locked up so quickly.
Q: I disagree with Bowman's idea that if you trade a player, you have to replace him with an equivalent player. For example, if you trade a 30-goal scorer for better defense/goal tending, and as a result you let in fewer goals per game, won't you win more games than you would with those 30 goals? In that case, you could get away with a 15-20 goal scorer up front. -- Kevin (Valparaiso, Ind.)
A: I know what you mean, but in fairness I think he was talking about his core guys and their unique abilities. Moving the playmaking of Patrick Kane would leave a huge hole which you might not be able to cover up enough on defense to equal out. But you are right, if a core guy gets you the best goaltender in the league then obviously you can sacrifice offense for defense. In fact, Patrick Sharp said as much when Brian Campbell was traded. They were giving up a good defenseman but were hoping to plug some other areas (second-line center?) with that savings. The problem is it didn’t happen.
Q: It seems like we are going to see pretty much the same team as last year. Not too surprising. I am not ruling out a trade for a defenseman or maybe some forward, but my money is on Stan not pulling the trigger on anything. Is this how you see it? Can we criticize Stan for this? -- Dave (Chicago)
A: It’s a great question. I go back and forth on whether Bowman has the gumption to pull off a big deal and move one of his main stars or even secondary stars. Now, as he said, you don’t do it just to do it, but I will say that it’s not out of the realm of possibility these players need a wake-up call. They seem a little too comfortable in their surroundings and if one of them is moved it sends a message. Part of the wake-up call is on Joel Quenneville too. No more Mr. Nice Guy. But back to Bowman, barring that big trade it will look very similar to last year’s team, and he might be making the case that fixing special teams and getting better play out of Corey Crawford is all that’s needed. He could make the case that that should all come from within, but I don’t see where their guy in front of the net comes from. They need to go outside for that. As people are speculating, Niklas Hjalmarsson seems like he could be the bait for a trade so stay tuned.
Q: What are the chances of the Blackhawks having a new starting goalie next season? -- Henry (St. Petersburg, Fla.)
A: I think very little. There is a history of third-year netminders recovering from poor sophmore seasons, and Crawford doesn’t have any obvious flaw that can’t potentially be fixed. Plus, I think it would throw their salary structure into a mess if they went out and got a big-money goaltender. Crawford gets this year and no more if he falters, in my opinion.
Q: Will Brandon Bollig be back with the Hawks? -- Jon (Raleigh, N.C.)
A: He’s the Hawks’ lone restricted free agent who finished the season with the club, so I expect he’ll be addressed now that Oduya and Mayers are signed up. I’m pretty sure he’ll be back, and it shouldn’t be a hard negotiation. It could and should happen before July 1.
Q: With Oduya signed, does that mean Hammer is gone and are we looking at possibly a more physical defenseman, or maybe even a Ryan Suter splash. I think a Duncan Keith/Suter, Brent Seabrook/ Nick Leddy, Steve Montador/Oduya would be a solid 1-6 with Olsen as a 7. -- Jeremy (Deerfield, Ill.)
A: It’s hard to say for sure what it means. You can’t just give Hjalmarsson away and the Hawks often talk about the value of defensemen and depth at that position. Bowman did intimate they would like to get bigger on defense so a move there is a possibility. Suter would be a nice addition, but it seems like a pipe dream unless the Hawks pull off a blockbuster. Who wouldn’t want him and a lot of teams have more money to spend. If he really wants to be here he might have to take less money, which he might. Trading for his rights and then signing him could be a possibility, but that means you better be sure he’ll sign. I think the situation on defense is fluid, and if Bowman had a deal in place as he signed Oduya, it would be done. I think he’s prepared to go to the season with what he has, but if something comes his way which looks better he can go for it.
Q: In your honest opinion, how do you feel about what Bowman has done so far and what do you expect from him the rest of the summer? -- Richard (Saint John, New Brunswick)
A: I think Bowman has underwhelmed, but I also don’t think he’s been given a completely fair shake. In fans minds (and maybe rightly so) he didn’t win the Cup and anyone that did is getting a pass --- at least until now. He re-signed Keith, Seabrook, Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Sharp with little contention and by doing so ate up a lot of the money he saved when he had to break up the championship team. His problem has come in the smaller signings, as in most of what he did last summer. It wasn’t second-guessing when a lot of people were talking about O’Donnell and Andrew Brunette, for example, slowing the team down. That’s exactly what they did. I do think he’s relying on his drafts to keep the Hawks competitive, and we’ll find out if that strategy works out. But I do think -- for whatever reason, maybe he’s not part of the old-boys network -- he’s having a tough time finding the right trade partners. I do think his front office “team” has some eye for talent and they know what they’re doing but it just hasn’t panned out as planned. The second line center problems are a good example. They saved money by moving Campbell but weren’t able to turn that into an impact player.