- Jesse Rogers, Chicago Cubs beat reporter
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The only surprise relating to the Chicago Blackhawks on draft weekend was the player available to them at No. 18 on Friday night. If Tevo Teravainen is the real deal -- as many teams claim him to be -- then the Hawks truly got a steal late in the first round.
But Teravainen is about the future not the present. The Hawks were quiet on the trade front around draft time for the first time in several years, but the rumors persist. They would like to move Niklas Hjalmarsson and possibly Steve Montador in order to gain extra salary cap space for a run at another defenseman, most likely Ryan Suter of the Nashville Predators. He becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1. It would also open up more playing time for Dylan Olsen, who the Hawks are high on.
There’s little doubt if the Hawks are motivated to move Hjalmarsson, they will. Even if you’re not the biggest fan, he has value. Plenty of it for teams in need of defense and that have cap space to burn. His salary, $3.5 million for two more years, isn’t an anchor for a team and there are plenty that could use his skills.
But if Hjalmarsson is a wanted man, what does that make Suter? Plenty of teams will show interest, and the Hawks have to hope Chicago’s proximity to his home in Madison, Wisc. is the difference. Other teams in the mix for the 27-year-old All-Star include Detroit, Pittsburgh and Dallas. Those are some good organizations but, again, Chicago can sell itself to Suter while those other teams will have to do some aggressive pursuing to obtain him. The Red Wings, in particular, are sure to be players in this. And then there is Suter’s teammate, Shea Weber. He’s a restricted free agent, and while offer sheets from other teams are rare in the NHL, this would be the one guy worth giving up a boatload of draft picks to obtain. But for now, the Hawks are focused on Suter.
But they better have a backup plan ready in case he goes elsewhere. Florida Panthers defenseman Jason Garrison is someone to keep an eye on if the Hawks don’t get Suter. Garrison, 27, is a late bloomer, having played just two full seasons in the NHL, but he made a huge leap in the offensive side of his game last season, scoring 16 goals after tallying five the year before. Nine came on the power play. That’s as many goals as the Hawks’ top scoring defenseman, Brent Seabrook, scored last season in combined 5-on-5 and special teams play. Reports indicate the Panthers have made an offer to Garrison but he has yet to sign. Garrison’s salary cap figure was only $675,000 so he’s line for a huge raise, but it should be one the Hawks can afford -- if they trade Hjalmarsson. And strike out on Suter, of course.
General manager Stan Bowman talked with his former boss, current Florida GM Dale Tallon, several times this past weekend. When asked if it was business or pleasure, Bowman replied, “What do you think?”
“Good answer,” Bowman said.
Could the two have been talking about trading for Garrison’s rights before July 1 if he doesn’t re-sign with the Panthers?
It’s possible but that means he would come before Suter.
There are plenty of moving parts when it comes to the hot stove season in the NHL, especially with an expiring collective bargaining agreement. Top tier free-agents will want big signing bonuses so they can cash in before a possible lockout. Add that as another layer to all the free agency talk.
As for the forwards there are some big names who may be on the move. Zach Parise is a free agent to-be and Rick Nash is on the block but neither is the answer at center on the second line and neither is coming to the Hawks. It looks like the Hawks are focused on changing up their defense, but first things first -- room has to be made for future additions. Hjalmarsson’s time as a Hawk might be winding down but that’s about where the certainty of the situation ends.