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Training camp is around the corner and the mail is starting to pile up. Here are some answers to your questions:
I know we're not even starting preseason yet, but do you see Brent Seabrook getting a long-term extension this season similar to that of Duncan Keith, or will the Hawks wait until next summer to explore their options? Also, does the current cap situation end this year? If not, how long do you foresee the Blackhawks crunching numbers to field a team? Do the bonuses to Kane and Toews alleviate some of that stress next summer? (as the Hawks will theoretically have $4 million dollars more to play with than they do this year). Go Hawks!
Curt (Chicago, Ill.)
I wish I had an answer for you regarding Seabrook. My bet is they haven’t even addressed it internally yet or at least not in a serious manner. This offseason was so intense that once they get the season going they will look at Seabrook and decide accordingly. He is restricted after this season so the urgency isn’t as demanding as it could be. The Hawks have put a lot of stock in their defense so far so that bodes well for Seabrook staying, as does his relationship on the ice with Keith. However, at some point they may lose one of these guys because how much can you pay your blue line? With the Hawks having tied up a decent number of players to long-term deals they will almost always be in some kind of a salary-cap crunch. It may not be as bad as this offseason because they had three stars (Kane, Toews, Keith) all up at the same time and that helped create the crunch. The bonuses that Toews and Kane no longer can earn certainly help the cause next offseason as long as Kyle Beach doesn’t win the Conn Smythe!
In a recent post you said Antti Niemi is likely going to sign a one-year deal with a contender that would make him an unrestricted free agent in 2011. Marty Turco's new contract with the Hawks is also just one year. Is it possible that the Hawks could sign Niemi to a deal in 2011 free agency?
Harry Kroll (Winnetka, Ill.)
Anything is possible but for the stars to align that way is improbable. It would be one heck of a twist though. Niemi still might sign longer term, in fact, by the time you read this it could be a done deal. A one-year deal means he has to prove himself all over again to earn that multiyear contract, so getting some security now might be the way he goes. I would say it’s doubtful he plays for the Hawks again not because of any bad blood but just because he has only a 1 in 30 chance of doing so!
What player coming from free agency or Rockford will make the biggest difference in this upcoming year?
Mike (Lockport, Ill.)
It would be easy to say Turco just because his style of play should jell easily with the Hawks, especially their D-core. And the fact that the Hawks have not had a puck handling goaltender in years will simply stick out. He still needs to stop the puck, though. I’ve heard great things about Viktor Stalberg. The Hawks look like they got some quality in the Kris Versteeg trade but he’s still raw and learning the North American game. I think he comes on as the season progresses.
I am curious as to your thoughts on the Fernando Pisani and John Scott signing. Granted Scott can play D (not very well) and Pisani can play any forward position (when healthy), but wouldn't we have been better served by signing someone like Asham (far more reliable) and let Vishnevsky or Connelly break in as 7th D man? We do have the cap room for this with Huet's imminent exit.
I like where you’re going with this especially your point about the blue line. I was a little surprised they locked up seven defensemen on one-way contracts, allowing little room for a rookie to come out of nowhere in camp. Maybe they won’t mind sending one veteran down because the bottom three make near minimum money so I’m sure there’s still an opening if someone wows them, but that’s what it will take. A huge camp.