Chicago Blackhawks: Andrew Ladd
* Patrick Kane and Andrew Ladd each had a hat trick. Kane scored four goals including the game-tying tally with minutes to go.
* Dan Carcillo won the game with a shootout goal. A slow-down move that Kane said Carcillo stole from him.
* There were several excessive goal celebrations including Jonathan Toews knocking down his teammates pretending to bowl, a Troy Brouwer led ‘kayak’ celebration with several players rowing a boat and Carcillo’s sliding, horse riding performance after his winner.
* Celebrity coaches Ryan Dempster and Robbie Gould were “jawing” at each other from the benches all night. After a Kane goal, Gould threw a ‘red flag’ to challenge the score. The goal was upheld.
* The highlight of the night happened when Carcillo (playing for team World) jumped the Chicago bench, attacking Dempster. Dempster’s colorful sport coat got ripped off and the two continued the “fight” moments later on the other bench.
* After the game, Patrick Sharp said he could recognize fans in the crowd who usually inhabit the United Center for Blackhawks games.
After Tuesday's 4-3 comeback win over the Winnipeg Jets, Kane broke free from the stock Q&A with the local TV host to ask the remaining fans a question of his own:
"It was Danny's first game," Kane said, his voice raised with joy. "You guys like him out there tonight?"
They did. Kane knows how to get a rise out of the 20,000-plus puckheads who fill the arena for every game.
"Danny" is Daniel Carcillo, a.k.a. Car Bomb, a.k.a. the Missing Link.
Carcillo is the heir apparent to Blackhawks alums like Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Troy Brouwer and Adam Burish -- bruisers that took the heat off the stars, and torched opponents during the 2010 Stanley Cup run.
Read the entire column.
CHICAGO -- They haven’t stepped on the United Center ice since June 6, 2010, when former Chicago Blackhawks’ forwards Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd helped their old team to a 7-4 victory in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals.
Both players, dealt in a salary cap purged the team was forced to endure following a title run in 2010, return to the United Center on Thursday with the newly reformed Winnipeg Jets. Byfuglien, in particular, comes back with a larger than life imprint on the city of Chicago and the organization that selected him in the eighth round of the 2003. draft. (And it’s not just because of his physical size, which lists him at 6-5, 265.)
Known as “Big Buff,” he scored two goals and had two assists in that Game 5, but it’s his personality which is most remembered by his former teammates.
“He was the guy in the locker room who kept it loose and had fun,” Bryan Bickell said this week. “I know he’s going to have fun when he’s back here.
“He was a social guy. He didn’t turn anyone down or look at anybody differently. He kept everyone the same. He wasn’t in any groups. He was in one big group with his teammates.”
A professional locker room can be no different than a high school classroom. Sometimes there are clicks, and in the case of hockey, it can be defined by nationality. Byfuglien mixed easily with all and his personality never wavered.
“He was a fun guy every day,” Patrick Sharp said. “Win or lose. Good game or bad game. I get a lot of credit or blame for being the prankster but he was the guy behind 90 percent of it. He kept the room loose and got along with everybody.”
His laid back persona sometimes got the best of him, like when coach Joel Quenneville barked instructions during practice and Byfuglien happened to do the opposite.
“The coach would tell him to do something and he doesn’t do it,” Patrick Kane said. “He would get an ear full.”
“He always had something to say,” Sharp explained. “He’d have a smart comment for authority figures and for whatever reason everyone kind of just laughed it off where I think if I said it or someone else in the room said it we’d get in trouble. But Buff had that smile that just made you laugh.”
His folk hero status was solidified in two playoff series against Vancouver in 2009 and 2010. He became known as the “Roberto Luongo killer” for his fierce battles in front of the net. He couldn’t be moved. He has 25 points in 39 career playoff games, all with the Hawks.
But player after player wanted to relay stories of Byfuglien’s happy-go-lucky attitude, even on the ice.
“There would be times when I’m getting ready for a faceoff or whatever and he’d be yelling from the other point ‘c’mon, son. Let’s go son.’ And I’d look over and he has that big grin on his face,” Kane said.
“And with my dad he’d be up clapping in the stands and for some reason Buff would catch a glimpse and be laughing about it at the face-off circle. I would say ‘focus on the game Buff, don’t be worrying about that stuff.’”
Only on occasion would Byfuglien’s joking go too far, but even then, animosity never lasted.
“He did a lot of funny things around here and sometimes guys would get pissed at him but at the same time you couldn’t stay pissed at him because he was just Buff,” Kane said. “He did get away with a lot.”
When asked who the Hawks miss the most from their championship team many names come up but none had the combination of on-ice talent and off-ice chemistry with his teammates. The current Hawks have talked often of missing that ingredient. It will be on the ice come Thursday night.
“Buff is Buff,” Bickell said. “He was a great teammate, a good friend, and a lot of fun.”
A:It’s a good question, and I’m sure one many Hawks’ fans are wondering. I don’t know if he’ll contend for another Norris Trophy, but this year proved he is actually human. The body and mind just can’t take all that was on him coming off the previous year. However, he admittedly did not prepare for the season the right way and then Joel Quenneville played him to near exhaustion. I think this season was the exception more than the norm. Look at what he did in the couple years before the Norris Trophy. He was very good. While it’s a disappointment, it’s not a complete shock he had an off year. I think he will be much better next season.
Q: Jesse, just how much of a raise did Andrew Ladd earn himself this year? I love his two-way play, and his departure last year was the toughest one for me to swallow. Any chance (realistically) the Hawks bring him back? I'm thinking we use the money that Kopecky was making and try and sign him to a three- to four-year deal worth $3-4 million per. -- Robert, San Antonio
A:Sorry, barring some unforeseen circumstances it’s just not going to happen for a Ladd return. First of all he’s a restricted free agent who made $2.3 million last season. He’s getting another raise, no question. There is no way the Hawks could pry him away from Atlanta without them matching or someone with more cap room swooping in. Second, he’s a winger, and they really don’t need expensive wingers. Third, the Hawks can’t afford him anyway. Any money they save on Kopecky or anyone else leaving will be used to cover new contracts for Michael Frolik, Chris Campoli, etc., plus they’ll use what money they do have on a second-line center more than likely. It’s just not going to happen unless it’s a trade, which is a longshot as well. He’s the Thrasher’s captain afterall. Of course, if he doesn’t want to play in Winnipeg and forces a trade, anything can happen at that point.
Q: Brian Campbell is the one player more than any other on the Blackhawks' roster whose production does not justify his salary. He is a nice contributor, but for being the second-highest paid blue-liner on the roster, he, in my opinion, needs to do more than just lead the team in plus/minus. So I can see why you say that if someone is going to be moved through a trade this offseason it will be him. If he does get moved, what kind of player will Bowman try to get in return? Will it be another top-four blue-liner or a second-line center? How feasible would it be to get a player like Dustin Byfuglien back? He's a player who, when given comparable ice time, had twice the offensive production as Campbell. – Jonathan, Savannah, Ga.
A:The reasons you stated are the reasons we won’t see a return of Byfuglien. He’s too valuable at a decent price, so why would Atlanta (Winnipeg) trade him for Campbell? The major scenario I see Campbell is being moved is to a team with a ton of cap room that is trying to get rid of someone that might not make as much as Campbell but they feel is overpaid, etc. I’ve speculated a Campbell-for-Phil Kessel trade would be a good starting point for a deal with Toronto. I agree with your assessment that the production doesn’t justify the salary which would be no big deal if there was no salary cap. But he eats up too much of it. They would miss his transition game, but just think, getting two $3.5 million players in his place or three making nearly $2.5 million. That might more than make up for his loss.
Q: Jesse, thanks for all your insights and comments this year. You add a lot of perspective. If all Hawks fans agree that some size and toughness up front is needed and a second-line center to boot, what about getting Ladd back from Atlanta? Trade No. 4 and Troy Brouwer. How about Eric Brewer from the Bolts? -- Tommy boy, McHenry, Ill.
A:It’s not a bad proposal for Ladd. Certainly should be more than enough for the Thrashers to consider. In fact it might be too much talent back if you think Niklas Hjalmarsson is still going to blossom. But it does help the Hawks salary-wise except a lot of it would be used to pay Ladd. I think center is where they will allocate the biggest expenditure this summer and from your question it sounds like you think Ladd can play there. I don’t think he can. Again, I think the door is closed on Ladd for myriad of reasons but never say never.
A:I think it’s pretty obvious he’s got a job to lose once camp opens. Unless he’s a total flash in the pan I think the sky is the limit for Smith. There isn’t any one part of his game that is deficient. Obviously, he’s inexperienced, but he seems to have all the tools from his head to his skates. His hockey smarts and willingness to play in tough areas is impressive and it’s definitely not lost on Quenneville. Let’s see what the next step brings.
Q: Is it possible for the Hawks and Campbell to work together to defer some of the money on his contract to lower the cap hit? If so, I take it that Campbell refused to do it last offseason. I like Campbell, and I do not begrudge him for getting the contract he did, but it would be hard to find another $7 million defensemen in the league that does not play against the top line or on the No. 1 power play. Would have loved to see Big Buff in that Canucks series! Thanks Jesse. – Drew, Marietta, Ga.
A: No, they cannot defer money or change anything about a contract once it’s been signed. They can’t pay half his salary while another team they trade him to pays the other half. The salary, cap hit and everything else about the contract cannot be changed.
Q: What plans do you think the Blackhawks have for Jeremy Morin? He started strong until the World Juniors then had an injury. Do you think he will take a roster spot next season? – Daniel, Pekin, Ill.
A: I can’t tell you exactly what their plans are, but I assume he has a good chance to make it. Obviously, Smith may have moved ahead of him on the prospects chart, but he showed enough that I’m sure he’ll get a serious look. He could be trade bait as well. It’s all about the numbers, both where his salary fits in, and if he can play where they want/need him to play. That could be top-six or bottom-six. He showed enough grit that he doesn’t have to play on the top two lines to start his career in my opinion. We’ll see.
Q: Hi Jesse. If they're looking for a little bit of size and scoring, why trade Brouwer? I know he underperformed a bit, but doesn't he rank up there in terms of that total combo on the Hawks? – Matt, Cincinnati
A:On paper you’re right, but this might come down to money. They probably want to pay him like a bottom-six forward but I’m sure he’ll show the numbers you reference to an arbitrator asking for money in the $2 million range. I’m not sure the Hawks can afford that. In fact, I’m pretty sure they can’t. And he’s not enough of an impact player to make a priority. It reminds me of the Antti Niemi situation. They would like to have him back but aren’t going to move mountains to keep him. Like I wrote in another blog post, it’s 50/50 he’s on the opening night roster.
Q: Patrick Sharp had a career year this year, and is approaching a contract season. Realistically, can we re-sign him following next season, or if not should we consider trading him this offseason to free up some salary and get that second-line center our team is desperately in need of? – Jeff, Dallas
A: They can definitely re-sign him but it means making tough choices elsewhere of course. They have approximately $48 million tied up in 12 players going into 2012-2013 so there is room but it will be tight once again for the rest of the roster. Plenty of time between now and then to move money around, etc. but if they want him they can keep him.
Q: Other than Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Sharp, and Marian Hossa, what player(s) score 20-plus goals next year for Hawks? Also, have we seen the best of Hossa or will a longer offseason help him? – Jim, Lake Forest, Ill.
A:Smith would be a cool choice right? I’ll go with Frolik. I think he found his touch there at the end. He’s scored 20 twice before in the NHL so now a full season with this kind of talent around him, I’ll go that route. As for Hossa, I think we’ve seen his best, but I also think he can at least achieve that level still. Rest will help. I think a somewhat healthy Hossa -- if that’s possible -- still has some real good years left. I don’t think he’ll play better than what we’ve seen when at his best, but he can reach that same level again, easily.
ATLANTA -- The “reunion” game just got overshadowed by an irritated Chicago Blackhawks head coach.
Joel Quenneville pulled his team off the ice after a shortened morning practice, in advance of Saturday night’s contest against the Atlanta Thrashers.
Quenneville called his team together near the benches, gave them a few stern words then sent them off the ice.
Player reaction to the unusual move by Quenneville was mixed. Marty Turco seemed to provide the most insight.
“Pretty plain and simple,” Turco said in a quiet dressing room. “I think he had a right to be a little choked about it all. It has a little to do with today and a lot to do with other things going on probably. Our record speaks for it but its more about why our record is what it is.
“Part of it might be just the attitude possessed by this team. I think everyone knows attitude goes a long way and doesn’t just start with the drop of the puck.
“It kind of stems from the unhappiness where we are as a team and attitude we’re maintaining and position we are with our team.”
The Hawks' captain addressed the media but was short with his answers. At first, he didn’t want to admit something was out of place.
“It was nothing,” Toews said. “Nothing to talk about.”
When pressed, Toews opened up, at least a little more.
“Yeah, he saw it was a better thing to cut practice short so that’s what he did so there is nothing to talk about,” he said. “Obviously, yeah, there is a message. Just want to be ready for the game tonight.”
The Hawks have been inconsistent and Quenneville knows with four ex-hawks facing their old team, a large crowd expected, and the Thrashers using the Hawks -- as most teams do -- as a benchmark, his team needs to be focused.
“We know they are going to be ready and the harder working team is going to have success in a game like that,” Quenneville said. “You anticipate the guys on the other side are going to focus and how they are going to be ready and we want to be there.”
As a newcomer, winger Viktor Stalberg hasn’t seen an agitated Quenneville too much but he got the message as well.
“He’s a pretty constructive guy so you don’t see him mad all the time,” Stalberg said. “He’s going to have moments like that. He was right out there. We didn’t come out prepared the way we wanted to this morning. It’s a wake-up call for all the guys. I feel like it’s not a bad thing.”
Defenseman Brian Campbell agreed.
“You could probably have a look at it and understand why,” he said. “We have to be sharper. Obviously he’s not too happy and you look at the way we played, it’s definitely unacceptable. We owe it to him and to a lot of people, we have to play better hockey.”
By the time Quenneville met the media he didn't seem upset. He made his statement to the team, and now it’s time to move on.
“I don’t put a lot of credence into morning skates,” Quenneville explained. “Basically, we’ll put it as a short practice.”
Shorter than usual, that’s for sure. We’ll find out Saturday night if the message truly was heard.
Morin to make his debut
“It’s a bit ironic but it’s an exciting time for me and I’m just looking forward to the game right now,” Morin said Saturday morning.
Morin will lineup with Patrick Sharp as his center and Troy Brouwer as the other winger.
Thrasher players Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, and Dustin Byfuglien met up with some of their former teammates for a reunion dinner Friday night.
“We were busting each other’s chops pretty good,” Ladd said. “It was fun to have the group of guys together. Fun to catch up.”
Ladd wasn’t sure who picked up the bill, but he knew who didn’t.
“Johnny [Toews] didn’t pick up the tab,” Ladd joked. “He got that big playoff bonus and he didn’t pick up the tab but that’s alright. Actually, Buff [Dustin Byfuglien] paid for me.”
It turns out Byfuglien paid for everyone.
“I had a choice but I thought I would be a nice guy,” Byfuglien said. “It was a good time to get back together with those guys. Still laughing at the same jokes.”
So how did the dinner go?
“It was basically Duncs [Duncan Keith] being Duncs, Sharpie [Patrick Sharp] telling jokes, and Tazer [Jonathan Toews] being in the middle of all of it. Just the same old good things. [Toews] has loosened up a little bit. You get him around the right people he’ll crack a smile throw some jokes out there.”
Brent Sopel didn’t make the dinner as he is entertaining 15 friends in town from Chicago.
On Friday, Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel, and Andrew Ladd discussed leaving the Blackhawks, Saturday’s matchup and all things Chicago.
What was the first thing you thought of when you were traded over the summer?
Byfuglien: “I was surprised. It was just a couple weeks after we won [the Stanley Cup]. I had to think about it and was kind of sad. After a couple of days thinking about it I was excited and ready for a new challenge.”
Eager: “I wasn’t that surprised, to be honest. I got a text message from a buddy. That was the first person I heard it from. I knew there were going to be changes.”
Ladd: “We knew it was coming. We just didn’t know where. I got excited about the opportunity here in Atlanta and obviously having the three other knuckleheads here already was nice too. It was disappointing to leave Chicago.”
Sopel: “I wasn’t shocked. Obviously when they signed [Jonathan] Toews and [Patrick] Kane and [Duncan] Keith everyone knew, it was just, ‘who was it going to be?’ It wasn’t a matter of ‘if’, just ‘when’ and ‘who’. I wasn’t too shocked but obviously disappointed. When you win a championship with a team you never want to leave. Plus my wife and kids are still there. A little more devastating for me for that fact.”
The Hawks have sold out every game for nearly three years. How has the transition been going to a team averaging under 10,000 per game?
Byfuglien: “It’s been nice and quiet. Been liking the peace. It’s the way it is around here. We’ll get the ship back in here.”
Eager: “It’s been a bit different. It’s similar to like it was in Chicago a few years ago but they’re making some good steps here. Once we get a good product on the ice, I’m sure the fans will show up and support us.”
Sopel: “You prepare the same way and approach every game the same way, but when you get on the ice and hear 20,000 fans screaming rather than 5,000, obviously there is just a different energy in the building. In Chicago three years ago you couldn’t give a ticket away. We’re that way in Atlanta right now, but a winning team draws good crowds.”
Will you take it easy on your former teammates?
Byfuglien: “I’m on defense now so I [get] to pick and choose. We’ll see. We’ll catch somebody. Anyone that comes over my area, [they] gotta [get checked].”
Eager: “There’s a few guys I wouldn’t mind checking, but I think Kaner,” Eager joked. “He jumped out on a few bar tabs but he always has his head up so he’s tough to catch. But hopefully a couple guys have their heads down.”
Ladd: “I could try to catch Duncs, but I don’t know if I’ll be quick enough to hit him. We’ll see what happens.
Sopel: “There are a few that stiffed me with a bar tab and there were a few practical jokers. [Adam] Burish would have been a prime candidate but he’s gone. You know Kaner always gave me [crap] so he better keep his head up,” Sopel kidded.
Are you surprised by the Hawks’ .500 record?
Eager: “It’s a bit understandable. Maybe it’s a bit of a hangover but I’m sure they’ll come around. They have a lot of great players.”
Sopel: “It’s tough. When you lose nine guys off your roster -- especially these four [Thrashers] -- that’s some big shoes to fill,” Sopel joked. “But with new guys it takes time to get to know each other and jell and understand the systems. You’re not going to go 82-0 and obviously there was the short summer. There are a lot of variables, so I know Chicago fans got to see a very special team last year and it will go down in history in Chicago as one of the best, but they still have a very good team. They will turn it around.”
What restaurant in Chicago misses you the most?
Byfuglien: “I would have to say 50/50 (2047 Division St.) I’m probably saving some money not having me there.”
Eager: “I guess Piazza Bella (2116 W. Roscoe). And the bread there. We used to crush the bread. I miss that place. It was a good spot.”
Ladd: “That’s easy. Joe’s Stone Crabs. I frequent there a lot.”
Read the entire story.
I think it’s over. You can come out from behind your desk.
The Blackhawks are done ripping apart their championship team. Though it had to be done, I’m not sure anyone thought it would go this far.
“It became apparent it wasn’t the right mix as far as salary and our situation here,” General manager Stan Bowman said about Ladd.
While it may come as a shock to the system for most fans, Bowman said this was all foreseeable -- at least on his part.
“We planned for this,” he said. “We accomplished exactly what we’ve had to do from the very beginning.”
I’m not sure if that’s reassuring or not.
The Hawks sit at about $51 million in salary committed to next year and that includes Cristobal Huet but doesn’t include the bonuses both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane received after the season, which counts against next year’s salary cap.
Between Toews winning the Conn Smythe and Kane finishing in top 10 in scoring, the total is near $4 million dollars. Bowman confirmed as much on Thursday. That’s what Versteeg and Burish will make next year. Those bonuses were worth two pretty decent pieces to the Hawks puzzle. Ouch.
So who will replace all the grit and size the Hawks lost over the last 10 days? Bowman pointed to one player in particular.
“Jake Dowell has a really good chance to be on our team next year,” Bowman said of the Rockford captain. “Have to look at filling some other spots as well. [Free agent] players we’ve been calling on and having discussions with. We’re not going to stand on the sidelines.”
Dowell was hanging out with Burish when the latter agreed to his deal with Dallas. His leaving helps open the door for the gritty center/wing. Bowman isn’t only going to look in-house for replacements, though.
“We’re going to see what we can add to the mix now,” he stated. “I think we have alleviated the situation we were in.”
I sure hope so. There’s not much left of the third and fourth lines as well as the bottom pair of defense, though Jordan Hendry is expected back.
But that’s what Bowman has been preaching all along. The Hawks have plenty of stars locked up for quite some time, now it’s his job to find the right complements to go with them from year to year. The team also locked up former Minnesota Wild enforcer John Scott on Wednesday.
And of course there is that little matter of signing his goaltender and solid number four defenseman.
“I’ve had discussions with all their agents,” Bowman said of Antti Niemi and Niklas Hjarmalsson in particular. “It’s a back and forth. No real updates per se. Things are going along as you’d expect.”
If he can get those done, it would be the first piece of good news since they hoisted the Cup. Seems like ages ago already.
Word on restricted free-agent offer sheets is beginning to leak and the Hawks Antti Niemi could very well be a target of several teams, though his Chicago based agent, Bill Zito, would not comment on the speculation.
On the Niklas Hjalmarsson front, all is quiet, setting the Hawks up for a possible easier road to re-signing the improving defenseman.
It still appears very unlikely that John Madden will return to the Hawks, while Andrew Ladd may not get an offer sheet but if he ends up in arbitration, he’ll get three million or more, easy. That’s something the Hawks may not be able to afford.
If a player signs an offer sheet, the Hawks will have 7 days to match or lose the player for a designated compensation package involving draft picks determined by the deal the player signs with his new team.
While general manager Stan Bowman may sign a veteran or two, his first order of business is his own set of free agents. In no particular order, here are the major names and the chances they’ll return for another year or more with the Hawks:
John Madden Chance of returning: 10%
Unless Madden wants to take a huge cut in pay and the Hawks return him to third line center, this match doesn’t seem to fit like it did 365 days ago. The newly acquired Marty Reasoner is under contract and takes up one of the bottom two center spots, but the other one is open for debate. Dave Bolland probably returns to the second line, which puts Patrick Sharp back at wing. There might be that opening on the third line again but Madden made $2.75 million last year. The Hawks probably won’t go higher than $1.5 million at that spot.
Adam Burish Chance of returning: 20%
Some might believe the departure of Ben Eager, and even Colin Fraser, move Burish’s value up a notch. I’m not buying it. Bryan Bickell played in front of Burish at times in the playoffs and there is nothing that says he won’t again -- at a cheaper price. Burish is entering his prime. If he wants to prove himself as more than a five-minute player, then he might want to do it somewhere else. And he’ll probably get paid more for it.
Yes, he may have been dangled, but at the end of the day he is about the only forechecking presence the Hawks have right now. And he still comes relatively cheap. His qualifying figure was around $1.6 million, though that number might make him attractive for an offer sheet. It’s hard to go wrong with a 24-year-old who already has won two Cups with two different teams. This could come down to hundreds of thousands of dollars -- not millions. If a team offers him more than $3 million, the compensation package jumps up to a first- and third-round pick. If the Hawks can afford it, they should offer him between $2-3 million and call it a day.
Jordan Hendry Chance of returning: 85%
The Blackhawks did not qualify him but do want to sign him, which means one thing: He’s not getting much of a raise -- if any – from his $650,000 salary. More likely a decrease. Since he’ll be unrestricted on July 1, there’s always the chance someone else sees more in him than the Hawks, and pays him more, but smart money says he’s back in a similar role at a similar price.
Nick Boynton Chance of returning: 50%
Not sure what the Hawks are thinking here but one thing is for sure, he won’t make $1.5 million in a Blackhawks uniform again. Maybe half that. He did pass Hendry on the depth chart at the end of the playoffs, and played well, so there could be a spot -- just for a lot less money. He’s unrestricted, so like Hendry, it depends on what others think and how much they are willing to pay.
Niklas Hjalmarsson Chance of returning: 75%
It’s hard to imagine another run at the Cup without the hammer. Reliable in all areas, he’s only getting better. Having said that, I don’t think another team breaks the bank for him. He’s not a one or a two -- yet -- and doesn’t have much in the way of power-play skills. He deserves a raise, but not a jump from $600,000 to $4-5 million. More like $2-2.5 million.
Antti Niemi Chance of returning: 65%
I thought long and hard of reducing that number but at the end of the day, I believe both sides will be fair. Make no mistake, this is the wild card. With Europe an option and unrestricted free agency just a year away, Niemi holds some leverage. A fan revolt might occur if he leaves, plus all his side has to do is point to other goalies who have accomplished a lot less and make much more. His starting point is $3 million. It goes up from there.
Bryan Bickell Chance of returning: 95%
Simple. The Hawks need him and Joel Quenneville likes him. He played some first-line minutes and can bang with the third-liners. And he’ll come cheap.
Jack Skille Chance of returning: 50%
Hard to know if the Hawks think he’s had his chance, or will give him so little money that there won’t be much downside. For some reason, I still don’t see him as a third-line player and there is no room in the top six. But as his name suggests, he does have some skills so a return wouldn’t be a surprise.
Kim Johnsson Chance of returning: 0%
No explanation needed.