Blackhawks: Niklas Hjalmarsson
LOS ANGELES -- When a player as talented as Duncan Keith is out of the lineup, the void can seem as wide as Lake Michigan.
But the Chicago Blackhawks found a way to succeed Thursday without their star defenseman, who was suspended for Game 4 of the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Kings. The Blackhawks earned the 3-2 victory at Staples Center by getting a little extra from their remaining blueliners, sending them back to Chicago with a 3-1 series lead.
Niklas Hjalmarsson was paired with Keith’s regular partner, Brent Seabrook, causing him to switch to the left side, but he celebrated his 26th birthday by matching his career high with two assists, all while playing a playoff-high 24 minutes, 57 seconds.
"I don't really want to talk about that," Hjalmarsson said after participating in Wednesday's practice at Staples Center. "Do you guys have any questions about the game or something like that? I don't want to talk about getting shot."
Hjalmarsson wouldn't go there, but his teammates and coach were more than willing to do so. They praised Hjalmarsson for his toughness.
The Blackhawks were on a power play in the opening minutes of the third period when Hjalmarsson blocked a hard shot from the Kings' Slava Voynov with the inside of his left knee. He dropped immediately to the ice and remained face-first on the ice for nearly 10 seconds. With the play still going on, he cringed and struggled to get back to his feet.
Despite barely being able to stand and slowly hopping around on one leg near the bottom of the left circle, Hjalmarsson continue to try to help his unit. When the Kings' Jeff Carter moved the puck into the left circle and went to shoot, Hjalmarsson dove feet-first in an attempt to block it.
Again laying on the ice, Hjalmarsson pushed himself back onto his feet. He finally skated hunched over to the bench while attempting to put zero pressure on his left foot after the Blackhawks cleared the puck out of their defensive zone nearly 40 seconds from when he initially got hit.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville described Hjalmarsson as a warrior after Tuesday's game and expanded on his thoughts on Wednesday.
"He laid there for a while," Quenneville said. "I was waiting for a whistle. Then he got up, tried to block another shot. I've seen Hammer take a lot of blows. It's tough to knock him down. Definitely a relief to see him get up. Knowing he's fine, we're happy to have him back."
Hjalmarsson left the game at 2:49 of the third period and was out for nearly 10 minutes. He returned to the ice at 12:37.
Blackhawks forward Viktor Stalberg was amazed to see Hjalmarsson back on the ice a day later.
"He's a tough guy back there," Stalberg said. "He's not going to make it look like it is worse than it is, that's for sure. When he's down, you know it is going to be pretty painful. When he came to the bench, I was sitting next to him for a while, but I didn't want to say anything because it looked like he was in a lot of pain for a while. It seemed to go over after a while, and I thought he looked pretty good out there today.
"Certainly, last night I was surprised to see him back out there, but it was great to see that. The guys kind of feed off that as well when you see guys battle like that. He said last night that it felt better than he thought after the game, so I wasn't too surprised to see him out there today."
CHICAGO -- Here's a quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks' 2-1 win in overtime over the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of their Western Conference semifinal series at the United Center on Wednesday.
How it happened: Not much more could have been asked from a Game 7 between Original Six rivals. The game was only decided when the Blackhawks' Brent Seabrook scored the game-winning goal 3:35 into overtime. Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp put his team up first when he, Michal Handzus and Marian Hossa put on a passing display, which ended with Sharp scoring at 1:08 of the second period. The Red Wings tied the game when Gustav Nyquist connected with Henrik Zetterberg for a goal 26 seconds into the third period. Both goaltenders were on their game. Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford made 26 saves, and Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard had 33 stops. The Blackhawks had a goal by Niklas Hjamarsson waived off at 18:13 of the third period when an official called coincidental penalties on the Blackhawks' Brandon Saad and the Red Wings' Kyle Quincey behind the play.
Player of the game: Crawford saw the Blackhawks' season flash by his eyes after allowing a soft goal in the second period of Game 6. Since then, he's been nearly unbeatable.
What it means: The Blackhawks rallied all the way back from a 3-1 hole to eliminate the Red Wings. It was the first time the Blackhawks have ever overcome a 3-1 deficit. The Blackhawks advance to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2010. For the Red Wings, they had three chances to close out the series and failed to do so. They haven't reached the conference finals since 2009.
What's next: The Blackhawks will host the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of the Western Conferences finals on Saturday.
Sharp scored the goals, and Crawford stopped them.
But while Sharp and Crawford’s performances will be celebrated, 11 Blackhawks will likely go unnoticed -- at least by their individual names -- for their major contribution to Tuesday’s win. Those 11 Blackhawks comprise the team’s penalty-kill unit.
On Tuesday, the Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger, Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad, Michal Handzus, Johnny Oduya, Michal Rozsival, Marian Hossa, Michael Frolik and Brent Seabrook all assisted to hold the Wild scoreless on six power-play chances. The penalty kill hasn’t allowed a goal in 15 power plays in the series.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks' penalty kill is going so well Niklas Hjalmarsson felt comfortable enough to go for style points at a most critical time.
With the Hawks down a man after Andrew Shaw got called for charging with a little over five minutes left in the game, Hjalmarsson got the puck on the boards to the left of his goal and fired a clearing pass between his legs.
The puck went deep into Columbus territory and about a minute later, the Blackhawks killed another penalty.
Hey, whatever works. Hjalmarsson also blocked six shots with his body, but with that pass, he showed he's more than a target.
"It was a little too much, maybe," Hjalmarsson said after the 1-0 victory over the Blue Jackets on Sunday night. "But I got the puck out. Probably half of the guys in the crowd got pretty scared there."
That play was pretty indicative of how things are going for Chicago right now. A dash of style and a lot of substance are going a long way. With the victory, the Hawks extended their NHL record to 18 straight games with a point, or to put it another way, without a regulation loss, to start a season.
Read the entire column.
CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford was playing some of his best hockey through his first 10 starts of the season.
Crawford was 7-0-3, hadn’t allowed more than three goals in a game and was among the league’s leaders with a 1.65 goals-against average. He appeared more focused before and during games, and his play was more consistent than it was last season. Ten games doesn’t constitute a large sample size, but Crawford looked like the type of goalie who could lead a team to a deep playoff run.
And then Crawford got hurt. He missed four consecutive games over nearly two weeks. All of that early success he experienced and all of that rhythm he developed -- all of it could have been flushed away.
Crawford proved otherwise on Sunday.
Crawford made his first start since Feb. 12 on Sunday and picked up right where he left off. Crawford stopped all 28 shots taken by the Columbus Blue Jackets and helped the Blackhawks extend their NHL-record points streak to start the season to 18 games with a 1-0 win at the United Center.
“He was good tonight -- quick, big, especially in the side-to-side plays, the power play,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “I thought he tracked the puck extremely well. He looked like he wasn’t off any time at all. He had a couple extra days there and got ready. I liked the way he prepared going into today and had a great response.”
The Blue Jackets are a troubled offensive team – they hadn’t scored more than two goals in 11 games prior to Sunday – but the Blackhawks gave them plenty of opportunities by putting them on five power plays, including three in the third period.
Crawford and the penalty kill were up for the challenge. The Blackhawks killed off all five power plays, with Crawford making 10 saves.
“Corey was great tonight,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “He made a lot of great saves. I don’t want to discredit Columbus. They got a hard-working team. They had some chances, and he made some great saves.”
Crawford said after his first practice last week he was concerned about regaining his rhythm after the layoff. He admitted Sunday he felt a bit shaky early in the first period.
“A couple times I slid out of the net in the first period,” said Crawford, whose goals-against average improved to 1.50 and his save percentage to .941. “I was able to settle down pretty quickly. Overall, I felt pretty good.”
Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said he never doubted Crawford would be back in form so quickly.
“It’s impressive,” Hjalmarsson said. “I said it before, the first practice when he came back -- I thought it was one of the best practices I’ve seen from him, so I knew he was ready. It’s just a matter of the other guys in front of him doing their job. He’s been unbelievable so far.”
Crawford recorded his second shutout of the season after not having one last season, but he wouldn’t accept any individual recognition even with that. He was just happy to be playing again.
“It was pretty exciting to get back into it,” Crawford said. “It seems like things haven’t changed. Everyone is playing hard, making the right plays, not turning the puck over, and guys are coming back to help on D. Our D is good this year -- blocking shots, sticks in lanes. It’s just another solid victory for us.”
The Blackhawks’ penalty kill wasn’t something the team was proud of last season. They ranked 27th in the league with a 78.1 penalty-kill percentage and allowed 51 goals on 233 short-handed chances. It was sometimes embarrassing as opponents scored multiple power-play goals in nine games, including five by the Vancouver Canucks on Nov. 6, 2011.
Heading into this season, the Blackhawks understood their penalty kill had to improve if they were going to improve. Through 17 games, it has, and they have.
The Blackhawks can attribute their record-setting 14-0-3 start to the season to plenty of factors, but none has been more important than their penalty-kill success. The Blackhawks rank third with an 88.7 penalty-kill percentage and have given up seven goals on 62 chances this season.
After the Blackhawks set the NHL record for consecutive points to start a season with Friday’s 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks -- a game that included a Blackhawks’ short-handed goal and killing off all four power plays -- coach Joel Quenneville proudly spoke of how far his penalty kill has come in a season.
“Special teams on a lot of nights can be the difference,” Quenneville said. “[Friday], definitely, you can say the key factor was our PK. Everybody takes a part of that, goaltending as well. But it was certainly an area we wanted to make sure we improved upon this year, and the guys have been very diligent in doing the right thing.”
The Blackhawks’ penalty kill has especially been vital because they’ve played in so many close games. One goal has decided 11 of their 17 games. A power-play goal here or there and the Blackhawks could have seen their streak stopped anywhere in the season’s first five weeks.
They weren't as fortunate last season. Chicago allowed 13 power-play goals on 53 chances for a 75.5 percent penalty-kill rate last season through 17 games.
“There’s a lot of things, probably a combination of things, that have helped,” Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. “I think getting key contributions from a lot of different players has helped. When you have that depth, everything is easy. It doesn’t come down to one or two guys. It’s a group effort; it’s a team effort.”
Defensemen Keith, Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook and Johnny Oduya and forwards Jonathan Toews, Dave Bolland, Patrick Sharp, Marcus Kruger, Michael Frolik and Marian Hossa have all been essential on the penalty kill. Rookie Brandon Saad has also been given more time on it recently, and he scored the team’s first short-handed goal of the season Friday.
Kruger and Frolik, who also play together on the fourth line, have been penalty-kill superstars this season.
“Certainly Kruges and Fro carved out a niche for us,” Quenneville said. "That's helped us in other areas as well."
The Blackhawks’ penalty kill has also proved more important this season because they’ve been allowing opponents more power plays. Chicago allowed an average of 2.8 power plays a game last season, and that’s up to 3.7 this season.
Chicago is bouncing back on the penalty kill after allowing a power-play goal. Just once this year has an opponent scored more than one power-play goal. Opponents have been shut out on the power play in 11 games.
All in all, Hjalmarsson feels like the Blackhawks have turned a weakness from last season into a strength.
“Just being in shooting lanes, having a good structure, get pucks out, goaltending has been unbelievable so far -- it’s a lot of elements that affect the penalty kill,” Hjalmarsson said. “If you have a good specials team, it’s going to win a lot of games for you during a season. So far, it’s been [going] really well. Hopefully, we can keep it rolling.”
CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was asked recently if he could compare this year’s team, which is off to the best start in franchise history, and his Stanley Cup-winning team in 2009-10.
Quenneville wouldn’t bite on the question. He answered by saying the two teams were different in their respective ways, not wanting to set the bar too high just yet for this year’s team. But Quenneville was willing to admit the one similarity he found was with both teams he was comfortable putting any line out on the ice at any time.
The Blackhawks currently stand atop the NHL with a 12-0-3 record and are one game away from tying the league’s record of 16 consecutive games with a point to start a season. There are a multitude of reasons for their early success, and depth has been one of them.
CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews wasn’t going to leave San Jose Sharks captain Joe Thornton alone until he got a fight Friday.
Their bad blood began last season when Thornton pushed Toews after a whistle, and it spilled over into their first meeting earlier this month and again Friday. Come the final minutes of the first period Friday, Toews had finally had enough of Thornton and his bullying ways.
With the Blackhawks defending their own net, Toews skated up to Thornton in the right corner and knocked him from behind into the boards. Thornton fell to his knees from the impact, and an official lifted his arm to signal an impending penalty on Toews. As Thornton was still on the ground, Toews pushed him four more times and then skated away.
Seconds later, the two ended up near the left corner, and Toews wasn’t done with Thornton. Toews pushed him three more times and then grabbed for Thornton’s shoulder. At that point, Thornton was game. The two captains dropped their gloves, danced together and threw a handful of punches before it was broken up after nearly 20 seconds.
It was likely a relief to some.
With Wednesday’s 3-2 road shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild, the Blackhawks can put aside all of the talk that comes with a winning streak, especially one to begin a season.
The 2013 team did put itself into the record books by becoming the first in franchise history to win six consecutive games to start a season. But the Blackhawks can now focus on what’s truly important: trying to get into that same record book for winning another Stanley Cup.
While the wins added up over the past week and a half, they were secondary to what the Blackhawks were really showing the NHL. With each penalty killed off, successful power play, Corey Crawford save, Marian Hossa goal, Patrick Kane assist and so on down the line, the Blackhawks were proving to the league they might just have what it takes to be a Stanley Cup contender again.
What the Blackhawks must do now is find ways over the remaining 41 regular-season games to be consistent in those areas. Winning steaks will come and go in the NHL, but consistent play is what prevails -- at least in the regular season.
Even in Wednesday’s loss, the Blackhawks were nearly on par with how they’ve played most of the season and were just a goal away from pulling off another victory. Despite the shootout loss, they still took a point out of Minnesota and upped their total to a NHL-best 13 points.
“That’s a great start,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “The best thing about that is we’re doing a great job of putting the last game behind us and getting ready for the next one. That’s what we got to keep doing: Keep it one game at a time.”
The Blackhawks’ penalty kill has to be the most impressive aspect to their season’s start. Last season, the penalty kill was near the bottom of the league. Now it’s the reason why the Blackhawks have had a chance to win every game so far. A lot of players deserve credit for that early success, but Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger have noticeably stepped up.
The penalty kill units were clicking again on Wednesday. The Blackhawks killed off all four Wild power plays, including one during which Kruger, Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson were on the ice for 1:23 to battle off a five-on-three chance. They also killed off in the final three minutes of the third period.
All together, the Blackhawks have given up just one power-play goal on 27 opportunities this season.
“If we happen to be going to the box every once in a while, we have a lot of confidence if the game is on the line we can get the job done,” Toews said of the penalty kill.
The Blackhawks’ power play has also turned itself around this season. It was shut out on two power-play chances Wednesday, but the Blackhawks are still among the league leaders with seven power-play goals.
Crawford’s play also stood out again on Wednesday. He allowed the first goal only after the Wild took three consecutive shots on him, and the second one was off a redirected shot. He was sharp otherwise and made one highlight-worthy save during the 5-on-3 penalty kill, during which he threw his body at a shot and the puck deflected off his shoulder.
If anything, the Blackhawks would like to score more often. They were held to two goals the past two games and haven’t scored more than three goals since their second game of the season.
The Blackhawks’ attention will quickly turn to facing the Vancouver Canucks on Friday. With five more road games ahead of them, the Blackhawks are aware their great start can be equalized with a rocky two weeks away from home.
“We’re on a long road trip now,” Toews said. “Can’t look too far ahead. We especially can’t get satisfied if we win a game or two.
“We’ve put ourselves in a good spot at the top of the standings after seven games. We got to make it even tougher for team to catch us, I guess.”
How it happened: The Blackhawks looked sluggish early and fell behind 1-0 in the first period, but they came alive as the game wore on. They evened the score at 1-1 when Dave Bolland knocked in a rebound off a Patrick Kane shot at 17:54 of the first period. Bryan Bickell put the Blackhawks ahead when he redirected a slap shot by Niklas Hjalmarsson into the net. Jonathan Toews also added a third-period goal. Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford didn't face a lot of shots, but he did his job. He made 24 saves and improved to 4-0-0 on the year. The game did include some controversy as a Blue Jackets' goal was disallowed in the second period when it was ruled a Blue Jackets' player had interfered with Crawford. It appeared on the replay that the goal should have counted.
Player of the game: Kane is off to a stellar start to the season and he continued it Saturday. He recorded assists on the Blackhawks' final two goals. He now has nine points in the Blackhawks' first five games. That's more points than he had in any five-game span last season.
What it means: The Blackhawks matched their best start to a season in franchise history with their fifth consecutive win. The Blackhawks also began the 1971-1972 season with five wins. The Blackhawks have won eight consecutive games against the Blue Jackets. The Blackhawks' victory Saturday looked a lot like their other wins this season. They continued their offensive consistency. They've scored in all but one period this season. Their penalty kill was also strong again. The Blue Jackets were 0-for-4 on the power play.
What's next: The Blackhawks return home to face the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center at 6 p.m. on Sunday. It's the Blackhawks' last home game until Feb. 12. They'll play six consecutive road games after Sunday.
Twenty-three of the 26 players on the training roster played for the Blackhawks last season. The Blackhawks acquired defensemen Sheldon Brookbank and Michal Rozsival as free agents in the offseason and defenseman Ryan Stanton played for the Rockford IceHogs last season.
The Blackhawks will begin practice at Johnny’s IceHouse West in Chicago at noon on Sunday. The practice is open to the public.
Q: Thoughts on Marcus Kruger and his ability to help fill the role up the middle? -- Lauren (Deerfield, Ill.)
A: I’ve been asked this more and more as I guess people realize there isn’t going to be a new center brought in from the outside. I am a fan of Kruger and a big fan of what he could be. He’s been able to hang in there despite being asked to do more than his experience, size and age would dictate. The reason is he’s smart. Very smart. Probably smarter than most realize. And he’s committed. He’s as hard a worker as you’ll find, but he’s quiet so it’s not shoved down everyone’s throat. I have no idea what kind of a player he will be this year, but I would not be surprised if his growth from last year takes another leap. I think he could already handle a third-line role and in a perfect world Dave Bolland would grab the second line and Kruger the third. But Bolland doesn’t seem in line for it. Unless something changes, I think Kruger starts on the second line and probably surprises the naysayers although I don’t know if he’s ready to burst out for 50 points. But he’ll get more than he did last year. At least that will be progress.
CHICAGO -- A pair of developments in the NHL over the past two days could have an impact on the Chicago Blackhawks as free agency is set to begin on Sunday morning.
First, the league announced the salary cap increased to $70.2 million for the coming season. The second, and more stunning development, was that New Jersey Devils goaltender Marty Brodeur is likely to test the market, though he could still re-sign with the Devils.
The Hawks now have approximately $8 million in cap space, which means they can add without having first to subtract. Though they may still cut hefty contracts -- league sources continue to indicate dealing Niklas Hjalmarsson is a strong possibility. But those types of moves could happen in a day, week or month. The extra cap space has given them flexibility.
Even still, to max out on a trade, moving Hjalmarsson or any other player with a significant price tag before Sunday has more logic to it. Once the Hawks are at or over the salary cap, trade partners have all the leverage. Look at the summer of 2010 for proof. General manager Stan Bowman probably could have gotten more in return for Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg, et al. if he wasn’t under the gun to rid so much salary -- and everyone knew it.
Either way, nothing has changed in weeks. Nashville All-Star defenseman Ryan Suter likes the Hawks, and the Hawks, undoubtedly, like him. But there will be plenty of suitors for Suter. If they do add him, a trade or salary dump of another defenseman will become a sure thing. Maybe it’s best the Hawks don’t make a move before Sunday. If they strike out on Suter, trading Hjalmarsson might not be necessary. It’s a cat-and-mouse game in which maxing out money and trade value is the goal. Can Bowman pull it off? It remains to be seen.
Marty in the Midwest?
The thought of the winningest goaltender in league history leaving the Devils seems improbable but stranger things have happened. There is no concrete proof the Hawks are looking at netminders to replace Corey Crawford, but it makes sense they would kick the tires on something that could be easy and fall into their lap. Roberto Luongo doesn’t fit that description. Brodeur does -- simply because it would be a one- to two-year deal likely at a reasonable rate for the 40 year-old. That’s in the Hawks wheelhouse.
Hitting the ground running
Last year the Hawks signed four players who contributed to the team on Day 1 of free agency -- Dan Carcillo, Jamal Mayers, Andrew Brunette and Sean O’Donnell. As has been well documented, they have less holes and roster spots to fill this time around. And with the emergence of Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes, the re-signing of Johnny Oduya and improved health of Carcillo, the Hawks won’t be as busy. The quantity won’t be there, but they are hoping the quality will be.
Suter would be a top-flight addition. Another name that has emerged to a lesser degree is Jason Garrison, who had a stellar year for Florida, particularly on the point on the power play. The Hawks would more than likely look to add penalty-killing depth at forward as well -- another sore spot a season ago.
If the Hawks miss on Suter, it’s not clear if they have another All-Star caliber player in mind. There’s no sure-thing second-line center on the market this offseason. Also, Chicago isn’t the only marquee franchise with money to burn. The Detroit Red Wings have about $24 million in cap space. They are in more need of a top defenseman after the retirement of Niklas Lidstrom and could use a forward or two with Jiri Hudler and Tomas Holmstrom becoming free agents on Sunday.
Speaking of Holmstrom, even at 39, he’d be an upgrade on the power play in front of the net. Hawks’ players talked of missing that kind of net presence every power play needs -- they even tried 37-year-old Jamal Mayers there last season for basically the first time in his career. They were and still are, desperate.
Ten of Holmstrom’s 11 goals last season came on the power play. That would have led the Hawks. He would be a specialist, but a good one if he plays near to form. It’s the role that Brunette was unable to take ownership of despite some good moments—he just didn’t have enough of them. Holmstrom might retire if he doesn’t re-sign with the Wings, but couldn’t the Hawks make a decent offer for him to move west a few miles for one season? It makes sense on several levels.
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.