Estimated cap space: 2.4 million
2015-16 record: 47-26-9 103 pts
The Blackhawks found themselves in a tight spot going into the off-season. With their backs up against the proverbial salary cap wall. They were in dire need to shed some dead weight. Casualties of the cap are all over the league, and the Blackhawks had their hand forced in having to trade Andrew Shaw to the Montreal Canadiens for draft picks. Teuvo Teravainen and Wild killer Bryan Bickell were also sent packing for picks. Both will now call the PNC Arena in Raleigh their home.
Chicago also lost Andrew Ladd to the New York Islanders in free agency. Dale Weise went to Philadelphia and Mike Liambas will move within the division, and signed with the Nashville Predators organization this summer. David Rundblad has had a tumultuous career with the Blackhawks. The former Coyotes first round pick just failed to launch in 2 seasons with the Hawks. He cleared buyout waivers and the Hawks and Rundblad agreed to terminating his contract, freeing him up to sign elsewhere.
With all these roster spots opening up, the Hawks had to fill a few holes, but try to keep the price down at the same time. Jordin Tootoo was brought in from the Devils where he scored 14 goals in 134 games over the past 2 seasons. Brian Campbell is a 37 year old defensemen making his return to the Windy City after spending the last 5 seasons with the Panthers. Sam Carrick, who's played 19 NHL games over 2 seasons with the Maple Leafs will join the Hawks organization as well and hope to make a splash with the perennial contenders.
The last couple off-seasons for the Hawks have seen a fair amount of turnover. Patrick Sharp was shipped to Dallas last summer and Johnny Oduya joined him through free agency. The biggest reason for all the turbulence in the Blackhawks organization right now is, get this, 2 big contracts on their roster. Sound familiar Wild fans?
With all the turnover the past few seasons with the Blackhawks, it’s a wonder how the Blackhawks would be able to maintain an elite level of success which has embedded itself with the team over the last decade. Players come in, players go out, yet the Blackhawks have remained a steady driving force in the Central Division. In a way, we can thank them for how ultra-competitive the division has become.
It’s not to say that the Hawks aren’t going to miss the likes of Andrew Ladd, Andrew Shaw, Teuvo Teravainen. These guys had roles which they filled nicely with the team. And talk about specialists, Wild killer Bryan Bickell may well be missed in their contests against the State of Hockey too. Fortunately for the Hawks, their are stanchions in every arena they can count on to help along the way.
It's tough to come to the conclusion that the Blackhawks got any better since they were eliminated from the first round of the playoffs. Coach Q has a knack for getting that extra level from his role players though. Although their overall skill level has probably sunk back to Earth a bit, don't expect them to be any easier to play against this fall. They still have some elite level talent on the roster, and will be dangerous for some time to come.
All that said, they may find life in a division they helped point towards an elite level of competition, just a little tougher come this October. Everyone is fighting for the same 5 Central Division playoff spots (since the Pacific Division can barely muster up 3 playoff teams). Until somebody knocks these guys down a peg, it would be wise to treat them with the respect most of the players deserve.