All Chicago fans hearts were torn in 2010 to see our highly talented, young, Stanley Cup winning Blackhawks roster torn apart. Half the fans barely were able to pronounce Byfuglien before he was out the door after cup celebrations. Antti Niemi was becoming a fan favorite right before raising his stock by winning the cup sent him out of town. With the most recent Dave Bolland trade, there are only 7 players left from that 2010 championship team, which makes you wonder how the Blackhawks were able to rebuild so fast.
That’s where GM Stan Bowman came through perfectly. He kept his young, talented core of Toews, Kane, Sharp, Keith and others and kept feeding younger players through the system. We saw young guns like Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw become key players for the team this past season. Then, when Stan Bowman thought he had a core to propel to another cup, he added veterans like Rozsival and Handzus. Coach Quenville then did a perfect job of creating the deepest team in the NHL with production on all 4 lines. There was the perfect mix of young guys, star players and experienced veterans up and down the lineup.
So now here we are again, the salary cap pressured offseason after the championship, and the Hawks are in much better shape this time around. So far Bowman has done a stellar job managing contracts while still being well under the salary cap. Right away he used the two buyouts given by the collective bargaining agreement on veterans Montador and Olesz. That freed up about $5 million in cap space bringing the Hawks to around $7.7 million to work with. Then Bowman made a smart but gutsy move by trading away Stanley Cup hero and two time champion Dave Bolland as well as Michael Frolik. The Hawks acquired a plethora of draft picks as well as freeing up another ~$5 million in cap space. Then Bowman comfortably resigned playoff star Bryan Bickell to a 4 year $16 million contract. Stalberg then left to Nashville for more money, and Ray Emery left to Philadelphia for a small one year contract. He probably wanted the opportunity to start considering, Corey Crawford played every minute in the playoffs on the road to the Stanley Cup. To fill the backup goalie role, Bowman signed former Blackhawk Nikolai Khabibulin to a small contract. He will do perfectly fine giving Crawford some days rest while our Finnish All Star goalie Raanta takes some time to get used to American Hockey.
That may be it for the Blackhawks in the free agency this offseason. People may think, how will you replace Bolland, Frolik or Stalberg? Well Stan Bowman and company will do what they constantly do right, which is bring young players through the system. Ben Smith will look to take a bigger role after playing very little in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The AHL’s top scorer Brandon Pirri is primed for a NHL come up. Then others like Jimmy Hayes and Jeremy Morin will have a shot to impress Coach Q to earn a role on the defending champion 2013-2014 Chicago Blackhawks.