Chicago Blackhawks: The Top 5 Offseason Priorities
For a team that supposedly added so much in Sean O'Donnell, Andrew Brunette, Dan Carcillo, Sami Lepisto, Steve Montador and Ray Emery, the Hawks fell far short of expectations.
At one point, they stood atop the Western Conference. By the time the stretch-run rolled around, the Hawks were clinging to the sixth seed.
Now, as the Hawks sit and watch other teams advance, there are major questions to be asked about the team, and concerns to be addressed.
Trading Michael Frolik
Despite providing a spark late in the playoffs, Michael Frolik was a non-factor for most of the season.
When he was acquired from Florida, the Blackhawks thought they were acquiring their first answer at the second line center job since Robert Lang's departure. Instead, he was placed on the checking line with Dave Bolland and Bryan Bickell.
Now, he's a depth player with a cap hit of over $2 million a year. Hopefully his playoff play will have raised his value high enough to make him expendable. With guys like Jeremy Morin and Brandon Saad knocking on the door, Frolik's name will be in many trade rumors.
Re-Signing Johnny Oduya
Although he seemingly disappeared during the playoffs, Johnny Oduya provided the stability the second line needed.
Lining up with Nick Leddy, the pair looked good together, and got the Hawks into the playoffs while taking the pressure off guys like Niklas Hjalmarsson and Dylan Olsen.
One of the better defensemen on the market, if Oduya's price doesn't go too high, Stan Bowman will aggressively pursue Oduya.
Acquiring a No. 1 Goaltender
In his season-ending press conference, Stan Bowman stated the blatantly obvious that the Blackhawks' goaltending wasn't up to snuff. In other breaking news, water is wet.
All cynicism aside, the Hawks should look to aggressively acquire a top goaltender. Ray Emery has been re-signed, but neither him nor Crawford look like they'll be able to carry the Hawks to the promised land.
While it's unlikely the Blackhawks will acquire either of the Canucks' goalies, their movement may cause a ripple effect that nets the Hawks their new goaltender of the future.
Re-Signing Jamal Mayers
Despite sitting in the last few playoff games, Jamal Mayers did everything he was supposed to do for the Blackhawks while only making $550,000. He brought stability to the fourth line, won faceoffs, killed penalties, added toughness and even showed up on the power play a few times.
With the rotating door at center that the Blackhawks have had on the fourth line, having a consistent presence there in Mayers would be big. He fit in well and is considered a great locker room guy.
With next season's fourth-line wingers possibly being Brandon Bollig and Jimmy Hayes, the Hawks will need a veteran presence at center to keep them on top of their game. There's likely not a better option to be found in free agency, and Mayers seemed to greatly enjoy his time in Chicago.
Unless he's offered well over $1 million elsewhere, there's no excuse for Mayers not to be re-signed.
Determining Patrick Kane's Long-Term Role
To myself and many others, there was little doubt that Patrick Kane played his best hockey of the season at center. That said, he also proved to be a defensive liability and seemed to have great struggles on the faceoff dot.
Compounding the issue is the fact that former second-round draft pick Brandon Pirri led Rockford in scoring. While he didn't show up on the score sheet in his brief call-up this season, he barely got a look during those times. Make no doubt about it, Pirri's a talented scorer who could easily anchor a second line, especially with wingers like Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Viktor Stalberg.
Whether Patrick Kane is a wing, center, or trade bait long term, the Hawks need to make a decision on that front and build off that. The team simply can't expect long-term success without a solid plan for one of their best players.