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Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Potential Targets in Free Agency This Offseason

Dan RobaczewskiContributor IIIMay 7, 2012

Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Potential Targets in Free Agency This Offseason

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    The Chicago Blackhawks' 2011-2012 offseason free-agent signings fell quite a bit short of par.

    After a disappointing post-Stanley Cup championship year that saw his team barely nudge its way into the playoffs only to lose to the Vancouver Canucks in the first round, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman acquired a lineup of rentals to provide added toughness and experience to a young core group of players.

    Bowman’s conveyor belt of veterans included the likes of Daniel Carcillo, Jamal Mayers, Andrew Brunette and Sean O’Donnell, all of whom added a little personality and grit here and there. Still, the Hawks found themselves on the muzzle end of an another early postseason exit.

    The Chicago Blackhawks now face the task of confronting more immediate needs without making the same mistakes that haunted them last offseason.

    A lot of names in the Hawks’ system have emerged as potential wildcards for the team’s roster next season (Jeremy Morin, Ben Smith, Brandon Pirri) and a few were even able to crack the Hawks’ lineup as regulars down the stretch (Andrew Shaw, Jimmy Hayes, Dylan Olson). But, for a team that’s focused on winning now, it would be smart of Bowman to pad the team with a bit of insurance.

    Here’s the scope of Bowman’s offseason:

    Team needs: Improvement on special teams, security in goal, depth at center and defense, size and physicality on both front and back end.

    Projected salary cap space: $6,843,206 (according to CapGeek.com).

    Given this information, here are five potential free agents Bowman should pursue this coming offseason.

Jarret Stoll, C

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    Jarret Stoll had an off season on a team that struggled to produce points offensively. However, he’s a physical defensive center who can win faceoffs and doesn’t mind blocking shots.

    He won’t fix the Hawks’ lackluster power play, but he’s a solid penalty killer who has plenty of special-teams experience on his résumé. He’s a regular 40-point producer who could have another breakout season playing alongside Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa.

Shane O'Brien, D

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    Shane O'Brien is a solid defensive-minded defenseman. He can hit, block shots and vacuum up minutes for time crunchers like Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith.

    He won’t make any impact offensively, but he can add an aggressive, physical presence on the backend that the Hawks very desperately lack.

Sami Salo, D

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    Sami Salo’s age may be catching up with him, but he’s got a rocket of a shot that found the net nine times this past season. Most importantly, seven of those goals came on the power play.

David Jones, RW

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    David Jones is a big kid who now has two consecutive 20-goal seasons under his belt. Bowman shouldn’t overpay for him, but if he can find a reasonable price for Jones, he could aid in solving the Hawks’ net presence concerns.

Any Goaltender to Challenge Crawford and Emery

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    The combined cap hit for both Hawks goaltenders is $3.87 million, so it is unlikely that Bowman will be spending big money on another netminder for next season.

    However, it’d be in his best interests to sign a goalie who can challenge Crawford and Emery for positioning on the depth chart. Good candidates may be Curtis Sanford or Scott Clemmensen, both of whom had solid campaigns in the 2011-2012 season.

    With that said, neither are likely to run away with the starting gig, and Bowman’s best hope is that Crawford recovers from a subpar year and pulls a Jimmy Howard next season.

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