NHL Free Agency: 6 Chicago Blackhawks Who Will Not Be Re-Signed, Plus Update
The Chicago Blackhawks will be casting off pieces of the 2011-12 team when free agency begins in July. Some of those pieces will find their way to other teams. Others will probably hang up their skates.
Now that Chicago has re-signed Jamal Mayers for next season, the group of expiring contracts not in the Blackhawks' cross hairs should be pretty easy to identify. GM Stan Bowman will let most of those contracts walk away from the organization.
Or, perhaps a player Bowman wants back in the fold will let the market price him out of town. Either way, I would say that it's unlikely that we'll see the following players back with the 'Hawks next fall.
1. Cristobal Huet
Though I think that there's a place in the NHL for Huet at the right price, it's not in the Windy City.
Huet officially leaves the organization with a Stanley Cup and over $22 million of Rocky Wirtz's money. It isn't necessarily due to his presence, but the 'Hawks were a better team in the two years he was here than the two years he was loaned out to a Swiss team to avoid his massive cap hit.
We may see Huet around the league next season as a veteran backup. He may choose to stay in Europe and play close to home as he finishes his career. However it goes down, Chicago will move on with that contract off the books.
2. Andrew Brunette
The $2 million used to snag Brunette in last year's free agent crop will hopefully be used to bring in a better fit for the 'Hawks.
Brunette is likely contemplating retirement following his worst season as a pro. A player with his hands could possibly hang on a season or two. However, consider Brunette one and done in Chicago.
3. Brendan Morrison
Morrison's tenure in Chicago ends after 11 regular season games and three playoff tilts.
Bowman's low-risk venture was also low-reward. Morrison is another player who may be hanging it up following an injury-plagued campaign.
Ten years ago, Morrison would have been a player to get excited about. Heck, three years ago he could have helped this team. Right now, there seems to be little left in the tank.
4. Sean O'Donnell
Don't expect O'Donnell to celebrate his 41st birthday in the Indian head sweater. If he isn't done with the game of hockey, he'll be moving on after a single season.
With bigger fish to fry on the blue line, I can't see Bowman retaining the hard-nosed veteran.
5. Sami Lepisto
Misused? Lacked talent? The bottom line is that Lepisto is going to be elsewhere.
It was obvious that coach Joel Quenneville had no confidence in the Finnish defenseman. By the same token, Lepisto is not going to want to stay for another season of healthy scratches.
Bowman should already be concentrating his efforts to bringing in help on defense that Quenneville will use.
6. Johnny Oduya (Or so I Thought!)
I have pointed out in recent weeks that Oduya has some value to the Blackhawks if he is signed at a big cut in his 2011-12 salary of $4 million.
I am starting to think that won't happen.
First, Bowman should be aiming higher than signing a player that was Plan B back in February. Second, I think Oduya could get a better offer from a team looking to get off the cap floor this summer.
Oduya played vital minutes this spring and was pretty good in some of them. However, I believe that Bowman can bring in a better fit for his defense without overpaying Oduya.
UPDATE, Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.CDT: Well, looks like I was pretty darn wrong on this call! The Blackhawks just announced via their website that both Oduya and Mayers have been re-signed. Not only did Bowman retain Oduya, he signed the 30-year-old Swede to a three-year extension for an undisclosed sum. I'll be posting later today when details may provide a clearer picture on this newest signing.