The Chicago Blackhawks took steps to begin their defense of the Stanley Cup this fall. Chicago didn't throw around a lot of money this weekend in free agency. Nonetheless, the 'Hawks organization was busy taking care of its own business.
General manager Stan Bowman's housekeeping involved addressing expiring contracts. This was followed by bringing back a familiar face.
Bowman's moves weren't ones to keep fans on the edge of their seats. With what Bowman believes to be a full cupboard at home, flashy moves weren't necessary.
Chicago's Restricted Free Agents
The Blackhawks chose not to tender offers to D Joe Lavin or F Maxime Sauve. Lavin had a promising rookie season in Rockford in 2011-12, but injury limited his progress last season.
There are lots of higher-rated defenders fighting for playing time with the IceHogs. This includes Shawn Lalonde and Ryan Stanton, who were tendered offers.
Sauve is a former second-round pick of the Bruins. Bowman chose to focus on more homegrown RFA forwards. Kyle Beach, Chicago's first-rounder in 2008, will remain in the organization for at least another season. Not surprisingly, Drew LeBlanc was also retained with a qualifying offer.
Marcus Kruger should be the RFA commanding most of Bowman's attention. Locking up Kruger is Bowman's most important internal move remaining this summer.
Chicago's Unrestricted Free Agents
None of Chicago's UFA goalies remain property of the team. Alec Richards played his way out of the organization midway through last season. He was loaned to a German club with his departure a foregone conclusion.
Henrik Karlsson had previously signed to play in Sweden. Carter Hutton moved on Friday, signing with Nashville. Ray Emery, who reportedly was negotiating with the 'Hawks, signed a one-year deal with the Flyers instead.
Bowman chose to retain the services of veterans Michal Handzus and Michal Rozsival. He re-signed both players Friday.
According to capgeek.com, Rozsival signed a two-year deal with a cap hit of $2.2 million. I would imagine that the second year was the price for keeping the defenseman for a very slight raise.
I was surprised that Bowman elected to bring back Handzus. However, the price is right, and if used correctly, Handzus can contribute. Perhaps he can teach kids like Kruger, LeBlanc and Brandon Pirri how to win a draw.
Stalberg wanted a bigger role and will presumably get it in Nashville. He more than tripled his salary, and you can't fault him for that. One has to wonder if Stalberg will be a good fit in Barry Trots' system, though.
Chicago's Free-Agent Signing
In what was a bit of a shocker, Bowman went down memory lane to pick up goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, presumably to back up Corey Crawford until Antti Raanta and a host of young prospects led by Mac Carruth and Kent Simpson are ready.
- Khabibulin + health = good.
- Khabibulin + groin and back issues = bad.
The money seems a bit much, but only by a little. There is still plenty of space to get Kruger and LeBlanc signed and maybe toss a minimum-salary bone at a UFA.
Chicago seems set on replacing several parts from within the organization. Not a lot of outside help was needed. As usual, Bowman's signings are open for speculation. The ultimate verdict comes once the 2013-14 season begins and we see how much the veteran signings have left.