With the recent trade of the newly acquired Marty Reasoner, the Chicago Blackhawks have begun the process of filling a questionable roster.
The Blackhawks did acquire Jeff Taffe, but it's a fair assumption that he'll start with the Rockford Ice Hogs, the AHL affiliate of the Blackhawks.
The transaction allowed for another $600,000 to be possibly used in bargaining with Antti Niemi.
An arbitration hearing is scheduled for Friday, July 29th.
While Blackhawks' fans wait, what has gone overshadowed is how the roster has begun to take shape for the opening of the 2010-11 season.
One thing's for certain and that's Jake Dowell centering the fourth line come October.
Dowell has played with the Ice Hogs since the 2007-08 season, but has had opportunities with the Blackhawks at times.
A Wisconsin native and University of Wisconsin graduate, he will bring a six foot frame that will provide the needed depth in the face-off circle.
Amongst other notable prospects in the system, it is obvious that Jack Skille will join Dowell at the NHL level. Skille recently signed a cap-friendly deal that would allow the 23 year old a better chance at making the NHL squad.
Their familiarity with each other should bring a unique sense of camaraderie to an already close-knit team.
Dowell and Skille have not only served as teammates in Rockford, but also served as teammates with the Wisconsin Badgers. There they played part of a 2006 National Championship squad, so success isn't foreign to both.
Beyond the Badger duo, there are many other previous question marks that have been addressed.
Being cap stricken, means the Blackhawks will likely assume a 21-man roster.
This doesn't allow much wiggle room for injury and the Blackhawks will most likely give John Scott at least an opportunity to begin the season. Scott brings monstrous size, but most of all, he brings the unique ability to play a winger position.
He's not an established power forward like the ex-Blackhawk Dustin Byfuglien, but he sure provides the power on defense as well as the fore-check.
So who fills out the third defensive pairing now that the Scott is serving as the nightly fill-in?
The answer would be Shawn LaLonde and Jordan Hendry.
LaLonde is a young prospect and looked very smooth during the prospects' camp. While many believe that he still has a year or two to go before he becomes ideal NHL caliber, the time is now if he wants it.
With the attached $773,333 salary cap hit, that may be the sole reason Lalonde is kept in Rockford other than experience arguments.
Some like the possibilities of Brian Connelley and an $875,000 salary cap number will surely motivate him to stay an Ice Hog this season.
The latter half (Hendry) of the assumed pair is yet to be re-signed.
Many assume an eminent re-signing once the decision of Niemi is made.
Last year Hendry made $625,000, but current cap strains put pressue on him to resign for a similar salary.
Hendry has bounced between the Blackhawks and the Ice Hogs over the past three years. Last year served as a major stepping stone in production as Hendry became much more of a dependable asset to the organization.
While playing primarily on the third line pairing this season, Hendry was able to gain some much needed experience.
The idea of Hendry and LaLonde as a pair on the NHL level doesn't exactly make for much reassurance.
It wouldn't be surprising to see mixing and matching amongst the second and third pairings in the beginning of the season. With the progress Niklas Hjalmarsson showed under Campbell, could we perhaps see the same with LaLonde?
All will be made clear by Friday at the latest and though the arbitration date approaches, look for the Blackhawks to make a move judging by recent cap clearing transactions.
The season slowly approaches, and if anything, the Blackhawks are focused on winning.
Obviously the skeptics remain strong regarding the organization's ability to produce as it did last season. If the Blackhawks' organization were truly in cap-cutting mode, there are moves out there that could have facilitated this process.
Instead of trading and moving on, Stan Bowman has done the direct opposite.
The "core" players of the organization are here to stay.
Not only proving through transactions already made, but Bowman has even gone to the extent of making statement saying players like Niklas Hjalmarsson and Patrick Sharp will remain Blackhawks.
How does that sit for the rumor mills?
The last organization to be in question should be the Chicago Blackhawks. It seems the front office knows exactly what they want to do and so far, they have been dead on.
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