In spite of everything this past off-season, fans are more in tune on what is to come this summer.
With five forwards on the existing roster becoming free agents along with four defensemen and both goalies at the end of the season, leaves a lot of open ended judgment.
And six players overall are Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA’s); Chicago may have to say goodbye to some of their favorites once more.
This leaves the roster size at 13 players, no goalies, four defensemen (if you really want to count John Scott) and six forwards. The Blackhawks will have somewhere around $16 million to commit to at least nine players on the starting roster for the 2011-2012 season.
There have already been rumors regarding the re-signing of defenseman Brent Seabrook.
Seabrook is the most obvious and imperative signing prior to the end of the season. I am sure the Blackhawks will make an attempt to stay away from arbitration with Seabrook and confidently lock him up for years to come as they have with the rest of their top four defensemen in previous years.
As a big part of the core and arguably one of the best defensemen on the ice today, it would be a big loss for the Blackhawks to part ways with Seabrook.
I would assume he will be offered somewhere between 4 and 5 million per season.
That leaves roughly $10 million dollars for eight additional signings.
The re-signing of players like Viktor Stalberg, Jack Skille and Jake Dowell— all RFA’s—I trust will be made.
Particularly since they can almost certainly all be signed for less than $3 million collectively.
Expectantly, Nick Boynton, Jassen Cullimore and Jordan Hendry will more than likely not be asked to rejoin the team after the end of the season as they are UFA’s, and possibly Marty Turco as well.
The only two UFA’s as forwards are Tomas Kopecky and Fernando Pisani.
Without doubt Pisani should be let go, unless his performance picks up as the season moves forward. He has, nevertheless, been astounding on the penalty kill so far this season.
Kopecky has shown he can be a vital player in games. Continuing to play solid since the Finals last season, Kopecky has already accumulated 9 points (3 G, 7 A).
At 6’3" 203 pounds, he has undeniably taken on the roll of Dustin Byfuglien, but with liveliness.
Kopecky is now eating up $1.2 million of the salary cap space for the Chicago Blackhawks.
If he keeps producing like he has been this season, I am sure he will ask for additional money from the team or whichever squad would desire to sign him.
The Blackhawks should keep him as an interest throughout the season for staying on the team.
Even though it is quite evident he is not a leader on the ice, he plays exceptionally well with the Blackhawks, mainly Marian Hossa, who is also from Slovakia.
With a bit of luck, the Blackhawks will be clever to resign him long term for a lesser amount of money.
Soon, the Blackhawks will have Troy Brouwer as a RFA and well as Corey Crawford if they do not discuss this during the regular season.
Neither are arbitration eligible, but both are fine contributors to the team.
Brouwer has had an exceptionally unpleasant start this season, but is picking up his game being reunited with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on the first line.
He has what it takes to be a part of the core and stay on the team, but so far he is not playing up to his potential.
As for Crawford, the Blackhawks back-up goalie has not had much time to prove himself at the NHL level.
He gives the impression that he has calmed down from his first few games and increased his confidence. I would suppose the Blackhawks may re-sign him to carry on being the back-up goalie for whoever may come along to be the starting goalie next season.
This off-season may be more complex than the last. Even though the Blackhawks have extra money to spend, they have such high-quality players hitting free agency and such a small pool of players going on the market next season may call for slight change or some immense trades.
Mikal Elyse is a Featured Columnist and Co-Owner of www.chicagosportsauthority.com
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