This is the second edition of my Chicago Blackhawks Q&A series in which I interview Tim Sassone of the Daily Herald. Hope everyone enjoys.
Disclaimer: This interview was done before Khabibulin was placed on waivers, so any Khabibulin trade speculation was not covered.
Michael Wagner: Was trading Robert Lang the only option to get under the salary cap, or could the 'Hawks have done something else to get under the cap? (I know trading Khabby is an option, but he seems unmoveable.)
Tim Sassone: They were looking to move "big" money, which meant either Lang, Khabibulin, or Havlat. We've seen what has happened with Khabibulin and no team will want Havlat at $6 million until they see if he's healthy.
They didn't want Lang for a number of reasons: He wasn't enough of a factor offensively and they think they can find better. Plus, Savard didn't care for the way he played much, the same reason as Mike Babcock wanted him gone in Detroit.
Wagner: I was reading Bob McKenzie's Blog today and he talked about the Blackhawks being interested in Michael Nylander of the Washington Capitals, which seemed ridiculous to me. Do you have any thoughts on that? Would he be a good addition to the 'Hawks?
Sassone: I like Nylander a lot and feel he would be a great fit on the second line with Havlat. Nylander is a point-a-game guy (199 in his last 200 games) and he's not a bad guy in the dressing room. He has a $4.8 million cap hit, which is still better than Khabibulin's $6.75. The Caps are over the cap but I'm not sure they would trade Nylander without getting something good in return.
Wagner: Can Huet and Khabibulin coexist in Chicago? Or do the Blackhawks need to move Khabibulin, whether that be via trade or waiving him?
Sassone: I think Tallon has answered this question. I've been writing since July 1 that Huet and Khabibulin wouldn't happen. The Hawks were not being truthful with everyone. They always wanted to move Nik's money.
Wagner: Who do you believe is the front runner for the second line center position, Bolland or Kontiola?
Sassone: Neither. Sharp will play there until they acquire another center. Bollland is a questionable No. 3 if you ask me and Kontiola just doesn't look like he has what it takes to play in the NHL and produce—at least not now.
Wagner: Does Kyle Beach really have a shot of making this team?
Sassone: Sure he does. They love his size and muscle, plus they need some fighters. Burish and Eager can't do it all. I don't know what sense it would make to send Beach back to juniors where he would have nothing left to prove or gain. He can't go to Rockford because he has junior eligibility remaining.
Wagner: Will Dustin Byfulgien come to be one of the best power forwards in the game this season?
Sassone: Best in the game? I don't know if he's ready for that, but he should score 25 goals providing he stays healthy. He better be a difference maker for the $3 million he's getting.
Wagner: Do the Blackhawks have too many power forwards in their system, with Kyle Beach, Troy Brouwer, Akim Aliu, and Bryan Bickell?
Sassone: Not at all. I like Beach and Brouwer a lot and they both could be here to start the year. Aliu is at least a year away and Bickell looks like he's going to be a minor leaguer and not an NHL player.
Wagner: Is this team still going to struggle on the power play even with the addition of Brian Campbell?
Sassone: I think the addition of Campbell is going to give the 'Hawks one of the league's five best power plays. It has all the tools now so no more excuses. If the power play struggles now with all that talent, then the finger must be pointed at coaching.
Wagner: During camp Campbell has been paired with Barker. Do you think the Barker will stay paired with Campbell when the season starts?
Sassone: I'm not sure. I kind of like the Campbell-Keith pairing. It could be Barker if Barker is still here. The Hawks have looked to trade him and his $2.8 million cap hit. That's a lot for a fifth or sixth defenseman who you're not sure is ever going to get better. Barker needs to pick up his game and be consistent every night if he wants to play with Campbell. Sopel could wind up with Campbell, or even Carney.
Wagner: Who do you believe will be the sixth defenseman at the start of the season?
Sassone: These are my six as of right now: Campbell, Keith, Seabrook, Sopel, Barker, and Carney with Walker as the seventh. I think Hendry goes to Rockford unless Barker is traded. Hjalmarsson too.
Wagner: Is this team good enough to compete with the Red Wings for the Central Division?
Sassone: I think the Hawks can stay within 10-15 points of Detroit. The Wings are loaded with only an injury to their goalies potentially slowing them down. I think the Hawks will finish second in the Central and either fifth, sixth, or seventh in the West.
Wagner: Do you think Savard is the right person to be coaching this team, or will his lack of experience hurt them?
Sassone: I'm a big Savard backer as my columns show. He did a great job last year and deserves another year or two on his contract. He brought the young guys along and got the team within three points of the playoffs in his first full season.
Thank you again to Mr. Sassone for a great interview. My next interview will be with Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune.
Len Ziehm of the the Chicago Sun-Times