The Chicago Blackhawks' season wasn't without faults. Not only did they barely slip into the playoffs, they also saw a dip both in their offensive and defensive production.
An early exit from the playoffs definitely didn't help things.
Heading into the offseason, the 'Hawks first piece of agenda was to re-sign goaltender Corey Crawford. With all the waning questions heading into the offseason, goaltending is not one of them. Crawford was signed to a three-year, $8 million contract. Backing up Crawford is most likely Alexander Salak, who was just recently signed to a one-way contract worth $600,000.
It's hard to know what will come next, but there are still more decisions to be made before next season. With approximately $8 million left on six players, some cuts will have to be made.
Michael Frolik is one of the many players on the 'Hawks whose contract runs out. Good news for him, he is one of the players expected to be brought back before the begining of next year.
The problem lies, as it usually does, in the price. If the 'Hawks are going to re-sign Frolik, who made $1.275 million last season and is expected a raise from that number, they're going to need to for the right price.
Another expected player to return is defenseman Chris Campoli. Brought in midseason, Campoli made an overall positive impressing on Joel Quenneville, as well as on Blackhawk fans.
Though Campoli is not the power play-driven defenseman many fans were wanting, he still brings veteran presence and above average defensive skills.
I can't see the 'Hawks not re-signing Campoli. With the defensive problems they had last season (mainly because of poor play from Keith), the 'Hawks can't afford to let go of a proven defensmen that fit pretty well into their system.
As always, though, it's about getting him for the right price.
Re-signing Troy Brouwer is one of the biggest questions the Blackhawks' front office has to deal with. Brouwer is another player due another contract.
How the 'Hawks are going to afford to keep Brouwer is a whole other question.
With the notion of the 'Hawks re-signing Frolik and Campoli, it gives them very little wiggle room given that they remain pretty silent in the free agent market.
Brouwer has arbitration, making the whole deal even more stressful. Someone will likely have to go if the 'Hawks want to keep Brouwer.
One of the most obvious needs for the 'Hawks is a quality second-line center. Sadly, if the 'Hawks front office is serious on solving this problem, it's going to have to come at a huge cost.
Either the 'Hawks are going to have to not re-sign some players, or they'll have to trade some players under contract. That means some tough decisions are going to be made if the front office wants to go this route.
The move could anger some fans, but if done right, the 'Hawks could add some much-needed depth—hopefully without losing too much.
Like I said before, if the 'Hawks want to bring in another impact player, it's going to cost them a player. Who that player is has yet to be decided, but many speculate that it could be Niklas Hjalmarsson.
Hjalmarsson is easier to trade than Brian Campbell, who is difficult to move, but not impossible. Hjalmarsson is is young (23) and has a bright future ahead of him. He creates a decent trade market for himself and the 'Hawks.
With a modest $3.5 million contract, Hjalmarsson could be a fruitful investment for another team while opening up some salary room for the 'Hawks.
Year after year, the Central Division becomes more and more competitive. Three teams from the Central Division made the playoffs.
After the Stanley Cup season, teams began targeting the 'Hawks—especially teams in the Central Division. Detroit is always a threat, Nashville has a dangerous team and St. Louis is only a year or two behind.
With this rising competition, the 'Hawks' front office and the players need to find ways to remain relevant—or a fourth place finish could ensue.