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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Blackhawks News and Deja Vu's

For about 5 days, I’ve been basically out of the realm of technology, and out of the realm of catastrophic Chicago floods, apparently. I used my phone to skim through the news, but I let the electronic leashes go, and it was pretty damn refreshing. But, as they say, all good things must come to an end, and here I am. I purposely let some news back up, so I could lend my insight and opinions on the events. Of course, I’m never short on opinions, so let’s dive right into the thick of some Blackhawks news.

Bryan Bickell, Jake Dowell, and Jack Skille

The first news was that the Hawks resigned Bryan Bickell, and former University of Wisconsin teammates Jake Dowell, and Jack Skille. Hardly groundbreaking news but these are important people to fill out the roster. Bickell, a 2nd round pick (41st overall) in 2002, signed for 3 years for about $540,000 a year. Jake Dowell, a 5th round pick (140th overall) in 2004, is in roughly the same situation with a 2 year contract with an annual cap hit of $525,000. Both these guys are going to be 3rd liners at best, and probably 4th line role players, but they are cheap, young and hungry. I hope to see some solid numbers out of them. Now, Jack Skille’s deal is a tad on the amusing side, and I might classify it as a "mercy signing". He took a 50% pay cut to stay and took the “defending champs” discount. Personally, I think this shows a total lack of confidence in him, and it’s not unwarranted. He was drafted 7th overall in the first round of ’05; previous to some kids named Toews and Kane in ’06 and ’07. Granted, Toews and Kane were 3rd and 1st overall respectively, but 7th selections are generally no slouches. Some names that have been picked, recently, in that position are Kyle Okposo, Ryan Suter, Mike Komisarek, Jason Arnott, and Shane Doan. So, to say he’s underachieved is a bit of an understatement. Disappointment is a word I’d throw over Jack Skille’s mug shot, and he probably wouldn’t be able to one time that into the net either. For his sake, I hope he shows a little fight, and some knack for putting the puck in the back of the net this training camp, because if this isn’t a chance to shine and play for the defending Stanley Cup champs, I don’t know what is. It’s pretty safe to say he has his last shot right now. So, here’s to pulling your head out of your ass and putting the puck in the net, Jack. We all hope you’re just a late bloomer.

Nick Leddy

The next news is the signing of young Defenseman Nick Leddy, the 16th overall pick by Minnesota on ‘09. The Hawks signed him to a 3 year, $2.7 million contract. For those of you who were a little preoccupied by the little Stanley Cup run last year; Leddy was acquired with, the possibly whacked by the Swedish mob and currently appearing on milk cartons everywhere, Kim Johnsson for the overpriced Cam Barker. The key to that trade was Leddy, and not Johnsson, so this is good news that the scouting staff thinks he’s progressed enough to play in Rockford, at the very least. Some reports have him looking like(and by looking I don't mean the carrot-top afro) a young Brian Campbell, hopefully minus the pointless spin-o-ramas, and current Penguins free agent signee/breakout player, Paul Martin. I’m really excited to see what this kid can do, and I’m pulling for him to pan out. I like what the Hawks staff has done with their young talent, and I think this kid will benefit from their experience. The key to a deep organization is their development of kids, rather than the signing of established free agents, and the Hawks are doing just that pretty well.

Borrowed from www.hockeybroads.com, but accurate.

Now to the real ranting, and hold on to your seats. Last night, a report was floated that the Blackhawks are in negotiations/talks with Jose Theodore, in case this Niemi arbitration goes bad. I almost slit my wrists, throat, and then doused myself in kerosene while holding a lit match, as I read this. Mind you, the name HAS been mentioned as a replacement should Niemi have to be let go. Those of you who just look at stats and awards might think a 33 year old, former Vezina, Hart, and Masterton trophy winner would be a great plan "B", and on paper it sounds like a potpourri of flowers, kittens, rainbows, and peace in the middle east. This couldn’t be further from the truth and I REALLY loathe the idea of him wearing the Indianhead with the number 60 on the back. If you disregard that one year, which I fully believe was a fluke, you have a player that has been slightly above average for a majority of his career, has lost his starting job multiple times, in the last few seasons, to a guy who has yet to keep a steady job in the NHL (Semyon Varlamov), and has even lost his job to the very french skid-mark I can’t mention without dry-heaving for a good half hour, back in Montreal. The very same former Canadians/Capitals skid-mark that has lost HIS starting position multiple times in the last few seasons, which Hawks are currently trying to whack, banish to Siberia, send on a one way flight to the Pacific Ocean, or send on a mission to Mars thanks to Dale Tallon. I certainly hope I’m not the only person that see’s that this is déjà vu, all over again. Stan Bowman now wants to consider handing him the keys to our Stanley Cup defense bus? At that rate, we should KEEP Huet and we could have two flim-flam, dopey, fragile ego’d sieves. If you haven’t read my tone yet, I disagree with this vehemently. Marty Turco is still a MUCH better and consistent option. I hated the Huet signing the day it happened, and I’d feel the same with Theodore. Don’t put me, or any of my Facebook friends, through any more of this torture, please. I doubt they could tolerate my hatred laced Facebook rants for another entire season. Just when I thought I’d never have to see Huet give up another "soft as baby shit" goal, they ring up his alter-ego. Honestly, I’d rather fail with my hopes on Corey Crawford. That’s how little confidence I have in Theodore. I’m hoping the Hockey gods shine a little ray of light down on the Blackhawk nation, because we’ve already endured an emotional summer thus far.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Laffy Taffe to be seen in the United Center

The dog days of summer continue to get longer and less interesting, if you’re looking for any interesting NHL news. Only on a hot, sticky, late July day could Marty Reasoner and Jeff Taffe be the biggest hockey news in Chicago. Sadly, I regret to inform you that this is not a joke. Late yesterday afternoon, Marty “Tower this is Ghostrider requesting a fly-by” Reasoner and his freshly re-packed bags were traded back south to Florida for Jeff Taffe. This is probably a hair above the signing of the great Igor Makarov, on the list of important organ-I-zational moves . I’m talking great, as in, “doesn’t even qualify as news on the website” for Makarov. Seriously, this is a snore of a transaction. Reasoner was tabbed for the 4th line, most likely. In a perfect world, he would be a cheaper and younger replacement for Madden as the 3rd line shutdown center but, honestly, who can replace this “Hot Tub Time Machine” moment?

This means the Hawks save about $600,000 in salary, if Taffe even makes the team. So, if said player makes the team, he’ll either be warming the pine as a proud member of the 4th line, or a healthy scratch. I would personally just rather see some younger hungry kid from Rockford who throws his body around without any regard for his own safety, not some 29 year old journeyman who had a total of 2 points in 21 games last year. The bottom line is that we’re going to be seeing a lot of fresh new faces when the Hawks open up this year.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Blackhawks Cap Situation - Enough to Make You Nauseous

July is the most boring part of the year, as far as sports go. Hockey is in a deep hibernation, Football is just as eventful, and baseball just doesn’t do it for me. All a real Hawks fan can really have to do is count the days until hockey season, because the Bears are going to suck again this year. So, let’s see where we are, with the Hawks situation.

Last week they matched the offer sheet for Hjalmarsson, which is a very good thing. He’s a solid defenseman and will be for years to come, but they really got screwed by San Jose, because the Hawks should have been able to get him for about $1 million less a year. If they are going to overpay for someone, I’d rather see it be a guy that has proven to be a solid NHL player for almost two full seasons, rather than a goalie that has a total of 61 NHL games played, but I’ll get to that conundrum in a few moments. The deal the hawks matched is for 4-years and is worth $14 million. That’s an annual cap hit of $3.5 million for a 23 year old defenseman that has show that he is nothing, but solid. Overpriced, but not exactly “Brian Campbell” or “Cristobal Huet” overpriced. I’d be willing to think that by year 4, we’ll be getting him at a pretty good price. This is really an “open and shut” signing. They simply could not let him go with the cretins left on the free agent market. The closest person on the market is Denis Grebeshkov, who is 3 years older, and not as accomplished of a player. There are a few good players that are on the RFA list, but you don’t really see many teams poaching other team’s restricted free agents because they have to compensate for the signing with draft picks (take note San Jose, you jerkoffs).

After that, the only real subject at hand is in the net. Antti Niemi, to be more specific. His arbitration is set for 7/30, and the Hawks are probably going to get screwed in that deal, as well. They extended a qualifying offer to him, which means they have the right to match any deal he signs with another team. Now his value is up to an arbitrator. Realistically, the Hawks should have been able to get him for about $1.5 million a year, but that’s highly doubtful, now. We’re probably looking at the $2.5 million to $2.8 Million range. This is really a problem, because at this moment, the Hawk’s are about $1 million over the cap. We’re talking about a goalie that has a TOTAL of 61 NHL games. He wasn’t the rookie of the year, and he wasn’t the Conn Smythe winner. He’s Antti Niemi, who didn’t win the starting job until late February and really had to beat out a big dope that didn’t want the job in the first place. It was Huet’s to lose, and that is exactly what he did. Here is your Stanley Cup ring, and your iPass to Rockford. We have to keep in mind that Cristobal Huet’s ridiculous $5.625 million contract is still counted in all of that. Making him sleep with the fishes, or sending him to Siberia will clear up room, but not a lot. There are only two choices with Froggy. Send him to Rockford, where his salary doesn’t count against the team, or hope someone will trade for him, which is laughable. Releasing him will mean the Hawks are still on the hook for his salary.

I borrowed this, but it's just so good

Back to the conundrum I spoke of earlier. Try and follow along, because this gets complicated. Now, Huet’s mysterious disappearance gets the team to about $4.6 million under the cap, BEFORE any Niemi contract. If we estimate high and say he gets awarded $2.8 million. We’re at $1.8 million under the cap, which doesn’t sound all that bad, right? Oh, but it gets better. This is a total of 11 Forwards, 5 Defensemen, and one goalie. For those who aren’t all that swift, that’s one forward, one defenseman and one goalie short of a STARTING LINEUP. No injuries; no healthy scratches; none of that. Four forward lines, three defensive lines, and two goalies. Now, $3.8 million ($1.8 plus the $2 million we’re going to overpay) would be real nice to sign 3 players, now wouldn’t it? Bring up Corey Crawford for his $800,000, which knocks you down to $3 million. Add a couple more rookies, to knock it down to, maybe, $1.2 million. Like a prom date, tight but workable. This is why it’s not all that surprising to think that Niemi’s rights could get traded if he doesn’t work on a reasonable salary. With the way the goalie market looks right now, Marty Turco could probably be signed for somewhere between $1.5 to $2 million to play for a very talented team. That’s a million dollars the team needs, and they really don’t lose anything in the talent category. They just lose about 8 years, because Turco is 34 and Niemi is 26. Personally, I’d rather see that, than unloading Campbell’s $7.2 million salary, although we could see that, as well. As you can see, this is enough to make your head explode. Let’s see how this all shakes out. Happy Stanley Cup Summer...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Capocalypse Now

Now that the shock of seeing Andrew Ladd get traded to Atlanta has sunk in, I'm in a much better state of mind. This one really stung me. I had this whole thing figured out, or so I thought, but apparently young Ladd had ideas of throwing a wrench into the mix. The Hawks made a qualifying offer of about half what he was going to look for in arbitration. This simply wasn't going to fit in the plans, so Stan was forced to move him. In return, the Hawks got a fairly high draft pick and a top prospect Defenseman named Ivan Vishnevskiy. Ivan finished last year with the Chicago Wolves, so he's familiar with the city. In the long run, I think this is going to really lean in the Hawks favor, but today, the loss of Ladd hurts. No use crying over it now, though. It's time to continue on. Here is a little "highlight" of our new prospect.

Next, we found out that the Dallas Stars signed Adam Burish. Production-wise, this is pretty much a non-issue. He missed most of last year with a blown out knee, and he isn't a big goal scorer. Where we'll miss him, is in the locker room. He's a fun guy that is loved by teammates and hated by opponents. Men of Dallas, lock up your daughters and wives, because he's a dog that'll steal both right out from under you.

The Hawks DID make a splash in the free agent market, albeit a tiny one. They signed 6'8", 258 lbs former Minnesota Wild Defenseman John Scott. This guy will be good for one thing...pummeling faces. As with Stu Grimson, when the Hawks got him from Calgary as an unknown, this guy has the potential to be a fan favorite, if he plays his cards right. Leave the skill to other people and pummel as many faces as possible, when called upon. Here are some of his greatest hits:

Our new Cementhead pummels Anaheim tough guy George Parros

Pummeling Alexandre Bolduc

Pummeling Tim Conboy...notice a common theme?

Teaching a lesson to Dean Arsene

Destroying Blackhawks minor leaguer Danny Bois last pre-season

You get the idea. I'm putting my faith in Stan Bowman, that he has a grand plan. He should have no problem signing Hjalmarsson and Niemi, now, and it's time he made a decision on Huet. That's just too much dough to be tied up in a player that will not be seeing significant ice time with the team in 2010-11. If all this gets cleared up, we may see him actually sign a relevant player. I have my fingers crossed. We need something to look forward to, in October.

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