Roster decisions ahead for Hawks' Bowman
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There is much speculation that defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson could be traded this off-season.
It's a given the Blackhawks' roster will look somewhat different when training camp opens in September.
General manager Stan Bowman said as much following a disappointing 2010-11 season that ended with a first-round playoff loss to Vancouver.
"There needs to be some changes for sure," Bowman said.
But these won't be the kind of radical changes that defined last summer when the Hawks had serious salary-cap issues, forcing Bowman to deal away Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg, Ben Eager and Brent Sopel.
Many of Bowman's key decisions this time rest with what to do with his restricted and unrestricted free agents.
Bowman has some easy decisions, such as getting goalie Corey Crawford and winger Michael Frolik re-signed. But what about Troy Brouwer and Viktor Stalberg? Is their upside still strong enough to bring them back?
Then there's forward Tomas Kopecky, an unrestricted free agent, who is coming off career best numbers for goals and points. Does he stay or go?
Bowman and his staff have some tough calls to make.
Restricted free agents:
•Corey Crawford — Bowman said his first priority of the off-season is to re-sign the rookie goalie, as it should be. Crawford certainly looks to be the real deal, a big goaltender who can deliver under pressure.
"He's earned the right to be a No. 1 goalie for us," Bowman said.
•Michael Frolik — He proved himself to be a legitimate top-six forward in the playoffs with a nice mix of skill and grit. Frolik's cap hit was $1.275 million, and his asking price can be expected to be at least $1.8 million. He's definitely a keeper.
"He's going to be an excellent player for us for a number of years," Bowman said.
•Troy Brouwer — This is where it gets tricky.
Brouwer was one of the league leaders in hits, but his offensive game dropped off to where he didn't score a goal in his last 29 games, including the playoffs.
Yet Brouwer is big, physical and versatile, and a guy the Hawks need to keep unless he wants a lot more than the $1.025 million cap hit he played under this season.
"We would have liked to see a little more production, but sometimes those things come and go," Bowman said. "I think he was still an effective player for us."
•Jake Dowell — With the Hawks looking to get bigger and more physical, Dowell could be one of the odd men out if money and the need for more size become issues.
Dowell's cap hit was just $525,000, and he could be a valuable guy to have around for depth purposes as a spare forward.
•Chris Campoli — There wasn't much not to like about the trade-deadline pickup who fit right in to what the Hawks like to do on defense.
Campoli played with a $1.4 million cap hit, and his return might depend on what kind of raise he seeks.
If Bowman is looking to make a trade and wants to deal from strength it figures to be a defenseman, either Campoli or perhaps Niklas Hjalmarsson.
Brian Campbell's $7.1 million cap hit makes him impossible to trade.
•Viktor Stalberg — A keeper? You bet, as he doesn't want too much more than this season's cap hit of $850,000.
You can't teach fast, which is Stalberg's strength. You can teach a guy with decent skill to be an energy role player, which is what Stalberg has the potential to be. The fact that he also is versatile enough to play on the top lines works in his favor to come back.
Unrestricted free agents:
•Marty Turco — The veteran's time is up in Chicago after just one year. Crawford's emergence as a No. 1 goalie made sure of that.
Maybe Turco would agree to play for less than the $1.3 million he earned, but the worry is how much game he has left at 36.
The plan might be to have Alexander Salak back up Crawford to start next season.
•Tomas Kopecky — There probably isn't enough available money to bring back Kopecky, who certainly will want approaching $2 million after putting up 15 goals and 42 points.
The strong play of Frolik and Ben Smith in the playoffs might have sealed Kopecky's fate, along with Jeremy Morin perhaps being ready to play regularly next year.
•Fernando Pisani — It's one and done here for Pisani, who doesn't appear to have much game left at 34.
•Jordan Hendry — A season-ending torn ACL won't help Hendry's chances of returning. Those chances are 50-50 at best for the veteran to be back, even in a depth role.
•Ryan Johnson — While he definitely fit in well as the Hawks' fourth center, there might be other teams out there able to offer the veteran more money and a bigger role.
The Hawks probably would want him back at close to the $500,000 he made, but there could be a club or two willing to double Johnson's salary for a longer term.
You know the names of the guys who aren't going anywhere.
Toews. Kane. Keith. Sharp. Seabrook. Hossa. Campbell. Bolland. Leddy. Crawford.
But after that anything is possible for the right deal.
Why is there so much speculation about Niklas Hjalmarsson perhaps being someone the Hawks would consider trading? Because of the depth of the defense and the fact he has three years with a $3.5 million cap hit remaining on his contract.
The Hawks projected Hjalmarsson to be a potential star when they matched the offer sheet San Jose threw at the defenseman last summer, but the Swede's habit of turning the puck over and the fact he scored only 10 points with a non-developing offensive game do not work in his favor.
Nevertheless, Bowman didn't sound like he was eager to shop Hjalmarsson.
"I look back at his season and he was rock solid for us," Bowman said. "We've got a lot of guys who can contribute offensively. Not everybody has to put up points. There's value in the style he plays."
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