10 questions on the Blackhawks’ new season

Now that the NHL lockout is over, it’s time to turn our attention back to the Blackhawks.

While owner Rocky Wirtz, president John McDonough, general manager Stan Bowman or coach Joel Quenneville can’t comment in depth about the specifics of the deal or tell us what they really think until the new collective-bargaining agreement is finalized, that doesn’t mean there aren’t questions to be answered, because there are.

Here are 10 of them.

Q. When will the season start?

A. It depends on whether it’s a 48- or 50-game schedule. That should be known later in the week. The league wants to play 50 games, which could mean a Jan. 15 start. That would leave only a handful of days for a minicamp, so to speak.

The games would be all in the Western Conference for the Hawks. The United Center is booked with Disney on Ice from Jan. 28 through Feb. 10, so it’s likely the Hawks will be on the road a lot early.

Q. What’s the Hawks’ salary-cap situation?

A. With the cap set at $70.2 million for this year, the Hawks are in decent shape with $64.4 million committed in salary. That leaves them approximately $5.7 million in cap space.

Next year the cap drops to $64.3 million.

Q. Who will be in the best game shape?

A. You have to assume those playing in Europe will come to camp ready to roll: Patrick Kane, Bryan Bickell, Viktor Stalberg, Michal Rozisval and Michal Frolik.

Kane was said to be already on his way back from Switzerland on Sunday.

Q. What do they do with eight defensemen, nine if Adam Clendening figures into the mix?

A. Someone likely will be on the move. There was talk of trading Niklas Hjalmarsson and that still might happen, although his shot-blocking ability would be missed.

Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith aren’t going anywhere. Nick Leddy, Johnny Oduya, Steve Montador, Rozisval and Sheldon Brookbank round out the back end.

Q. Is Marian Hossa healthy?

A. Yes, unless he has had a setback recently. He was cleared to play in December, although there will be concern about his health until he participates in contact drills.

Q. Are there any other injury concerns?

A. Montador is the biggest worry. He had a concussion to finish last season and still hadn’t been cleared to return as of last month.

Daniel Carcillo, who suffered a torn ACL in his left knee, has been cleared to play.

Rostislav Olesz has been out all season at Rockford with the knee injury he suffered late last season playing in the minors.

Q. How does the goaltending picture look?

A. Corey Crawford and Ray Emery will go to camp as the goalies with Carter Hutton lurking in the background. But it’s not known if Hutton will even be invited to camp.

The Hawks need a big bounce-back season from Crawford, whose inconsistent play hurt them last season, particularly in the playoffs. Goaltending could be a big key in a condensed and shortened season.

Q. Who is the second-line center?

A. Bowman liked Kane there last season, but that doesn’t mean he will be the guy again. There still is a gaping hole there that needs to be plugged.

Maybe the Hawks offer a defenseman or two for someone to play center on the second line.

Marcus Kruger wasn’t the answer there last season, but he might get a second look.

Q. How many Rockford players are expected to be here?

A. This is a tough question to answer. Leddy, for sure, and likely winger Andrew Shaw.

Forward Jeremy Morin has had a good season so far in the AHL and might rate an invite to camp along with Clendening, the puck-moving rookie defenseman. Perhaps forward Ben Smith will get an invite as well.

As for centers Phillip Danault and Mark McNeill, they are coming off playing for Canada in the World Junior Championships and might get a look at camp depending on how big the camp is going to be.

Q. Who is gone from last year’s team?

A. The Hawks cut ties with Andrew Brunette, Sami Lepisto and Sean O’Donnell, each of whom was on a one-year contract.

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