Blackhawks’ shopping spree carries goal of getting better

The Blackhawks had a hectic week of roster adjustments.

They added seven free agents, traded for a couple more veterans, made eight draft picks, and hosted a no-skate summer camp featuring select prospects. Let's try to sort it all out.

For starters, general manager Kyle Davidson was direct when asked about his outlook for the 2024-25 season.

“We want to be better,” he said. “We want to be able to go into games and impose ourselves on a game more than we have, rather than trying to stem the tide or having teams take it to us.”

Now for a couple of relevant questions:

Did the Blackhawks add any foundational pieces who can complement rookie of the year Connor Bedard?

Well, the draft picks will take some time to sort out. Davidson said the team should find out in the next week or so if No. 2 overall pick Artyom Levshunov will return to Michigan State for his sophomore year or turn pro and start next season in Rockford. It sounds like the Blackhawks would prefer he signs but won't sweat it if he goes back to college.

FILE - Carolina Hurricanes' Teuvo Teravainen (86) skates with the puck against the New York Islanders during the second period of Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, April 19, 2023. Tyler Bertuzzi and Teuvo Teravainen have agreed to contracts with Chicago, providing a major offensive lift for the rebuilding Blackhawks on the first day of NHL free agency. Bertuzzi received a $22 million, four-year deal, and Teravainen’s agreement is worth $16.2 million over three seasons. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker, FIle) AP

Two of the free agents signed longer deals — forwards Tyler Bertuzzi (four years) and Teuvo Teravainen (three years), both 29. Bertuzzi is sort of the grit-and-grind player, while second-time Blackhawk Teravainen brings the speed. One of those two will likely share a line with Bedard, but that can be settled in training camp.

Coach Luke Richardson did a nice job of using hockey-speak to describe the new players. We'll start with Bertuzzi, who played for Toronto last season and began his career with seven years in Detroit.

“Bertuzzi's that guy that's around the net and he's hard to handle,” Richardson said. “He scores greasy goals there. He's one of those guys, you think you have him knocked to the ice and even then he's going to score a goal.”

Teravainen was the Blackhawks' first-round pick in 2012. He contributed to the 2015 championship, then was traded a year later to Carolina.

“He just thrived with a good skating team in Carolina,” Richardson said. “So we hope he brings that mentality here. The way Carolina plays is great. We always have trouble with them. They're fast, they're high-end skill.”

Question 2: Why did the Blackhawks load up on older players, rather than let the kids play?

Age was no barrier in free agency, as the Hawks signed defensemen Alec Martinez (36) and T.J. Brodie (34), along with forwards Pat Maroon (36) and Craig Smith (34). A roster holdover is forward Nick Foligno (36).

There are a couple reasons for this strategy. One is the need to build depth, in case they run into another rash of injuries like last year. Another is they want the young players to build confidence with Rockford, rather than bite off more than they can chew in the NHL.

“This is all about achieving their ceilings longer term,” Davidson said. “We're not going to put players in the NHL just to say we have young players in the NHL, it's got to be the right thing to do.

“I believe it's hard for them to really grow that confidence and try new things and push their game to new levels as really young players at the NHL level. … I don’t know if we’ve had a player that’s gone down and come back up that hasn’t gotten better in Rockford.”

The Blackhawks' free-agent haul includes two players who have won three Stanley Cups — Maroon (St. Louis, Tampa Bay) and Martinez (Los Angeles, Vegas). So maybe they'll be able to teach Bedard a championship mentality.

Richardson also appreciates how Maroon has the size (6-foot-3, 234 pounds) and reputation to serve as a quiet enforcer.

“He's old school tough,” the coach said. “He's a big guy and he just seems to settle things down out there. Sometimes the guys that don't have to get into fights because of their reputation are even more valuable because it just settles everything down.”

The seventh free-agent addition is goalie Laurent Brossoit, 31. He posted impressive numbers as Winnipeg's backup last year — a 15-5-2 record, 2.00 goals against average, and .927 save percentage.

Both Davidson and Richardson talked up the benefits of having Brossoit split time in goal with Petr Mrazek, allowing last year's backup Arvid Soderblom (5-22-2, 3.92 goals against) to keep developing in Rockford.

“I believe it’s extremely important,” Davidson said. “You’ll know when (Brossoit) goes into the net you’re going to get solid performance, the guys can believe in him back there. This will give (Soderblom) an opportunity to reload, get his confidence back, and be able to get back on that trajectory he was on prior to some struggles last year.”

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

Blackhawks free-agent additions

Tyler Bertuzzi, F, 29

Tallied 43 points in 80 games last year with Toronto

T.J. Brodie, D, 34

Six straight years of positive plus-minus with Calg, Tor

Laurent Brossoit, G, 31

Delivered impressive numbers as Winnipeg's backup goalie

Pat Maroon, F, 36

Won three straight Stanley Cup titles with St. Louis and Tampa Bay (2)

Alec Martinez, D, 36

Michigan native won 3 Stanley Cups titles with LA (2), Vegas

Craig Smith, F, 34

Former Dallas forward has logged 83 career playoff games

Teuvo Teravainen, F, 29

Former Blackhawks first-round pick returns home

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