Why the Chicago Blackhawks could look very different after NHL draft

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw shoots against the St. Louis Blues during the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    Chicago Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw shoots against the St. Louis Blues during the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. John Starks/Daily Herald, April 2016

 
 
Updated 6/24/2016 9:08 AM

The next two days figure to be awfully interesting ones for Blackhawks fans.

With the NHL draft being held in Buffalo over the weekend, the makeup of a franchise that was eliminated in the first round of last season's playoffs could change dramatically.

 

Or it could remain pretty much the same.

It all depends on if general manager Stan Bowman believes it's time for a major shake-up, or if he thinks just a bit of tweaking will allow his team to make another deep run into the playoffs.

The coming hours will go a long way in determining just what the Hawks will look like come October.

Bowman held a conference call with reporters Thursday morning and hit on a variety of topics that we'll address now …

The draft

As of Thursday, the Hawks own eight picks in the seven-round draft but none until the second round (50th overall). The first round is Friday at 6 p.m., while Rounds 2-7 start Saturday at 9 a.m.

The Hawks' third-round pick is No. 83 overall, and they have two picks in both the fourth and fifth rounds.

Andrew Shaw

The NHL announced that the salary cap will increase from $71.4 million to $73 million next season. That's not quite as high first reported, but it does somewhat increase the odds that restricted free agent Andrew Shaw could be re-signed.

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That is, if the two sides can agree to a deal. The Hawks would love for Shaw to sign a one-year, $2.5 million deal, then they could ink him to a long-term deal after that. Shaw, though, probably feels he deserves a contract in the four-year, $16 million range right now.

"We've had some good discussions with his agent," Bowman said. "So that's sort of ongoing. We're trying to get something done. … But I don't really have any progress to report."

Rumor mill

There are always plenty of trade rumors in the days leading up to the draft, and this year is certainly no different. The biggest had to be a report of Penguins superstar Evgeni Malkin being traded to the Blackhawks.

Bowman's always been a wizard with the salary cap, but figuring out how to fit Malkin's deal ($9.5 million hit with five years remaining) onto an already stretched roster would be perhaps Bowman's greatest trick of all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It's a moot point anyway as Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said there's nothing to the rumor.

"We're not looking to move him. I did not get an inquiry from any team," Rutherford said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

As for other whispers and reports of potential deals, Bowman said: "I would say the majority of those are false, but you can't start commenting on individual rumors."

Recent signings

Bowman and the Hawks clearly need to get more and more contributions from players who aren't making a ton of money. They include the recently signed Richard Panik ($875,000), Dennis Rasmussen ($575,000) and Nick Schmaltz ($925,000).

Schmaltz, who decided to leave North Dakota after two years to sign a three-year entry level deal, is someone the Hawks hope can fill the Teuvo Teravainen void.

"We're thrilled that he made the decision he was ready for pro hockey," Bowman said. "We've felt that way for a while here, just watching his performance two years in college. He's really grown his game from when we drafted him and we thought it was time for him to take the next step. He felt the same way. … When we get to see him on the ice, you're going to see the talent he has."

The future

The majority of players taken in Buffalo on Friday and Saturday won't find their way onto an NHL roster for at least a couple of years. Once in a while a team will hit on a player like Andrew Shaw, who was taken in the fifth round in 2011 and made the NHL club the same year. But that's certainly the exception and not the rule.

The Hawks, who are getting thinner and thinner on the back end, could use an influx of talented defensemen into their system. Bowman, though, said he's always looking for the best available player, especially in the first few rounds.

"If you're sitting here, looking back at previous drafts and you drafted really good assets, it doesn't matter what position they are," Bowman said. "They're valuable in the marketplace because they're good players. So when we're drafting, we're trying to find the best fit. …

"It's too short sighted of an approach to just draft on what your need is because your team's complexion changes quite a bit over the course of a season. It's impossible to know where we're going to be a year from now with which guys develop, which guys move along, who we acquire.

"You're safer to keep drafting players you really like, independent of position, and you can turn those into other things as time goes on."

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