Who the Chicago Blackhawks might target in free agency
NHL free agency opens Friday, and players such as Milan Lucic, David Backes, Mikkel Boedker and Daniel Hamhuis are in line for big paydays.
Barring an unforeseen trade, the Blackhawks won't be making a pitch to those players or many significant free agents as they attempt to fill out a roster that already sits right up against the league's $73 million salary cap.
As for the biggest name in free agency -- Steven Stamkos -- he will be staying in Tampa Bay as he agreed to an eight-year deal worth a reported $68 million Wednesday.
The Hawks, meanwhile, have plenty of holes to fill despite their cap issues.
The first priority is finding a legitimate fourth defenseman. That problem could be solved if Brian Campbell, who played for the Hawks from 2008-11, agrees to a one- or two-year contract in the neighborhood of $2.5 million a year or less. Campbell spent the last five years in Florida, never missing a game with the Panthers.
Campbell's last deal had a $7.14 million cap hit, but the 37-year-old knows he will have to take a big pay cut and he may decide to return here.
If the Hawks swing and miss on Campbell, they could make a run at the 33-year-old Hamhuis, but his asking price will likely to be too high.
What happens if general manager Stan Bowman can't get Campbell or Hamhuis? Then it's time to beg Andrew Ladd to stick around for a year or two at a huge discount.
Ladd reportedly was asking for six years and $41 million from Winnipeg last December, but the 30-year-old also would love to lift another Cup, which he did here in 2010.
"I want a chance to win another Stanley Cup," Ladd told ESPN's Pierre LeBrun two weeks ago. "And then, family-wise, just being in a good spot for my wife and kids, somewhere where they're going to be happy and comfortable. I think those are the two most important things."
If the Hawks find that $2 million-$2.5 million guy, any other signees likely will cost around $1 million each. Bowman could attempt to bring back Dale Weise or Tomas Fleischmann, players he traded for last season.
Weise was playing better down the stretch and shouldn't cost much more than $1 million. He also plays with an Andrew Shaw-like edge, something the Hawks don't have now.
After that, it's time for the young guys to step in and step up -- youngsters such as forwards Vinnie Hinostroza, Tanner Kero, Kyle Baun, Nick Schmaltz, Tyler Motte and defensemen Ville Pokka and Gustav Forsling.
The Hawks need production from these cheap, hungry players, and it's time for coach Joel Quenneville and his staff to let their leash out in terms of playing time and patience.
The four teams that reached the conference finals this season all had some players 23 and younger making significant contributions.
Heck, the Stanley Cup winning Penguins used a rookie goalie in Matt Murray. Wingers Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary -- both 23 -- also came up big in the postseason after mediocre regular seasons.
Even if the Hawks do almost nothing, it figures to be a fascinating season as young players who have waited their turn get a chance to show what they can bring to the table.
If it mirrors the production of St. Louis' Robby Fabbri and Colton Parayko or San Jose's Tomas Hertl and Joonas Donskoi, the future will be bright for Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and the rest of the Blackhawks.