By Adam Hess
With the Blackhawks having a longer-than-normal (or so it seems) offseason, we’re already forced to focus on identifying the Blackhawks biggest needs that must be identified this summer. Among the possible impending Salary Cap doom and lack of draft picks, the Blackhawks have a number of key issues that they’re going to need to address this summer. Here are the top three.
3. Getting value for Andrew Shaw
It’s extremely likely that Andrew Shaw has played his final game as a Chicago Blackhawk. With the 24-year-old forward due for a new contract on which he’s likely to get a nice raise – his qualifying offer alone would earn him an extra half-million dollars compared to last year – the Blackhawks very likely will not have room for him on their salary cap.
The big issue will be for Stan Bowman to not sell low on Shaw. Teams will certainly not be lining up to help Bowman out, but overall Shaw can be a very valuable piece for a team to add to their roster. For that reason, Bowman has to know what he has in Shaw and what a team should be willing to pay for him.
Shaw should at least be able to land the Hawks a second round draft pick in this draft, and maybe a first from a really desperate team. But his real value could come in being the convincing piece to get a team to take on Bryan Bickell’s contract. Packaging Shaw and Bickell together for pretty much anything would be a major win for Chicago.
2. Finding a fifth defenseman
One of the Blackhawks’ bigger flaws this season was their thin blue line. It was no secret all season, and at the end of the day that did come back to bite them. The Blackhawks did say that they were comfortable with how their defense was regimented at their year-end press conference, but even if that is true, they would be silly to simply sit on what they have.
Going into free agency and finding themselves a fifth defenseman, or even one who could play as the fourth man and move Trevor van Riemsdyk to five, would be extremely impactful for next year. A player like David Schlemko or Jason Demers would be perfect to fill one of these roles.
1. Signing Teuvo Teravainen and Artemi Panarin to contract extensions
Two of the best young players to come into the organization in years, Teravainen and Panarin both have just one year remaining on their contracts. Because that is the case, they will now be eligible to sign extensions, and Stan Bowman should waste no time in getting those done.
With Bryan Bickell’s contract set to come off the books in 2017-18, there will be $4 million in cap space to work with. That money should cover the entirety of whatever Teravainen would get – my prediction is a maximum of $2.75 million over three years – and the rest can go to Panarin, with the rest of his money coming from additional cap space and maybe a move or two. If Bowman can get these done this summer as opposed to having to wait for next year, he’ll have the team in a great position to compete for several more years.