Its more than fair to say the Chicago Blackhawks have cruised through most of this NHL season, when the most stressful thing about your team is 4 regulation losses after 31 games life is pretty good. This coming off season is an interesting one for Chicago, especially at the goaltending position. I fully expect Crawford or Emery to have a strong post season but if they struggle I doubt Chicago will hesitate to look elsewhere for options. This is a look at some potential off season moves for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Need to Resign Viktor Stalberg
Since coming over from the Versteeg trade with Toronto, Stalberg has developed into a solid top 9 player that is capable of pinching in to the top 6 for stretches if needed. If Stalberg continues to develop the way he has the last 3 years in Chicago, it is quite possible he becomes a bona fide top 6 forward in the league.
Stalberg uses his speed to create chances and has size (6ft 3 209lbs) that he is not easily bumped off the puck. After hitting career highs in all categories last year (22 goals, 21 assists, 43 points) he has continued his strong play into this season picking up 17 points in 31 games and an impressive +13 rating.
Stalberg makes less than 1 million and at 27 years of age and a college signing free agent he is eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer. The Blackhawks offer a competitive contending team that he is already familiar with and should be able to get him for around 3 million a season.
With the salary cap decreasing next year money may be tight for resigning Stalberg, especially if another team goes overboard on an offer, but with Rosival’s 2 million coming off the books they may be able to manage if it is kept in a reasonable range.
Bottom six will see interchangeable parts
The Blackhawks bottom six will have Jamal Mayers and Brandon Bollig both hitting unrestricted free agency, both players rotate into the lineup on the 4th line and I would not be surprised if neither were brought back.
Marcus Kruger is the only player that should be resigned this off season, in the final year of his entry level contract his play has earned himself an extension with Chicago. Kruger is in his second season with the Blackhawks and has 10 points in 30 games this season while averaging just 13 minutes a night.
A decision will have to be made on goaltending
Corey Crawford has played lights out this season which should make him the undisputed #1 in Chicago right? Wrong Ray Emery has enjoyed an equally as amazing season and holds an 11-0-0 record with a 2.26 GAA. This is a problem any team would love to have but with Emery headed to unrestricted free agency, who do you keep?
I believe the 2013 NHL playoffs will answer this question for us, if Crawford struggles and Emery has to step in it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see Emery resigned and Crawford on the trading block. Crawford has an extra year on his deal so either way both goalies are going to be needing a raise in the near future, it just remains to be seen who will give it to them.
And if both goalies struggle? Well I hear Ryan Miller is unhappy in Buffalo.