Chicago Blackhawks’ general manager has plenty of work to do this offseason in order to get his team back to the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2021. He spoke at length about both the season that just ended and the one that is quickly approaching. Plus, we now know exactly where the Blackhawks will be selecting at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. And finally, we take a look at some former Blackhawks that still have their Stanley Cup hopes alive.
On Saturday, Bowman held his usual “exit interview” with the local media as he does following the end of a season. This year was a little different as he spoke from his office via a video feed, but the topics discussed where those that always need to be addressed heading into the offseason.
Edmonton Experience Great for Young Players
While the fans were divided on whether or not the Blackhawks taking themselves out of the running for the first overall pick by beating the Edmonton Oilers in the Qualifying Round was a good thing, Bowman was very happy with how things played out.
“I think it was a great experience.,” Bowman said from his behind his desk. “Certainly, it stings when you don’t advance and your season’s over, but when you look at the totality of it, a lot of positives came out of that.
Just seeing the progression of Kirby [Dach], in particular, he almost looks like a different player from when the season paused back in March. He was coming on (before the pause), his minutes were improving and he was playing a bigger role and then we took a few months off. Watching the way that he seized the moment was really impressive.”
He credited the team’s ability to battle through adversity and never giving up in any of their postseason games. When asked about the struggles of both defenseman Adam Boqvist and forward Alex Nylander he had this to add:
“What you’re trying to see with players is the ability to bounce back if they have any kind of set back. It’s not always a straight line, forward progression, as much as we would like it to be. There’s nothing like that experience of what it was like in Edmonton in the bubble, to see what those games are like. I think both players had their moments when they played really well during the season and even leading up to Edmonton. They had flashes there where they were effective and areas where they need to get better.”
Free Agency Will be a Challenge
Salary cap complications are nothing new for Bowman as he has had to operate close the limit for his entire time in Chicago. This offseason will not play out as planned because of the cap staying flat due to the COVID 19 pandemic.
Drake Caggiula, Slater Koekkoek, Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome are all restricted free agents and will need new contracts. With no additional funds being added to the salary cap, Bowman has some hard decisions ahead in the near future.
“I think there’s a group of teams that are in the same boat and the flat cap is a challenge,” he said. “At the same time, I think we have some ideas on what we’re going to do. That process is just starting right now. I’ve had a couple meetings since we finished the season and we’re going to have more over the coming weeks to map out how that’s going to play out.”
Goaltending Situation is Fluid
Goaltender Corey Crawford will be an unrestricted free agent and his backup, Malcolm Subban, will also be a restricted free agent. The status goaltending situation was one of the first questions asked of the embattled general manager.
“I don’t have any announcements to make on what we’re going to do,” he revealed. “We have an idea of what we want to do. Now we’re going to talk to the agents and see where that goes. There’s no question that Corey played excellent for us. Certainly, as the tournament got going and he got more up to speed, I thought he got better as it went along. He came in in a tough situation. He hadn’t really practiced much coming off his sickness and full credit for him to be able to get up to speed that quickly.
“We do have some decisions to make right there. I don’t have much to share at this point. It’s been a day since the season ended (and we got back). That’s something we’re going to have to get to probably in the next couple weeks here. There’s a lot of work on our plate and that’s a top priority to figure out, how we’re going to get our goaltending situated for next year.”
Free agency is just one of the issues Bowman needs to resolve to the best of his abilities before training camp begins again in late November.
Draft Slot Finalized
Now that the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is over, the Blackhawks now know where they will pick in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft this October. Once they beat the Oilers, the highest they could pick would be 16th. Since the Montreal Canadiens were ousted by the Philadelphia Flyers, they dropped down to the 17th slot.
Here is the complete first-round order with the final eight positions still to be determined.
- New York Rangers
- Los Angeles Kings
- Ottawa Senators (via San Jose Sharks)
- Detroit Red Wings
- Anaheim Ducks
- New Jersey Devils
- Buffalo Sabres
- Minnesota Wild
- Winnipeg Jets
- Nashville Predators
- Florida Panthers
- Carolina Hurricanes (via Toronto Maple Leafs)
- Pittsburgh Penguins
- Devils (via Arizona Coyotes)
- Calgary Flames
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Rangers (via Hurricanes)
- Washington Capitals
- St. Louis Blues
The Blackhawks will have plenty of options at the 17th pick. Our draft team here at THW has got all your research needs cover with our free draft guide.
Seven Former Blackhawks Still Alive
Now that the Blackhawks have been eliminated, fans have to choose which team they want to attach themselves to for the remainder of the tournament. There are six players who have spent time in Chicago that are still playing among the final eight teams remaining.
Stephen Johns, Dallas Stars – The former Blackhawks’ defensive prospect has had a tough 2019-20 season. He played in all three round-robin games for the Stars and the opening contest of their first-round series against the Flames. He has been deemed unfit to play for the team’s last six games, including the series opener versus the Colorado Avalanche.
Andrew Ladd, New York Islanders – Ladd, a member of the 2010 Stanley Cup championship in Chicago, is still on the Islanders’ roster and is in Edmonton. He has only appeared in four NHL games all season long and spent most of his time in the AHL. He has yet to appear in a postseason game and likely won’t unless the Islanders get hit with the injury bug.
Nick Leddy, Islanders – While it is doubtful Ladd will play, Leddy should see plenty of ice time versus the Philadelphia Flyers. The former Blackhawks defender has a pair of goals and three points heading into the second round. He is also third on the time in total ice time by averaging 20:27 per game, so far.
Robin Lehner, Vegas Golden Knights – Even though Lehner spent just over half a season with the Blackhawks, he became very popular among the fan base. That popularity probably took a hit after he played a big part in ending the Blackhawks’ season. Heading into the second round, Lehner has gone 5-1 with a .904 save percentage (SV%) and 2.44 goals-against average.
Tyler Motte, Vancouver Canucks – Motte has excelled during his first taste of the Stanley Cup playoffs. All four of his postseason goals came in the Canucks’ first-round upset of the defending Stanley Cup champions, the St. Louis Blues. He had back-to-back two-goal performances in Games 5 and 6 to end the Blues’ title reign. He and Lehner began their second-round series against each other Sunday night.
Joakim Nordstrom, Boston Bruins – Nordstrom has fit in well on the bottom-six for the Bruins. He appeared in all eight games through the round-robin and first round. He has two assists while averaging 11:48 per game.
Jan Rutta, Tampa Bay Lightning – Rutta has not been a regular in the Lightning’s lineup this season. He has only dressed for one game so far during the postseason, Tampa Bay’s round-robin win over the Bruins. It is unlikely he will draw in versus the Bruins in the second round, but stranger things have happened.
Even though the Blackhawks are out of the Stanley Cup playoffs, there is still plenty of news and analysis in the weeks ahead. Our team of Blackhawks writers will keep you informed during this fast-paced and usual offseason as free agency and the draft is just around the corner.
Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.