Greetings Chicago Blackhawks’ fans! So much has been happening in the hockey world this past week! While July 1 is normally the first day of free agency, that was postponed this year due to the NHL pause and COVID-19. Instead we found out the two cities that will hopefully host the playoffs later this summer, as well as Collective Bargaining Agreement updates. Also, Blackhawks’ players are returning to Chicago in preparation for the start of training camp around July 10. And all the while, the organization is attempting to keep us entertained with Rewind hockey.
Blackhawks to Play in Edmonton
Edmonton and Toronto will be the hub cities for the playoffs, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie. Edmonton will host the Western Conference teams and Toronto the Eastern Conference teams. Canada appears to be a better option right now than the United States, as the Canadian dollar is currently worth less than the American dollar. This will help offset the immense cost of the whole endeavor. Canada has also been able to control the virus better. (from ‘How Edmonton and Toronto became the NHL’s hub cities for return to play’, The AthleticNHL – 7/1/20)
This means the Blackhawks will face the Edmonton Oilers on their home ice for the qualifying round. Could this be a disadvantage? Perhaps. But remember, there will be no fans in attendance to give the home team any extra momentum. Besides, the Blackhawks play well on the road. Their home record this season was 16-14-4, while their away record was a similar 16-16-4.
While the Oilers’ players obviously won’t have as far to travel after training camp, everyone will be in the bubble for the playoffs. No one will be allowed to enjoy the comforts of home and family. This latest situation should be a non-factor for the Blackhawks.
Proposed CBA Agreements Don’t Favor Blackhawks
Along with negotiating the details of return to play, the NHL and the NHLPA are working on an extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. According to renowned hockey journalist Elliotte Friedman, the financial ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic will negatively affect the salary cap moving forward.
Some stuff to look forward to in modified CBA: Flat salary cap (unless changed, numbers were $81.5M next two years, $82.5M in 2022-23); cap on escrow (starting at 20 per cent next season, moving down after that); return to Olympics (pending agreement with IOC)…— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 1, 2020
Friedman further adds, “This will mean the next couple of seasons are going to be extremely tight for clubs without cap flexibility.”
Clubs without cap flexibility is the definition of the Blackhawks. The organization has big money tied up in the contracts of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook; all with no movement clauses. Plus they want to try to sign free agents Dominik Kubalik, Dylan Strome, Drake Caggiula, Slater Koekkoek and Corey Crawford before the upcoming 2020-21 season.
There’s certainly not going to be much wiggle room in the coming seasons. General manager Stan Bowman will need to get awfully creative in order to improve the team from the outside. It looks like the success of the youth and the success of the team will go hand in hand in the short-to-medium-term future.
Dach’s Mixed Emotions About Return to Play
Speaking of the youth, rookie and third overall 2019 draft pick Kirby Dach is preparing his return to Chicago to join his teammates in voluntary skates. While most would believe only the older players have concerns about the virus, the 19-year-old tells a different story.
This could be a health risk for many young guys’ careers. We’re high-intensity athletes, where our hearts and lungs are pumping extremely fast, and (COVID-19) could be damaging to us, even past our careers. That’s something you’ve got to take into consideration when you go back. (from ‘Blackhawks rookie Kirby Dach weighs the risk/reward of playing during a pandemic’, The AthleticCHI – 7/2/20)
That being said, Dach’s apprehensions are outweighed by his excitement to get back to the game he loves. Especially a shot at the playoffs.
If we come back and play, that’s great. I’ll be ready to go and I’m sure everybody else will be. It’s a good chance for our group. We’ve got a lot of young guys, chomping at the bit to get into a playoff game and get that experience.
Let’s hope Dach and the rest of the Blackhawks will get that opportunity while staying healthy.
De Haan Is Skating
One player that joined his teammates for voluntary skates this Thursday is Calvin de Haan. The defenseman underwent right shoulder surgery in late December and was pronounced out for the rest of the season. But that was before the pause.
The good news for the Blackhawks is the break gave de Haan the time he needed to rest and recuperate. Before his injury, de Haan had emerged as a reliable top-four defenseman on the team. His added presence on the blue line will be a huge boost and give the Blackhawks much stronger options with their defensive pairings in the qualifying round.
Other Blackhawks that have returned this past week include forward David Kampf and defensemen Adam Boqvist and Olli Maatta.
NBC Airing Blackhawks’ Wins
The Blackhawks and NBC Sports Chicago have been doing their best to keep fans entertained during the pause. In a promotional Hawks’ Rewind campaign, they’ve aired the winning games from the 2010, 2013, and the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs runs.
Now in July they will show all 32 Blackhawks’ wins from the 2019-20 season.
For those interested, this could be a useful tool to watch the Blackhawks’ progression throughout the season. It’s always fun to see the lineup choices from October and how they evolved by March. And how specific players improved as they went along.
Heck, the Blackhawks beat the Nashville Predators two times (airing July 8 and 27). It never gets old watching the Preds lose! And how about that game against the Calgary Flames where the Hawks scored eight lovely goals (airing July 26)? Can anyone remember which player scored twice?
If all goes according to plan, the Blackhawks’ last regular season win over the San Jose Sharks (airing July 30) will be seen right before the team hits the ice for LIVE hockey in the qualifying round against the Oilers. By that time it will be very enlightening to finally watch the real deal!
Hopefully the hub cities and the CBA agreement details will become official in the coming days. Then everyone can start to look ahead towards training camps, the qualifying rounds, and the impending playoffs. In the meantime, which Blackhawks’ Rewind wins will you be watching?!