With recent trades and free agent signings, the Chicago Blackhawks have certainly been quite active so far this offseason. Considering last summer the big acquisitions were Cam Ward, Chris Kunitz, and Brandon Manning, it’s reassuring to see general manager Stan Bowman make some bold and savvy moves for the 2019-20 season. On paper, the Hawks look like a much better team than they were in April. It’s an exciting time to be a Blackhawks’ fan!
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The Blackhawks surprised everyone by re-acquiring forward Andrew Shaw the Sunday night before free agency started. Shaw began his NHL career with the Blackhawks in the 2011-12 season. He was with the team for both the 2013 and 2015 Stanley Cup championships before being traded for salary cap purposes in the summer of 2016.
Shaw spent the last three seasons with the Montreal Canadiens and now returns to Chicago with three years left on a contract that carries a $3.9 million cap hit. The Hawks have re-signed numerous former players in the past with mixed results. Now here we go again. Do you feel the addition of Shaw is good or bad for the team?
Andrew Shaw Addition: Good or Bad?
Meghan Dillon – Good
I think Shaw is a great addition to the roster. I was very skeptical of John Hayden being traded back in June, as he was the only player with a physical game. Shaw embodies a physical game. It made him not only successful with the Blackhawks but helped him and Chicago win two championships.
Shaw just came off a very strong season and is posing less of a risk than acquiring some other players. Getting Shaw only required giving away a few draft picks, while getting Brandon Saad ultimately cost Artemi Panarin. The levels of risk aren’t even comparable.
Greg Boysen – Bad
If you’ve followed me on Twitter for some time, you already know I’m not much of a fan of Shaw. Yes, he plays with an edge and has scored some very big goals, but overall, I think he’s just a guy. For every goal he scored you also had to deal with terrible offensive zone penalties or general meat-headed plays.
When he got big money from Montreal, I was happy that it wasn’t the Blackhawks paying nearly $4 million a season for his services. Three years later, the Blackhawks will be playing him nearly $4 million for the next three seasons. However, that cap hit does not seem as bad as it did back in 2016 when you consider some of the money shelled out to bottom-six guys on July 1 (see Brandon Tanev).
Shaw is coming off a career-best season with 47 points in just 63 games. If he can produce anywhere near that .75 points-per-game average (P/GP) this upcoming season, then it will be a solid move. The Blackhawks got very little production outside of their top-six forwards last season, so if he can stay in the lineup, he will be a welcome addition.
That is the biggest concern. Shaw has a ton of mileage due to his style of play. He missed 64 games during his three years with the Canadiens after missing just eight in the previous four seasons combined with the Blackhawks.
Gail Kauchak – Good
My first reaction to this signing was “stop with the re-dos”! But once I thought more about it, I began to like the idea of Shaw returning to the fold. Some would argue the Hawks got rid of Shaw because he was too expensive. And he was – at the time. Now, the Blackhawks have more cap money to burn. And Shaw is already half-way through his six-year, $3.9 million annual contract, so the term is shorter as well.
On the ice, I feel Shaw will be a great addition to the team. He’s obviously already familiar with a number of the players. He can play up and down the lineup. Shaw is notorious for getting to the dirty areas, for example, that net-front presence the Hawks have been lacking in recent years. After all, this is the kid who once scored a “goal” off his head as well as a triple-overtime goal off his shin pads.
But Shaw will also bring those intangibles that could help get this team over the hump. He’s feisty, competitive, and brings tons of energy. Not to mention a penchant for driving his teammates crazyin the locker room. But in a good way, right Jonathan Toews?
Moving on to defense, the Blackhawks recently acquired veteran defensemen Olli Maatta from the Pittsburgh Penguins and Calvin de Haan from the Carolina Hurricanes. While it’s a positive sign Bowman is addressing the Blackhawks’ weak blueline, these two trades have also created quite the logjam on defense. Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Erik Gustafsson, Connor Murphy, Carl Dahlstrom, Slater Koekkoek, Henri Jokiharju, and now Maatta and de Haan are all currently under contract for next season. That’s nine defensemen for only seven slots.
The young Jokiharju split time between the Blackhawks and their AHL affiliate Rockford IceHogs last season, despite being one of the best blueliners for Chicago. Many are fearful he could once again be on the outside looking in to start the 2019-20 season. Which begs the question. Where do you think Jokiharju should and/or will fit into the plan this upcoming season?
Defense & Henri Jokiharju’s Fit
Meghan Dillon – Play Him!
Every defenseman will be fighting for a spot at training camp. Head coach Jeremy Colliton will have to be strategic about who he puts on the opening night roster, as well as testing out every possible pairing to find the best outcome. That being said, overlooking Jokiharju would be a huge mistake. I think he has proven himself to be a strong defenseman and needs another shot to prove himself at the NHL level. His age also plays a strong factor, as he is likely to remain on the team the longest.
Greg Boysen – Play Him!
Jokiharju should be on the opening night NHL roster. Whether or not he actually will be is a whole other issue. The Blackhawks did not do the best job in handling his situation last season, but the time in Rockford did do him some good.
There are currently nine defensemen on the roster, but that could change before training camp begins. With the new additions, I don’t think there is any way Koekkoek and Dahlstrom start the season in Chicago if everybody is healthy.
This is the perfect time to trade a guy like Gustafsson. He is coming off a career season and I have my doubts he will ever come close to sniffing those offensive numbers again. His trade value is at an all-time high and that is exactly when you should sell.
Sure, Gustafsson was responsible for a lot of goals, especially on the power play, but he could not prevent the puck from going into his own net. Even with the 60 points, he still finished the season as a minus-six and barely broke even at Corsi For percentage (CF%) despite starting over 60 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone.
Trade Gustafsson and ride the Jokiharju train from day one!
Gail Kauchak – Play Him!
Jokiharju should be in the Blackhawks’ lineup for the 2019-20 season. Period. He’s proven he’s one of their best defensemen and I think he’ll reinforce that in training camp.
As is stands right now Keith, Gustafsson, Maatta, de Haan, Koekkoek, and Dahlstrom are all left-handed shots. Seabrook, Murphy, and Jokiharju are right-handed shots. So there’s automatically a spot for Jokiharju, right? Well, not so fast. Gustafsson played on the right side towards the end of the season alongside Keith. Murphy spent time on his off-side as well.
Unless one of them gets traded? The problem is Gustafsson was the only quarterback of the power play last season, and he also scored the third most goals of all defensemen in the league. Murphy was arguably the Blackhawks best shutdown defenseman. It could be tough to replace what both of them bring to the table. And we all know Keith and Seabrook aren’t going anywhere.
Well, something has to give. I guess it’s a good problem to have. I just don’t want to see Jokiharju buried because of veteran and contract status. May the best man win!
The Blackhawks made a big splash by signing Shaw Sunday night, but they arguably made their biggest splash at the end of the day Monday. The team inked former New York Islanders’ goaltender Robin Lehner to a one-year contract worth $5 million. But wait; the team already has a number one goaltender in Corey Crawford, who incidentally is signed for another year with a $6 million cap hit. This makes for quite the goalie tandem and an expensive one at that. Should the Blackhawks have added Lehner?
Robin Lehner Signing: Yes or No?
Meghan Dillon – Yes
Lehner was an expensive player to sign, but it’s very important to have a strong backup goaltender. Cam Ward is likely to retire, and he was the perfect example of a strong backup goaltender. After Crawford got hurt again, Ward picked up the pieces and helped the team improve.
The Blackhawks have had examples of weaker backup goaltenders like Anton Forsberg, but I think Lehner is likely to fall into the same category as Ward. As amazing as Crawford is, he’s prone to injury, and it’s important to have someone reliable in net if something happens to him.
Greg Boysen – Yes
I’m a big fan of bringing in Lehner. Spending $11 million on goaltending is not ideal, but that tells me management believes this is a playoff team and they don’t want another season derailed if Crawford goes down again.
Even if Crawford is completely healthy this season, the days where he can be depended on for over 55 starts a season are over. Having Lehner there to take a good portion of the workload is not the worst idea in the world. Boston Bruins’ Tuukka Rask credited his phenomenal postseason play to the fact that he got plenty of rest during the regular season.
While there are many reasons to be optimistic about Collin Delia’s future, he is not quite ready to be an everyday NHL goaltender. He still needs to develop and playing in Rockford will help that this season.
In a best-case scenario, Crawford and Lehner are one of the best goaltending tandems we have seen in a long time. The Blackhawks get back to the postseason while Delia makes strides with the IceHogs. The worst-case scenario is Crawford misses another huge chunk of the season due to injury and you have a Vezina Trophy finalist there to do the heavy lifting. That is a huge upgrade from Ward and Delia during the 2018-19 season.
Gail Kauchak – Yes
I love this signing. Yes, it’s a bit unconventional. But it also indicates the Blackhawks aren’t messing around. They’re doing everything they can to get back to the playoffs.
Crawford is a Stanley Cup-winning goaltender. When he’s at the top of his game, he’s one of the best. But lately, his durability has been questioned. Injuries, especially concussion issues, have taken their toll. While the Blackhawks support their number one netminder, they also want to be realistic about where he stands.
Hence the addition of Lehner. This new goaltender is an insurance policy of sorts.
After speaking to a source, Robin Lehner is an insurance policy should Crawford go down. The team doesn't want to miss a beat should 50 get hurt again.— Jay Zawaski (@JayZawaski670) July 1, 2019
With both Crawford and Lehner, the Blackhawks can have an elite goaltender in net every single night. They can manage Crawford’s ice time and take some pressure off him. I would expect the goalies to split time equally in net, which doesn’t normally happen on NHL teams. Look for them to each start around 40 games, barring injury. And if there is an injury, the other can take over, no problem. It’s a win-win.
And for those that are complaining about the money, the Florida Panthers just signed Sergei Bobrovsky to $10 million over the next seven years. The Blackhawks’ $11 million situation will be resolved next season.
Thanks for tuning in to our latest Blackhawks roundtable! Things are looking up for this team, and it’s only a matter of time before training camp and the preseason begins. Then we will have more answers about how these recent changes will affect the Blackhawks.
Is it October yet?!