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July 1 Post Mortem

McClure took you through the local hockey club’s actions on the opening day of free agency, as I was too busy passing out from every Belgian attack (I passed out a lot). So I thought I’d clean up what went on around the league.

Central Matters

First, it’s probably best to look closer to home and that’s in the Central division. The big move was Jason Spezza going to the Stars for pretty much nothing. One aspect that didn’t get mentioned a whole lot is how this move slots The Ginger Ninja, Cody Eakin, down into the 3rd center role. That’s where he’s supposed to be and don’t be shocked if he becomes one of the better 3rd centers in the West.

While the Stars are going to be tons of fun to watch (and I’m going to go ahead and say they’ll finish ahead of Colorado), there’s questions about their blue line. They have prospects there who could all eat up some of that gap this season. Kevin Connauton, Jamie Oleksiak, and Patrick Nemeth will all get looks. If they can put Sergei Gonchar out to pasture to keep Alex Goligoski (who was fantastic in the last couple months last season) clean, it won’t be as bad as you think. Clearly a team to watch.

The next biggest story was the Blues getting Paul Stastny, which also weakens the Avalanche as they won’t be able to shield Duchene and MacKinnon as well now or they’ll move Ryan O’Reilly into the middle. Stastny is an improvement on what the Blues had, and they were going to be bolstered by the continued growth of Tarasenko and Schwartz along with the arrivals of Jaskin and Rattie. Still, this feels like the year they finally tune out Hitchcock, though I said that last year. And there are questions in net again, though Brian Elliot and Jay Gallon will be better than we all think or want.

The sneaky move was getting Carl Gunnarsson from Toronto, who is a major improvement on Circus Bear Roman Polak. He could easily play with Shattenkirk all year and give the Blues a more solid top four. But defense wasn’t the problem here, was it?

As for the Avs, they’ve hit the gas pedal on what was going to be their regression anyway. Brad Stuart is hilariously bad and if he plays at all he’ll get torched when the Avs go-go game leaving him exposed. They’ve lost Stastny and may lose O’Reilly, and Iginla will put up numbers but not as much not getting as much space in the West. And if they think they’re getting that again from Guenin and Holden, well I can’t help you there.

Expected a little more from Minnesota, and there’s obviously plenty of time. Not sure how much more Vanek gives them over Moulson, who wasn’t bad for them. A lot depends on the development of Granlund and especially Folin on the blue line, but they could use one more d-man for sure. Still, with Granlund moving into the #1 slot and Koivu and Haula behind him, the Wild will be at least as big of a nuisance as they were last year and probably more.

Overall, it feels like the division only got tougher.

Pacific Theater

The Hawks should petition the NHL to have the Pacific Division playoffs just be reduced to a best of 15 between Anaheim and L.A. Although to be fair, for all the talk of San Jose’s self-immolation all they’ve done so far is jettison Boyle and Stuart and move Burns back to defense (which is moronic but not enough to torpedo the whole operation). The Hawks signing of Richards takes them out of any Joe Thornton derby, and here would have been one of the few places you would think Thornton would go.

The Ducks obviously have really bolstered themselves down the middle, and though their blue line still has questions it’s not a huge reach to count on development of Fowler and Lindholm (though they’re going to have to figure out something elsewhere, as Allen and Beauchemin cannot keep up with other forwards in the West, and I wouldn’t count on Ben Lovejoy to be that effective again).

A word on the Hawks’ Kesler misfire. Just trying to read between the lines here, and with the Hawks being in it until the end but knowing that Saad and Teuvo were untouchable, I can only guess that they centered a deal around Marcus Kruger. But Kruger is not Nick Bonino, even if that sounds strange to some. The problem for Stan when it comes to trades is he had a couple queens and a lot of pawns but no rooks. Everyone wants Saad and Teuvo, but they can’t have them. Beyond that, the tradable chips are just small pieces, be they Danault or McNeill or Ross. The rest who are available are basically salary dumps. As the kids develop more in Rockford that will change, but for now that’s what kept Kesler from coming, at least in my mind.

Tagging Issues

You remember this. It reared its ugly head the last time the Hawks had to extend Toews and Kane. A brief primer, basically an NHL team can’t have more money committed to next year’s salary than this year’s cap. Right now the Hawks only have $44 million committed to ’15-’16, but that’s with Daydream Nation unsigned. If they get $11 million apiece, now that’s up to $66 million with Saad, Kruger, and Leddy also unsigned. All of them are restricted so you could conceivably wait until after July 1 next year, but Saad especially might just attract an offer sheet. You also might need a little flexibility during the year.

This is why someone is getting tossed overboard for picks. I’m sure Stan would love it to be Versteeg, and Oduya is the name you also keep hearing. Oduya has a modified no-trade, though I’m sure it would be explained he’s walking after the year anyway. Stan’s work isn’t quite finished yet.

  • guesthouse
    • Oregon_hawk

      Leddy or Oduya gotta be on the way out, right?

      • jhb

        I think names to move are in this order: 1. Oduya 2. Rozi 3. trying to move Versteeg 4. listening to offers for Sharp

        • wowwowweewoo

          I think it’s Leddy as #1. There’s no way we’ll be able to pay whatever he’ll be asking for next year with whatever Toews/Kane/Saad contracts come in at. GM’s will pay more for him now then next year with an obvious capocalypse situation. Also, we can’t handicap our PK with Oduya gone. If you want to escape the west you can’t be an 80% PK team, and I don’t see Leddy, Johns, Clendenning, or any others really reliably playing that role this year. Make no mistakes. This is an all in year only slightly less than 2010.

          • jhb

            I believe they trust the system as much or more than any individual who is not a core player. Leddy can probably handle anything Oduya was handling and that will be their gamble, if you want to call it that. Capocalypse was trying to find replacements for eight/nine regulars without having anyone ready to step up from the system. That will not be the case next offseason. Oduya and Rozi make the most sense to me because of how things have unfolded with the UFAs so far. Oduya and Rozi are pretty reliable and super cheap and flexible because they’re signed for one year. Stan can work some trade angles and if he couldn’t get them to waive their limited NTCs, then he could put them on waivers and some team would take them, for sure. Just wouldn’t get any assets back.

          • wowwowweewoo

            The biggest thing to me that points to leddy is the money after next year. Flat out, there’s no way we can afford him in the same world that Niskanin carries $5.75M per. On the other hand, I could see Oduya maybe taking a $2-3M contract to ride out his sunset years nurturing Clendening or Johns on the right side of the 3rd pair. And for trading Leddy, unless he has a breakout 50 pts season (questionable but not impossible) , I think his return would be greater now given we’re in a better bargaining position with our current cap situation than we will be next year.

          • lizmcneill

            You think we can’t keep an RFA (might be right), but a 33-year-old UFA is going to take a pay cut instead of letting some other sucker sign him for 4×5 next year?

            Yeah, ok.

          • Yachtsman

            If you and I don’t trust Leddy on the PK, imagine how Q feels. Bowman’s a smart guy and knows how valuable the PK special teamers are. They need that 4th Dman to stay above water, and it looks like Oduya remains as that guy. Then again, Bowman seems to have a of more Leddy love than Q. Adding Cumisky now thickens the plot. Dunt dunt dunnnn…

          • lizmcneill

            If this is an all-in year, there’s no way Cumiskey sees the NHL roster.

        • The Other One

          I bet Oh-Do-Ya ends up signing another Swedish sweetheart deal for the Hawks. The dude is pretty valuable to this team, and they know it (noted below). My thinking is Leddy misses out on the last musical chair. Probably brings a better return too

      • Oldfarthawkfan

        I agree, and I think it depends on which one brings us the better draft picks

    • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

      Possibly both by the end of next year.

  • lizmcneill

    Trading any of Leddy, Odie and Rozi doesn’t affect tagging as they are all FA at the end of the year anyway, unless you replace them with someone on a longer deal.

    Oh, I see yet another reason to launch Versteeg into the sun!

    • http://www.thecommittedindian.com/ Matt McClure

      I can see the logic in that, but it’s for a shorter term.

      It keeps teams operating in good faith in negotiations. In theory they could sign a ton of players to super long cap friendly deals that they have no intention of paying out and trading away or buying out. It’s one of the few protections afforded to players by the league that has been collectively bargained.

      • lizmcneill

        True, but you’d think if you have a cushion for the offseason the same cushion should apply to tagging. they’re currently committed to more people than they are allowed to keep.

  • Leightons5hole

    Theoretically – why would any team make a trade with a Hawks to help them?

    • Rodney Nelson

      A lot of teams have to get above the salary floor, for one.

    • The Other One

      Because the opposing GM views a trade as something that makes their team better too. They have opinions, just like we fans, but their votes count.

    • TheFullAmonte

      Because if you could get Oduya for say a 4th round pick, wouldn’t you do it?

    • TitanTransistor

      Why would any Eastern team care if they help the Hawks?

    • Jalamanta

      Non-theoretically: GM’s have an obligation to help their club as much as possible. If you don’t make a move to improve your club just to spite a certain team, well – you’re a piece of shit GM who should probably be fired.

    • Aaeismacgychel

      While theoretically all GMs could secretly conspire to “freeze out” the Blackhawks (though any proof of the GMs doing this would be met with a very stiff penalty by the NHL), or *cough* all come up with that idea independently themselves, this could never truly happen because if you’re a GM who has a team that could say really use Johnny Oduya, are you purposely going to take that hit and leave a whole on your team? Or are you going to trust that every single GM is going to keep their word and not trade with the Hawks. What if one of the teams in your division could also use Oduya? If you need him and a rival team needs him, and you forsee yourself both battling for a playoff spot, you’re not going to worry so much about helping the Hawks as helping yourself, and if you think that player will give you the advantage and get you over the edge, you’ll take it every time.

  • TitanTransistor

    Dallas upgraded from minor pain in the ass to major headache moving forward. Dislike.

    • pepe_silvia

      Putting stock in your farm system over trading for a guy who will be 30 when the season starts and who has a history of injury problems and likely would’ve put us far over the cap I don’t think is ballsy at all. That’s just being confident that you’ve drafted correctly and giving your prize possession another year to mature with the fantastic steal of Richards.

      • http://www.nosqldatabases.com Derek Stainer

        Trust me if TT is even 1/2 to 3/4 of the player he is project we will appreciate having his talent on the roster at his cap hit during year 1 and 2 of the wonder twins extension.

        No guarantee that Kesler would be healthy enough, let alone, even around due to cap space issues caused by the new contracts

  • Commit88

    I don’t get why people keep saying trade Oduya or Leddy. I’d move Roszival and Versteeg and make another Cup run.

    • Oldfarthawkfan

      And who is going to take Roszival and Versteeg? Of course the Shaaarks did just sign John Scott

      • Commit88

        Roszival has value. He is a bottom pairing D man with a 2.2 M salary for 1 year. And he has won a Cup. Versteeg has won a Cup as well. 2 M cap hit for someone who needs a LW/RW combo type guy. Versteeg might be harder to move, but Roszival shouldn’t imo.

      • lizmcneill

        Someone not only took Bollig, they gave up a 3rd for him.

    • Aaeismacgychel

      I think moving Rozsival and Versteeg is possible, but the reality of it is that the only teams likely to take on those contracts at this point are ones who are trying to meet the cap floor requirements, and that they’d only do it for cap reasons and as such would also expect a prospect or draft pick along with those players. So you’d basically be trading them and a pick/prospect for nothing in return. Now, one could argue that in this very weak defensive free agent class, you might be able to get some low level pick for Rozsival. I can’t see many takers for Versteeg though without some sort of additional incentive.

      • ‘hawks58

        That’s ridiculous. Any below floor team would love to have Roszival on their 3rd pair and Versteeg in their middle 6. Roszival gives them a steady minutes eater while they could get lucky and hit lightning in a bottle with Versteeg, he could have a bounce-back year and he could be moved once again (or kept if they so choose).

        Either way, the hawks could easily get a couple of picks in the 3-5 rd range (come on, if Bollig is worth a 3rd; Scott a 5th; and Carcillo conditional picks, multiple times; Rosy and Steeger are worth something)

  • ahnfire

    Isles sign Kulemin 4 yrs/$16.75 M and Grabovski 4 yrs / $20 M via Pierre LeBrun

  • Oldfarthawkfan

    In other news John Scott is signed by the SJSharks for $700K LOL and Ollie Jokinen is signed by the Preds for a year for $2.5 mil. Thank you Brad Richards, even if you are a bust you did the Hawks a great favor

    • pepe_silvia

      The only way I classify him as a bust is if he is as bad as or worse than Handzus, and I just don’t see that happening.

      • lizmcneill

        Well, he might be a similar *speed* to Zus….

        I really hope Q leaves Saad with Kane all year this time. IMO, he and Toews are the 2 forwards who play best with Kane (88 + 81 is pretty sweet, but they play the same position, so.)

  • Oldfarthawkfan

    Winnepeg general manager says still looking for a top 6 forward? Could that be Sharp?

    • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

      WE CAN GET DAT BIGG BUFF GUY BACK!

  • Joe Banks

    Jay Gallon? – oh, I get it!

  • jordyhawk

    Canucks are the best. Just signed Vrbata for 10 million for 2 years for putting up exactly the same numbers as Richards did last year. Perfect.

    • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

      How much more would they have to pay you to live in Vancouver than Chicago.

      Hint: Look how much the Blues had to pay a St Louis native to return.

      • lizmcneill

        Stastny’s deal is actually pretty good. Yes, it’s a lot of money, but it only covers his 28-31 seasons. When he’s 32 and might be starting to decline, you let some other sucker pay him 7M+ per year.

      • BrandonPirri

        Not that much. Just adjust for the cost of living. Vancouver is gorgeous.