After finishing the 30th goal against the average (3.55) and 31st in the penalty rate (72.7) during this season, Blackhawks is clearly the priority to patch up his defense this summer. And it has been evident with the acquisition of defensive defenders Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta.
But it raises some interesting questions about the future of the Blackhawks blue line.
With de Haan and the Maatta extensions, the Blackhawks now have five defenders under contract through at least the 2021-22 season: Brent Seabrook (6.875 million cap hit), Duncan Keith ($ 5.538 million), De Haan (4.55 million dollars), Maatta ($ 4.083 million) and Connor Murphy ($ 3.85 million). It's $ 24.8 million attached to five guys.
However, the money is not the main problem. It is the limited amount of rust stains available. Blackhawks need not immediately find out how it will work a year from now, but it makes you wonder how the cards may be mixed.
Let's go through the situations:
And even if Gustafsson is re-signed, Blackhawks would then have six players locked up for the 2020-21 season and beyond, and it is enough to submit a lineup.
– Henri Jokiharju, who was drafted no. 29 in total in 2017, is probably ready to take the next step and become an everyday player. Where does he fit into the long-term plans?
– Adam Boqvist, who was taken over 8 years in total in 2018, probably needs a year left in OHL before he jumps to the NHL, which would put him on a timeline to become part of the Blackhawks next season. Does he use the sixth place if another doesn't open then?
– Nicolas Beaudin, prepared no. 27 in total in 2018, is expected to start the coming season in Rockford after four years in QMJHL but may be NHL-ready in the 2020-21 campaign.
– And then there is Ian Mitchell, who returns to Denver for his junior season and will act as the team's captain. He has said all the time that he intends to write with Blackhawks when he finishes college, but does the organization appreciate him enough to create a place for him when he is ready?
To make things a little more complicated, the Seattle draft was extended in 2021 and the same rules will apply as Vegas 2017.
Blackhawks are able to protect seven forward, three defenders and one goaltender or eight skaters and one goaltender. All players with no movement clauses at the time of the enlargement proposal (and who refrain from renouncing them) must be protected. Keith and Seabrook have a NMC. And all first and second year pros are excluded. Jokiharju would have to be protected.
From now on, Blackhawks are likely to use eight skating options, but they will also have valuable advances to protect. They will lose a good player in one way or another, and it will probably come from the defense group. All of this comes into play when we weigh roster decisions for the next season and beyond.
As mentioned above, the Blackhawks need not make an immediate decision on the future of their blue line corps. They can play the 2019-20 season with the group currently being constructed. But the decisions Blackhawks have to face next season can affect how Stan Bowman drives the rest of the summer and during the upcoming campaign.
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