Despite the clamoring among some of the Blackhawks faithful, it doesn’t look as if Brad Richards will be donning a Chicago sweater next season. Stan Bowman has already ruled out the possibility of the Hawks acquiring a high-profile player such as Richards, so unless he is willing to settle for roughly $2 million less than he could earn in New York or Toronto, I’d say he’s a sure bet to end up elsewhere.
Instead, the Hawks will turn their attention to guys that will sit on lower lines, and feel a little better on Bowman’s check book. Names like Phoenix’s Vernon Fiddler and Eric Belanger, former Penguin Max Talbot, and former Hawk John Madden have been floating around.
Basically what this means is that the Hawks are going to look for gritty guys to add to the bottom lines. These are guys that are going to add depth, possibly kill some penalties, and most importantly, win faceoffs. But, again, none of these guys are exactly destined to play alongside Marian Hossa on the Hawks’ no. 2 unit.
That most likely means that the Blackhawks are going to give Dave Bolland another shot at centering that second line, which seems to have been the plan for him all along.
In joining that second line, Bolland will join Hossa and whoever Joel Quenneville decides to put on the left side of him, whether it’s someone already on the roster (Michael Frolik?), or a guy the Hawks pursue on the open market.
What Bolland on that second line would mean is that Marcus Kruger is virtually assured of having a center spot for himself next season, pending some sort of meltdown in training camp. He’s certainly capable of being a top nine center, and if the Hawks end up with a guy like Fiddler or Madden, who won’t log a ton of minutes, Kruger is the most likely candidate on the third line.
Any way you slice it, the Hawks should emerge from Friday much more set at center than they have been recently. The only concern will remain whether or not Bolland is capable of playing consistently in that second center spot, but after handing out minutes to Tomas Kopecky and Frolik in the middle, Bolland certainly looks like he’ll be an upgrade.
But moving Bolland to the second line and putting Kruger in the middle somewhere and signing a veteran center means something beyond what you’re going to see on the ice.
Just because the Blackhawks have all this available cap space all of a sudden, doesn’t mean that they are going to spend it all right away. Sure, it would be nice to have Brad Richards as the Hawks’ no. 2 center next season, but most would agree, and Bowman has already said that they’re not going to spend that kind of money — yet.
What signing a lower profile guy does is keeps the Hawks from spending money, and keeping some of that cash free. When the trade deadline rolls around next spring, the Hawks will easily be able to add higher-priced pieces to add to their top line, depending on what sort of situation they’re in.
Much to the dismay of some Hawks fans, Brad Richards will probably not be a Blackhawk. But that might not be a bad thing. Some depth signings and Dave Bolland on the second line still make this a better club than they were last year. Either way, Bolland’s role stays the same, he’ll provide the defense against top lines come playoff time. But even if the Hawks make quieter moves on July 1st, it could open the door for something bigger in the spring. Either way, we’ll know tomorrow.