Exit Day usually means a team was either eliminated in their postseason run or didn’t make it to the postseason at all. Players muddle through painful interviews while general managers are bombarded with questions about injuries, trades and signings. It’s wrought with a general let-down vibe.
Thursday’s Exit Day for the Chicago Blackhawks was far from that. The players looked worse for wear due to a combination of lack of sleep and late-night partying with the Stanley Cup in tow, but they were still on a high from their win on Monday.
The day did bring some important things to light. General Manager Stan Bowman first announced that both Steve Montador and Rostislav Olesz would be put on waivers and bought out if they weren’t claimed once they cleared. Both men have struggled with injury, Montador most notably with a concussion, and couldn’t quite find a fit on the Blackhawks. That will free up a bit of cap space for the signings that need to be done over the summer.
Two players that have been vital to the team – Bryan Bickell and Nick Leddy – are up for free agency on July 5th. Leddy’s re-signing is so important to Bowman that he said “We’re not letting him go” even if an offer sheet is made. Bowman also wants Bickell to stay, as does Bickell himself, who said that he wants to stay in Chicago and would take a “hometown discount” (he would sign with the Blackhawks for less than he’d fetch with another team).
As for injuries, there were quite a few. Marian Hossa’s back problem may or may not require offseason surgery, depending on final evaluation. Michal Handzus played with a broken wrist during the Stanley Cup Final, while Andrew Shaw played with a broken rib he suffered during the Blackhawks’ series with the Detroit Red Wings. This was on top of the cracked cheekbone from a puck to the face in Game 6. Johnny Oduya was also hurt, and Bickell didn’t think he’d need surgery for his grade 2 knee sprain.
Two final notes from Exit Day: first, Viktor Stalberg, while stating that he loved playing for the Blackhawks, didn’t give the impression that he would be re-signed by the team and would become a UFA. Meanwhile, coach Joel Quenneville, approaching the last year of his contract, expressed his desire to re-sign. Bowman also made that clear, saying “There’s no one else I’d rather have coaching this group than Joel.”