Three years ago, Chicago Blackhawks fans were experiencing the worst feeling in the world as some of their beloved players were purged due to salary cap restrictions. Guys like Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Antti Niemi and Kris Versteeg went on to other teams due to trades or free agency, leaving the team gutted. It took careful moves from general manager Stan Bowman to craft the Blackhawks team that just won the Stanley Cup, and fans are breathing a sigh of relief that not much was done today to tweak the team.
In a move that surprised no one, Viktor Stalberg entered into free agency and was signed to a four year, $12 million contract by the Nashville Predators. In Stalberg, the Predators will get Stalberg’s size, speed and ability to hit the crossbars. Hopefully he’ll get more ice time in Nashville, as this was his biggest complaint toward the end of the season. There were times that Joel Quenneville benched Stalberg during the playoffs in an attempt to kickstart his production, but it probably just added to Stalberg’s frustration.
While Bowman didn’t sign any free agents from outside the team, he kept two UFA’s by re-signing Michal Handzus and Michal Rozsival to one and two year extensions respectively. Both men were a big part of the Blackhawks’ success, especially in the playoffs, and they were two of the first on the team to hoist the Cup after winning. Bowman sees that they still have a lot of play in them.
Lastly, Ray Emery, part of the Blackhawks’ Jennings Trophy duo, decided to move along and signed a one year, $1.75 million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. Even though his departure was expected, he leaves a team that’s very thin in the goaltending department. With Henrik Karlsson signing in Sweden, Carter Hutton signing with the Predators and Antti Raanta perhaps not ready for the big leagues, the Blackhawks are in desperate need of a backup for Corey Crawford.
It may have been quiet today, but there are still two months till preseason and training camp. It may seem like a short summer, but it’s a long way to fill in the holes that free agency has left.