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The Independent

Chicago Blackhawks 2016-2017 season preview

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The United Center.

The United Center.

twend354 via Pixabay

twend354 via Pixabay

The United Center.

Brett Starkopf, Editor-In-Chief

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This offseason wasn’t much different than previous years for the Blackhawks. Again, they were forced to trade away fan favorites — this year was Andrew Shaw and Teuvo Teravainen, last year was Patrick Sharp — to clear up space. Again, they were unable to resign much needed depth players. And again, General Manager Stan Bowman found a way to dance around the cap constraints and put together another Stanley Cup contender.

Bowman addressed the Hawks lacking defense by signing veteran defenseman Brian Campbell and Kontinental Hockey League free agent Michal Kempny. The Hawks signed 37-year-old Campbell, a member of the 2010 Championship team (but was traded due to cap constraints), to a bargain contract for one-year, $1.5 million July 1. He scored 31 points for Florida last season and has not missed a game in the past three seasons.

Kempny represented the Czech Republic during the World Cup of Hockey this past summer and showed he can keep up with the speed and size of NHL forwards. He will most likely be part of the bottom-third pairing, platooning with Michal Rozsival or rookie Gustav Forsling, who was a surprise during the preseason.

The Chicago Sun-times Mark Lazerus reported on Oct. 6 that Forsling might have solidified a roster spot. Lazerus said the 20-year-old Swede “very well could be one of the Hawks’ best four or five defensemen right now,” although four preseason games are a small sample size.

The departures of Shaw, Teravainen, Andrew Ladd and Bryan Bickell left holes to plug for Joel Quenneville. Rookie centers Nick Schmaltz and Tyler Motte are competing for the vacant fourth center spot. However, Motte spent more time as a winger during preseason so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him on the left side of either Jonathan Toews or Artem Anisimov to start the season.

To balance the scoring, Quenneville is considering breaking up last season’s Art Ross winner Patrick Kane and Calder Memorial winner Artemi Panarin. Kane and Panarin have spent the preseason on separate lines with hopes that, at the very least, there will be in an influx of production for their top-two lines.

With Shaw’s departure, the Hawks signed veteran Jordin Tootoo to a one-year, $2.25 million deal. Tootoo adds depth and grit and that’s about it. He is not known for his production but rather his physicality. He will spend most of the time playing with the bottom-six forwards.

Although a relatively quiet offseason, the Hawks are still poised for another Cup run. As long as their core of Toews, Kane, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook stay healthy that shouldn’t be a problem.

While many of the Hawks represented their respective countries during the World Cup of Hockey, this was still a longer offseason than past years so the players should be rested and healthy for the first game.

The Hawks will still be a top-five team in the league this season, even though their record may not reflect it. While they may not win the Central, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they play into June again.

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