Blackhawks Ready to Fight for Lord Stanley


Lisa Gansky

The Blackhawks agreed to an eight-year extension with the Canadian defenseman, Brent Seabrook

Christopher Starnawski, Staff writer

The Chicago Blackhawks return to the ice to defend the Stanley Cup Championship for the third time in six years.

There have been many players that contributed to the team’s recent success, which makes it hard to pick a favorite. Unfortunately, in the weeks following the celebration, many of these players found new teams to call home due to salary cap restraint within the organization.

Currently, the National Hockey League (NHL) salary cap is set according to projected revenues for the upcoming season and is split in half between the teams and its players. The league and the Player’s Association set the salary cap at $71.4 million for this upcoming season. This made things tough for the Blackhawks as a result of last year’s contract extensions for the team’s superstar players Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Combined, the amount of salary cap space assigned to each player is $21 million. For a team filled with superstar players, this didn’t give the Blackhawks much room to work. As a result, the fans had to say goodbye to some of Chicago’s most successful players.

Once the offseason began, the team’s main objective was to re-sign the youngster, Brandon Saad. The 22-year-old forward set career highs in goals, assists and points while playing on the top line with Toews and Hossa. He was the team’s third top scorer in this last post-season. He was the team’s third top scorer last post-season and his defensive prowess contributed to second Cup in his third full season.Both sides seemed determined to reach a deal. This is why the Blackhawks’ fanbase was shocked when news broke that Saad was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets. It can be argued that the trade was far from a loss because Saad’s departure brought the arrival of center Artem Anisimov, right-wingers Marko Dano and Corey Tropp, and a 2016 fourth round pick.

The Blackhawks hope Anisimov can solidify centering the second-line, a position they have struggled to find consistency with. Shortly after the trade, the Blackhawks signed Anisimov to a five-year contract, making it safe to assume that the Blackhawks are confident in his abilities.

Marko Dano, the Blue Jackets’ 2013 first-round pick, used the offseason used the offseason to find a new home in Chicago. Dano made his Blue Jackets debut last season in the opener. He was sent down to develop in the leagues but was quickly recalled back up to the main roster where played for the remainder of the season. This is a very good sign for a young hockey player as it shows how much upside the 20-year-old has. In 35 games for Columbus, Dano scored eight goals to go along with 13 assists. he has for already playing on the professional roster.

Another blow fans experienced this offseason was the trade of long-time Blackhawk, Patrick Sharp. Sharp was a member of the Blackhawk organization since 2005 and flourished despite the lack of talent the team had prior to the 2008 season. Chicago traded Sharp along with Stephen Johns, a highly touted defensive prospect, to the Dallas Stars for defenseman Trevor Daley and center Ryan Garbutt. The Stars also signed defenseman Johnny Oduya, who was part of the last two championship teams.

Another surprise move was extending defenseman Brent Seabrook’s contract for eight-years.This signing of Chicago’s “Lucky No. 7” keeps the Blackhawks’ defensive core intact which includes the Conn Smythe trophy winner (NHL playoff MVP) Duncan Keith.

Patience is a virtue and in this regard describes one of the many positive qualities that make up center Marcus Kruger. Kruger is arguably the best fourth-line player in the NHL and has been nothing but productive for the Blackhawks on the penalty kill. He understood that the Blackhawks were tight on cash this offseason and was vocal to the media about wanting to wait for the organization to free up space so that he can stay in Chicago. He was rewarded for his patience after the Chicago Blackhawks traded Kris Versteeg, forward Joakim Nordstrom, and a 2017 third round pick to the Carolina Hurricanes for defensive prospect Dennis Robertson, the rights to unsigned defenseman Jake Massie, and a fifth round pick in 2017.

It can be argued that the next best player in the NHL arrived in Chicago this offseason. Artemi Panarin chose to play for the Blackhawks despite other teams eager to sign him.  Panarin’s 62 points was good enough for fourth in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, where the 23-year-old spend the last seven years playing professionally.

One dark cloud looming over the Blackhawks this season is the status of Patrick Kane. Kane is currently under investigation for an alleged sexual assault at his Buffalo, NY home Aug. 2. Although charges have not been filed, the league can still discipline Kane for being involved in an investigation, based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement. As of now, he is scheduled to play Oct. 7, the Blackhawks season- and home-opener against the New York Rangers.

Despite the loss of many fan favorites, the Blackhawks have taken the right steps in preserving their already legendary team. Some experts might argue that this season’s Blackhawks won’t be in a position to compete for the Stanley Cup, just as they said last season as well. There are a lot of young players that have the talent and potential to compete for another Stanley Cup this season and in the upcoming years. Sports fans can agree to never say never when it comes down to their team, especially in Chicago.