August 31-in-31: Chicago Blackhawks

Peter Harling

2017-08-07

You really have to tip your hat to the Hawks the way they have managed their roster around the salary cap. You can’t argue with success and the Hawks have three Stanley Cup Banners hanging inside the United Center. The team core of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Corey Crawford combine for almost $40 Million and over half of the entire cap budget.

This has forced the team to walk away from talent in need of a raise and turn to more affordable players on their Entry Level Contract. This constant need to supplement the roster with cheap affordable youth means the scouts have their work cut out for them.

What makes the Hawks success even more impressive is the fact they traded away their first round picks from 2015 and 2016, and yet they still are able to find players that can step into the roster and have an impact.

Off Season Transactions

Once again the cap has forced turnover on the roster. Gone are sniper Artemi Panarin, Brian Campbell, Trevor van Riemsdyk, and goalie Scott Darling to name a few. While the Hawks brought back some familiar faces in veterans Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad there are openings for some young players to seize a roster spot.

The first player added was 27-year-old free agent Jan Rutta, an offensive defenseman from the Czech Republic. It’s difficult to call Rutta a prospect at 27, but he is new to the NHL and posted some pretty solid numbers last year. He has a strong shot at making the Hawks roster and having a fantasy impact. Put him on your watch list.

Sticking to prospect transactions, the Hawks acquired Anton Forsberg as the backup replacement. The Hawks also added goalie J-F Berube as a free agent. The pair will compete for starts behind Crawford, both are still young in goalie terms and with no pressure coming from the prospect pipeline one of them could be the long term replacement in time, but which one?

Laurent Dauphin was acquired from Arizona, who have a bevy of offensive prospects and Dauphin, a 2013 second round pick was falling down the Coyotes depth chart and in need of a fresh start.

Another free agent acquisition was Jordan Oesterle, a prospect I really like and I see as a modern day NHL style defenseman. He is a terrific skater and can carry the puck up the ice in transition.

Going a little far back to early March, the Hawks signed free agent Matthew Highmore, an undrafted free agent out of the QMJHL. Highmore had a banner fourth year with the Saint John Sea Dogs posting 89 points and going all the way to the Memorial Cup. Highmore is a speed demon and plays a two-way game. His elite offensive production may not fully translate to the NHL, but he should be a reliable bottom six option with good peripheral stats.

Risers

Alex DeBrincat, LW

The super sniper just posted three consecutive 50 goal seasons in the OHL, a feat not equalled in 40 years! Steven Stamkos, Eric Lindros, John Tavares, not even Patrick Kane could achieve the 50 goal plateau three times. Now taking his prolific goal scoring prowess to the pro level, DeBrincat will be given every opportunity to make the NHL.

John Hayden, C/LW

Few prospects had as significant a rise as Hayden did last year. In his senior year at Yale as Captain, Hayden posted over a point per game offensive production. Upon completion of his academic career Hayden quickly signed his ELC and suited up for the final