The Chicago Blackhawks’ 2016 offseason has not been a very exciting one for fans up to this point. They have made more negative moves than positive ones, possibly pushing them even further from advancing through the playoffs next season. In the 2015-16 season, the Blackhawks finished with a record of 47-26-9, landing them in third place in the Central Division as well as third in the Western Conference. Unfortunately for them, their above-average level of play failed to carry them past the first round of the playoffs. They lost to the St. Louis Blues in a game seven and let down the entire state of Illinois as well as fans across the country.
Now, most would think that after such a disappointing season, the Blackhawks general manager and management would hit the free agency hard and try to pick up the pieces they might have been missing last season. But Chicago has not done a whole lot of that, in fact, they have let go of more of their top players than they have signed.
Key Offseason Signings
Nick Schmaltz – F
Michal Rozsival – D
Brian Campbell – D
Marc McNeill – F
There were several signings this offseason, but only a few worth discussing. Defensemen Michal Rozsival and Brian Campbell were the biggest signings for Chicago thus far. Michael Rozsival re-signing gives the defense a boost from the man’s 15-years of NHL experience and wisdom. He will play a key supporting role next season on the defensive lines.
The signing that got some of the Blackhawks players talking was with Brian Campbell. Campbell is also a 15-year veteran of the league and had six goals and 31 points in 82 games last season with Florida last season, to go with a mighty plus 31 rating. He is a great addition to Chicago’s top four defense. This signing even had Patrick Kane excited, the Chicago Sun Times records him as saying: “What an amazing pickup.
“That’s one of the things we missed last year, the guy that could take minutes away from Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson. He should be able to fill that void”.
Key offseason Losses
Brian Bickell – F
Andrew Ladd – F
Andrew Shaw – F
Teuvo Teravainen – F
Dale Weise – F
Andrew Ladd was sent to Chicago late last season, but immediately showed he was capable of offensive production. Ladd had 12 points in 19 games and could have been an even bigger contributor if he stayed for another season. Chicago also lost Andrew Shaw this offseason, who’s loss will be felt even more than Ladd. Shaw had 34 points in 78 games in the regular season and had six points in the six playoff games he appeared in. The 24-year-old is young and has great potential to develop, and now has a chance to do that in Montreal next season.
Yet another forward Chicago lost, and possibly the loss the team will feel the most is left winger Teuvo Teravainen. The 21-year-old was drafted by Chicago in 2012 with the 18th overall pick and grew tremendously in production numbers from the 2014-15 season to the 2015-16 season. Teuvo had 35 points in 78 games last season and was a threat on the power play as well. Teravainen was sent to Carolina for next season.
Star Players of Next Season
Seeing as Chicago did not make any dramatic signings in the free agency, their stars of next season are very likely to be their stars from this past season.
Patrick Kane was the winner of both the 2016 Hart Trophy for MVP in the regular season and the Ted Lindsay Award for the best player voted by his peers. Kane finished first in points (106), second in goals (46), and third in assists (60) in the regular season. Being voted the best player in the league is quite an honor, but Kane believes he can still improve for next season, per ESPN: “I’m pretty happy with where my game was during the regular season last year”
“I still think there are some ways I can improve. …As a competitive player, you always want to work on every part of your game and make sure it’s getting better. That’s what I’ll probably try to do this offseason. Then I’ll probably stay off the ice for a little bit, try to get my body where I want it.”
Defensemen Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith had 35 and 34 assists last season respectively, and are the core of the Chicago defense. They need to be rock solid next season and perform like the top tier defensemen they are.
Aside from the other obvious choice of Jonathan Toews, I think Calder Trophy winner Artemi Panarin is a good selection. The 24-year-old played his first season in the NHL last year and scored a whopping 77 points in 80 games, with 30 goals and 47 assists. These are tremendous numbers for a first-year player, and he obviously deserved to be voted most proficient player for their first year. He can only improve from here, with the more time he spends in Chicago the better for him and the team as well. This Russian left winger has the potential to surpass his 2015-16 performance and cement himself as a threat that the opposition must game plan for.
Division rivals the St. Louis Blues and the Dallas Stars have both made some moves this offseason as well, some for the good and some not so good. The Blues’ most notable move this offseason was letting go of David Backes after ten seasons in St. Louis. His absence will leave a big hole to fill next season for the Blues – which they have not yet filled. Dallas, on the other hand, made a move to re-sign their star Jamie Benn to an eight-year contract extension worth $76 million. Benn and Seguin are the future of the Dallas Stars, so it was a smart move to ensure at least one of them stay for the long haul.
Overall I think the Blackhawks have had a mediocre offseason thus far. They have not been able to sign anyone new and noteworthy besides a couple of veteran defenders, and they lost a few key pieces to their offense. You’d think that with all the firepower the team already has up front that losing players like Teravainen and Shaw would not be too big of a deal, but you’d be surprised to see what kind of essential supporting role that players like those make. Their losses will surely be felt next season, so the question to be answered for next season is will Chicago’s stars in Kane, Toews, and Panarin be able to improve their games even more to carry the load. We’ll just have to wait and see.