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2016 Offseason Grades: Chicago Blackhawks

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For hockey fans, the dog days of summer are truly upon us. One Justin Schultz contract and Las Vegas general manager announcement aside, news has slowed to a trickle. But while the offseason continues and numerous free agents remain unsigned, enough time has passed to allow for early assessments. Let's do that, shall we?

Moving through the league team-by-team, we begin with our very own Central Division and that most beloved of organizations, the Chicago Blackhawks.

Chicago Blackhawks

Grade: B

For a team which geared up by trading away Phillip Danault, Marko Dano and their 2016 1st round pick, it was a disappointingly short postseason run. But while Andrew Ladd, Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann were understandable gambles, a reckless one ended up rubbing salt in the wound.

At four years and $4 million per, the Bryan Bickell extension was never a good idea, no matter how many goals he scored in the 2012-13 playoffs. When Teuvo Teravainen is the price of moving a contract, it's a bad contract. The fact that Bryan Bickell should provide solid veteran depth for Carolina is just icing on their Teravainen cake.

If there's a silver lining to the Teravainen trade other than cap space, it landed Chicago the 2016 2nd round pick they used to select Artur Kayumov 50th overall. GM Stan Bowman also turned Andrew Shaw, now of a six-year deal worth $3.9 million per, into dynamic OHL scorer Alex DeBrincat and offensive defenceman Chad Krys. For a team which had zero 1st round selections, DeBrincat, Krys and Kayumov make for quite the draft haul.

Luckily for Chicago, while losing Teravainen and Shaw was certainly undesirable, there are internal options to fill the void. Sam CarrickMark McNeillRyan HartmanVincent HinostrozaTanner Kero and Kyle Baun all saw NHL action last season, and will be eyeing the ~3 open spots at forward. In addition, highly-touted prospect Nick Schmaltz turned pro, as did Kyle Connor's former linemate Tyler Motte. While names such as Radim Vrbata and Kris Versteeg remain available, the Blackhawks might do well to stand pat and let their younger players on cheap contracts duke it out.

With that said, losing proven NHL bodies, drafting players still years away and resting on one's depth chart laurels hardly deserves a B. It's the signing of Brian Campbell for an absolute song which does most of the trick.

Last season, Duncan Keith spent most of his time alongside Niklas Hjalmarsson, leaving Brent Seabrook to skate beside one of Trevor van Riemsdyk, Erik Gustafsson or Viktor Svedberg. With Campbell, Chicago immediately solves their defensive depth problem and for an incredible bargain at that:

Don't be fooled by Campbell's birth certificate. The 37-year-old has aged rather gracefully, and while his days of posting 40+ points are likely over, he remains a possession superstar. For those who might say he's been riding on Aaron Ekblad's coattails, a couple of 5v5 notes: 1) Campbell-Ekblad did make for an incredibly dominant pairing last season; and 2) Campbell fared significantly better without Ekblad than Ekblad without Campbell. As per Corsica Hockey:


With this one signing, what was once a major question mark in the top-four becomes a fierce battle on the bottom pairing. The aforementioned van Riemsdyk, Gustafsson and Svedberg will be fighting against the likes of Michal Rozsival and Ville Pokka for an NHL roster spot, much less playing time. This is before factoring in Gustav Forsling, who will be loaned back to his Swedish club should he fail to crack the roster, and 25-year-old roll of the dice Michal Kempny. The undrafted Czech defenceman makes the jump to North America after one year with Avangard Omsk. Should Chicago have struck KHL gold once more, one wonders if Kempny, a small-ish puck-moving d-man, might spell Brian Campbell on the third pairing.


Perhaps I'm a soft touch, but Teravainen is replaceable and Chicago addressed arguably their biggest weakness vis-à-vis Brian Campbell. The Blackhawks have one more season of entry-level Panarin before he (probably) joins the six million dollar club, and by limiting themselves to cheap and/or depth free agent signings such as Campbell, Jordin Tootoo and Skellefteå AIK forward Martin Lundberg, the stage is set for an intense battle between 20-something-year-olds come training camp.

If players such as Ryan Hartman, Nick Schmaltz, Ville Pokka, Michal Kempny, etc. are able to seize the opportunity, Chicago may have successfully hit the refresh button once more. But what say you? Is a B grade too generous, insufficient or just right? What are the chances Chicago's internal depth can step in and replace what they lost via free agency and trade? And how improved is a Blackhawks d-corps with the second coming of Brian Campbell?

Share your thoughts, questions and concerns in the Comments section below, and as always, thanks for reading!