By: Alex Patt
Day one of NHL free agency is off to a pretty productive start for Stan Bowman and the Chicago Blackhawks. They have already made a number of moves via trade including acquiring former Blackhawk forward Andrew Shaw from Montreal, defenseman Olli Maatta from Pittsburgh and defenseman Calvin de Haan from Carolina. The deals for Maatta and de Haan had taken place well before the Shaw deal, which took place less than 24-hours before free agency began. So Bowman has been busy the past few weeks as he said he would be.
The unlikely hopes of an Artemi Panarin return or a deal for veterans Joe Pavelski and/or Anders Lee are officially gone as they have officially signed elsewhere. While the Blackhawks had solid cap room going into this season, a long term deal for a big-name free agent was not going to be possible with the goal of extending Alex DeBrincat and/or Dylan Strome. Instead Bowman has begun making smaller moves for reliable depth pieces. Here is a look at some of the key signings.
Here is a familiar face. The 24-year old center signed a two-year extension with the Blackhawks worth $1 million AAV. Last season he scored four goals and tallied 15 assists in 63 games in Chicago. Kampf will likely be the fourth-line center when he plays.
Another center added to the mix, Ryan Carpenter (28) spent last season with Las Vegas and played in a career-high 68 games. He tallied five goals and 13 assists. Carpenter is a very good penalty killer and won 161 of 306 faceoffs (53%) last season. While he may not rack up the points, Carpenter will be there to help kill penalties and win faceoffs when needed. Very solid depth move which addresses some troubled areas (especially that awful PK). The Blackhawks collection of centers is getting pretty big, one may wonder if that long-rumored Artem Anisimov trade will happen.
This move was a bit of a surprise to many. The 27-year old veteran netminder signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Blackhawks after coming off a career season with the Islanders. Lehner was third in Vezina voting in 2018-2019 but clinched the Jennings Trophy (fewest goals allowed among qualifying starting goalies) and the Masterton Memorial Trophy for sportsmanship. In total he played in 46 games and posted a 2.13 GAA, .930 SAV% and recorded six shutouts.
So…what does this mean for Corey Crawford and/or Colin Delia? Those are questions that are yet to be answered. A one year deal could mean a number of things. Crawford may not necessarily be done, and a duo of him and Lehner could not only solidify the goalie position but also allow for Crawford to not play as much with his injury history. That is a pretty darn good tandem right there. This could also be a sign that the Blackhawks do not trust the young Colin Delia yet, who has had his ups and downs in his time in the NHL so far. It could be a simple safety net knowing Crawford’s health is a big question and having Lehner to possibly take his spot if needed as a starter is addressing a potential upcoming issue. Maybe Crawford is simply leaning towards stepping away. Time will tell.
23-year old defenseman John Quenneville (who is indeed related to former Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville) was acquired via trade from the New Jersey Devils organization and signed an extension through 2021. Quenneville has 33 NHL games under his belt and spent most of last season in the AHL. He scored 18 goals and 21 assists with the Binghamton Devils last season. At only 23 he has a lot to prove, and Bowman clearly sees potential in him. Quenneville was the 30th overall pick in the 2014 draft.
It seems likely to assume Bowman is not done making moves. As previously hinted, the Blackhawks currently have more centers than they know what to do with. If third-overall pick Kirby Dach comes out of camp then there will need to be more shuffling done. Bowman is going to have to make some trades and get creative if he wants to create more cap room, and there is plenty of time for that to happen.
A list of key acquisitions in review:
C Andrew Shaw (trade)
D Olli Maatta (trade)
D Calvin de Hann (trade)
C John Quenneville (trade + extension)
C Dylan Sikura (extension before FA period)
C David Kampf (extension)
C Ryan Carpenter (FA signing)
G Robin Lehner (FA signing)