It isn't too soon to see or wonder what is on the mind of GM Stan Bowman. The Hawks built up an incredible minor league system, now they have several choices in what to do with their prospects.
a) Move them up to the Blackhawks.
b) Keep them with the AHL Rockford IceHogs
c) Move them up to the AHL Rockford IceHogs
d) Watch them develop further ....in the minors or college.
e) time to part ways
Let's see where the Hawks roster is at.
I)The Hawks currently added 6'5" centerman Michal Handzus. Is he a rental at $2.5M a year? That is that "dangerous amount" where if a player doesn't play up to expectations, they'll pass waivers and BOOM....it's a one way ticket to the AHL. (Olesz $3.125m and Montador $2.75m). Teams are letting solid players with multiyear contracts pass waivers....No one wants to take a chance on them. The salary cap is NO JOKE. So,....do the Hawks let Handzus go? Nah...I don't think so. I think if the Hawks like him, he could stick around. I think the Hawks sign Handzus to a one year contract at $2m/1yr. The Hawks need an experienced big Centerman, and Handzus is old enough that many teams don't want to pay big money for him, and if he likes Chicago he'll take a small cut to stay there. Handzus is that player they need to win at the faceoff dot. Besides Toews, they don't have anyone. He actually won more than Jonathan Toews the other night. Not too many times can that be said.
So,...VERDICT? Michal Handzus.......Stays
II)Viktor Stalberg. Here is a tricky one. Highly skilled and quick winger V-berg. He is currently making $875,000 on the last year of his contract. He has been inconsistent. He started out like gang busters there was good chemistry with his line (Shaw-Bickell-Stalberg). He's been relegated to the 3rd line most of the season. He's done well. But, I do think if he wishes to hit that dangerous $2million + amount,... I think the Hawks will let him go. He may be good enough to get that from someone,...but it won't be the Hawks.
Here are people that could take his spot that are currently in the Hawks system.
LW Jeremy Morin (I would put Jeremy at or around (60%)...to make the roster next year).
LW/RW Ben Smith ( 25%) Been with the Hawks. Produced well.
F Garret Ross (15%) I would actually put this talented winger as a sleeper.
Verdict? Viktor Stalberg.......hmmm,...GONE *(I believe he'll get an offer from someone above $1.5m and the Hawks won't match it.)
The Hawks are in a position where they will have to renew or let go of a few upcoming contracts (Stalberg, Handzus, Kruger, Mayers, Bickell, Rozsival, Leddy and Emery). As much as the Hawks would love to keep most everyone on that list,......reality of half or more of those names not being there (to start the 2013-14) is definitely going to set in.
III)Marcus Kruger: Talent is starting to emerge. His biggest asset is that he's been wonderful in the PK. I think they can sign Kruger under $1.5M for next year. I think they'll keep him.
Now, I've been wrong the last season and a half about the Hawks bringing up Brandon Pirri and demoting Marcus Kruger. SO,...why start doubting that the Hawks would do anything different. However,...for fun, let's see who is qualified at center (in the system) to take his spot.
Teuvo Teravainen C : this kid's a stud. But, he's more a Dave Bolland replacement rather than a Marcus Kruger replacement.
Mark McNeill C: He is getting his 2nd post WHL experience with the Rockford IceHogs. He had 7 games with the team last season, and he'll finish off the remainder of this season with the IceHogs, as well. I don't think he's ready.
Vincent Hinostroza C: He's doing well in the USHL, but I haven't heard or seen anything that would leave me to believe he'd even make it to the AHL level. So, I'd have to say that he has a less than favorable shot of making the team.
Kevin Hayes C: Still at Boston College. He's doing okay, but he's not tearing up the college circuit, by any means.
Max Sauve C: He was recently traded for by the Hawks. No news yet. Still quiet name with regards to anything. He currently has played in the AHL (Providence Bruins) and is 23 yrs old. Who knows what the Hawks are thinking? But, this kid is right up the Hawks alley. I give him a small shot of being a replacement to Kruger.
Joakim Nordstrom C: 3rd round 2010 draft by the Hawks. Another Swede. (Hawks love them Swedes). I say it's also a small shot.
Phillip Danault C: He's in the same boat as McNeil. 7 games last year. This year he is also coming off another seriously talented QMJHL team (Victoriaville Tigres) where he was 18G/53A in 62 games. Second straight season he averaged more than a point a game. He is often compared to Jonathan Toews. This could be a sneaky bring up,...if the Hawks are so inclined to do so. the organization is extremely high on this kid. But,.......what is the final verdict?
Verdict? Marcus Kruger...Stays
IV)Jamal Mayers: Ahh...Jamal. He is hoping for that ring more than anyone. He's finished after this season.
Last year he played 81/82 games with the Hawks. This year he has played 16/37 games. He has 2 assists, and is often a 'healthy scratch". At 38 years old, Jamal with each passing game is ready to pack his suitcase and stamp it ..."Former NHL player".
Verdict? Jamal Mayers....GONE
V)Bryan Bickell. He was one of my favorites to pick on the past few seasons. He produced enough to not be thrown to the wolves, however,. with the ability that is coming up from Rockford, I think Bryan 'could be" (or rather....should be)...on his way out also. Here are a few good reasons to keep him here, though.
1) His play has vastly improved this year with the Stalberg-Shaw-Bickell line.
2) Hawks will need to give raises to players like Leddy, Kruger. he'll get that 600-650,000 amount, ...if he signs back up. He's near the league minimum, and the lowest paid guy on the team. To his credit, he is being paid low enough to not be shipped to Rockford (burying big contracts),...so, if his desire was to play in the NHL,...he's done just that.
Okay,...so who could possibly take his job?
1) Kyle Beach LW : Kyle has been one of the more interesting stories. I've kept an eye on this kid since he was drafted. He hasn't played 1 single game in the show,...however, he brings size, ability to fill the net, grittiness, and likability. Last year he was injured and could only muster up 5G/5A in 19 games. This year, he is coming back with 15G/ 9A in 62 games. He leads the IceHogs in PM's (probably because Bollig has been up with the Hawks most of the season). I actually would LOVE to see Beachy make the Hawks, but in my opinion,.....I think Kyle Beach is DONE.....His 3 year initial draft contract is up, and I think if he resigns with the Hawks it will be in the $700-$900k range. But, he's not getting a call up to the big boys team. Poor Beachy. I actually like this kid.
2) Jimmy Hayes (though mainly a Right Winger, he's still a winger and has played with the Hawks the past two years. He's a big body guy that isn't afraid to get dirty in the corners. Jimmy's salary is at $875,000,...so if Bickell's camp asked for too much money,...here's your shoe-in.
3) Ben Smith....His name emerges again on this list. ben is doing well in Rockford this year. 19G/17A in 50 games. He's been a vital part of that team. What will the Hawks like? His extremely low salary at $562,500. very near the league minimum. This could help him out a great deal if the cap gets tight.
4) Rostislav Olesz : He's a left winger and he's scored 6G/5A in only 8 appearances with the team. His extremely hefty $3.125m contract will keep him out of the league.
Verdict? Bryan Bickell...Stays. (Hard for me to say that, since I would personally bring up Kyle Beach or Jimmy Hayes,...but I believe the Hawks like his play enough this year, that they'll sign him to a 1 or 2 year deal in that 700k range. There is no reason to let him go unless his demands are unrealistic. He's playing pretty well right now, and a 2-3 yr contract between 700-9000k would be perfect.
VI) Nick Leddy...Really? Need I say more than the fact that this kid is going to be a future superstar in this league? He's a mixture of Detroit's famous Nick Lidstrom and Brian Campbell. He's a strong puck moving defenseman, and he's getting some nice shots in this year. He's DEFINITELY going to be resigned. No doubt in my mind.
Verdict? Nick Leddy...Stays.
VII) Michal Rozsival. He has been nothing short of wonderful. He is making $2m for a part time defenseman, and he's doing magnificently. Depending on what Rozsival is asking for, I think he'll come back. Who is in the minors ready to take his spot?
1) Adam Clendening. This kid is a future superstar also. He may or may not be a year away. But, he'll be wearing that Indian head sweater soon. That's a promise. 67 games: 7G/35 A....awesome!!!!!
2) Dylan Olsen: He made his debut with the Hawks last year. He actually played 28 games. But, the Hawks had zero interest in this kid this year as they went and got free agents Rozsival and Brookbank.
With Clendening making only $925,000 for the next three years, this would be a great time to bring him up. I think his NHL debut will be dependent upon whether they resign Rozsival to a decent amount. (In other words, $2.15-2.25m).
Verdict? Michal Rozsival...Stays. ( 50/50 on this though....The Hawks may even look on the FA market before trying to bring someone up).
VIII) Ray Emery. How do yo let someone go with a 1.95 GAA, 13-1-0 record and a Sv% of .923. YOU DON'T.
Verdict? Ray Emery....Stays.