I’ve provided my thoughts on what I would do with the goaltending and defence in my last blog, now let’s investigate the forwards.
Please keep in mind, I’m not playing NHL ’18 and making crazy blockbusters over here; I’m being realistic to what the Hawks currently have in place and what I would do if I were handed the team.
We know the Hawks are handcuffed by some salaries and guys already signed, that’s why I only added 1 defenceman (along with Jokiharju) to the mix on the backend.
Up front, this can go so many ways so I will make it simple for what I’m looking for:
* added scoring punch
* players added have to bring 200-foot, high hockey IQ game
* increase toughness and physicality to the bottom 6
* more speed
* more character
… seems easy right?
You might be surprised that I have “added scoring punch” as the first item. Well, while the Hawks can score, I still think the Hawks will spend more free agency dollars at forward, rather than defence. I wouldn’t spend a ton of money on 1x person but I would think the main excitement for fans will come with a couple tier 2 signings up front. Or as you will see below, it will be a combination of singings and trades.
First, here is a list of the top free agents at forward by points last year:
Now, I’m not going to break all of those down and cherry-pick thoughts on players like I did in the last blog. No, I’m just going to get right to the point and have a few hypothetical trades and/or signings that I would entertain to reshape the team. BUT FIRST, let’s look at who’s signed and who’s not:
* Who’s signed:
Kane, Toews, Saad, Anisimov, Caggiula, Kahun, Strome, DeBrincat, Hayden
* Who’s left (and what I would do with them)
: Kruger (UFA – let him walk), Kunitz (UFA – bye), Kampf (RFA – sign for 2 years/900k per), Perlini (RFA – sign for 1 year/1.1M), D. Sikura (2 year/900k per), Kubalik (RFA – 2 year/925k)
* We have a trade to announce
: in my last blog, I traded for Brayden McNabb but said I reserve the right to expand it to add Cody Eakin. The full trade is:
CHI acquires McNabb and Eakin
VGK acquires Dylan Sikura, Gustav Forsling and John Hayden
The Hawks move some younger players with a lower cap hit to appease Vegas’ need for more cost effective players. The Hawks have an abundance of 3rd-4th liners and 5th-6th defencemen, so they part with these 3 players to get better for the present.
We talked about McNabb being a stronger, defensive-minded player already. With Eakin, the Hawks would get a very solid 3rd liner who had a great season this past year. He would be another go-to faceoff option to give Toews a break. He’s been a 51-52% the last couple of years in Vegas. He’s fast, can play a shutdown role and can play on the PK (1:19 SH TOI in 18-19). Lastly, he can chip in offensively and would only be on the books for the 2019-20 season. So it would give the Hawks flexibility.
* Give me Brandon Tanev… NOW
: I mentioned a few times after the Hawks acquired Drake Caggiula that I would like to add about 5 more players like him. Well, I would start with at least one and that’s Tanev. I view him as a slightly more skilled and physical Caggiula. He’s playing a shutdown role in Winnipeg right now and could look amazing on the left wing with Toews and Kane. I believe he would be more effective there than Caggiula and then you’d be able to slide the Drake down. I sign him for 4 years at 3.5M per.
* See ya Artem
: Once Anisimov’s signing bonus is paid on July 1st, I would trade him for a picks or maybe a less sexy move. I have landed on moving him to upgrade the bottom 6 depth and character. I’ve traded AA to Boston for Sean Kuraly. Kuraly is great friends with Connor Murphy and is a tough dude coming out of a great system in BOS. He is owed 1.27M for 2 more years. A reasonable price for a guy that can fill a physical bottom line role.
* Highmore IN
: I would bring up Matthew Highmore as a extra forward to learn on the fly on how to be a productive NHLer. He might not be an everyday player but he’s 23 years old and doesn’t need to be babied along anymore. He’s a high-motor guy with some offensive skill.
* The Kubalik Movement
: I’m working Dominik Kubalik in the lineup as it looks like he’s slated to start the season in Chicago. I think he and Kahun having some past chemistry is a bonus. He looks like he could be a great option as a triggerman from the right-side based on scouting reports and highlights.
So it may not be super flashy, but below is how my team turned out. I believe this would give the Hawks a better overall defensive team, while offering some offensive depth. Lastly, it definitely gives Stan financial flexibility for Strome and DeBrincat moving forward, which was not done by design but is an added bonus.
As always, don’t get caught on up the lines, but look at the team overall.
What are your thoughts?