The Chicago Blackhawks have a few loose ends to tie up before the onset of free agency on Friday. They may not figure to make a lot of splashy signings following a season that saw them win the Stanley Cup. However, the 'Hawks do have some decisions to make about the contracts that are expiring throughout the organization.
For general manager Stan Bowman, there are players whose return should be prioritized. He will be parting ways with more than a few familiar faces as well.
Let's run down the organization and speculate on how those decisions will be made, starting with Chicago's unrestricted free agents.
Blackhawks' UFAs: F Michal Handzus, F Viktor Stalberg, F Jamal Mayers, D Michal Rozsival, G Ray Emery, G Henrik Karlsson, G Carter Hutton, G Alec Richards.
Michal Handzus and Jamal Mayers should be contemplating retirement while they are on top. I doubt either will be back. Viktor Stalberg seems destined to explore other opportunities; the speedy Swede is looking for a bigger role and some extra bucks. Those aren't coming his way in a Blackhawks sweater.
If Michal Rozsival is satisfied with a similar paycheck as this past season, he could re-sign with the 'Hawks. Ray Emery is reportedly working on an extension with Chicago, according to The Fourth Period (via James Neveau of NBC Chicago), which is a bit of a surprise.
I thought he would chase bigger dollars elsewhere. However, Emery seems happy with his role as backup and wants to remain a member of the Blackhawks.
Emery's potential signing coupled with Antti Raanta being signed for next season may mean the end of Carter Hutton's tenure as Rockford's top man in net. With Emery back in the fold, Raanta pairs with either Mac Carruth or Kent Simpson for the IceHogs.
This leaves Hutton and Alec Richards, who was loaned to a German club this season, on the outs. Henrik Karlsson signed to play in the Swedish Elite League and won't be back.
Blackhawks' RFAs: F Marcus Kruger, F Drew LeBlanc, F Kyle Beach, F Max Sauve, D Nick Leddy, D Ryan Stanton, D Shawn Lalonde, D Joe Lavin
Chicago tendered a qualifying offer to Marcus Kruger Tuesday. The team may have him signed by the time the action starts Friday.
An agreement with Nick Leddy on a two-year deal has reportedly been reached, according to Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune. This prevents an offer sheet from gumming up Bowman's plan to retain his young defenseman.
Drew LeBlanc will surely be tendered, allowing him to compete for a spot on next fall's roster. Ryan Stanton is a hard worker who has risen up the depth chart and should merit an extension.
Kyle Beach is a former first-round pick who has been slow to develop into the power forward he was projected to be. Shawn Lalonde has also struggled to raise his game, though he was a black ace for the Blackhawks during the playoffs.
Both players had moments this season but have been passed up by some younger prospects. Bowman will need to decide if Beach and Lalonde are worth another year of commitment from the 'Hawks.
Max Sauve came over from Boston in a trade for center Rob Flick. Joe Lavin struggled last season after a strong rookie campaign. Bowman could go either way on these two, and it wouldn't surprise me.
Talent is coming up the Blackhawks pipeline each season and needs a place to skate. Some prospects may have to be cut loose. Bowman surely has a plan for free agency, and we will soon see how it involves the players inside the organization.
UPDATE, July 5, 9:00 a.m.: The 'Hawks did not make qualifying offers to Lavin and Sauve, making them UFAs. The team website also lists Jeremy Morin, Brandon Pirri and Dylan Olsen as RFAs, which differs from capgeek.com's information.
Let's assume Chicago knows the status of its own players. Expect qualifying offers to be made to Morin, Pirri and Olsen.
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