Chicago Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman had a big day at the 2013 NHL Draft in New Jersey. Bowman opened the afternoon by selecting homegrown Ryan Hartman with the 30th pick in the first round, only after thanking Boston for being gracious hosts during the Stanley Cup Final, and thanking Blackhawks fans for attending the Championship parade, simultaneously patting himself on the back, and reminding other GMs that there are some serious Stanley Cup Champions available for trade.
Toronto Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis took the bait first, offering up three picks (51st and 117th in the 2013 draft, and a fourth-round pick in the 2014 draft) for the gritty center, Dave Bolland. Despite scoring the game winning goal against the Boston Bruins in Game Six of the Stanley Cup Final, clinching the Cup for the Blackhawks, and instantaneously becoming a hero in two cities,* Dave Bolland was an uncomfortable fit in the Hawks lineup after returning from injury. He wasn’t quite good enough to center the second line, lost his former job on the third line to Andrew Shaw, and was grossly overpaid to center the fourth line, where he finished the season.
While Bolland provided Hawks fans with many memorable moments (especially against the Sharks and Canucks) over the years, Bowman recognized the center was ill fitting in the current roster, and made the right decision to part ways with him. Bolland, a Toronto native, will have the opportunity to skate top six minutes with the Leafs, while agitating Boston. It’s a win-win for everyone.
The new Conference III rival, Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff had his sights set on another Blackhawks fourth liner: an excellent puck possession player and penalty killer, Michael Frolik. Bowman flipped the winger for two more picks in the 2013 draft.
While neither Frolik nor Bolland will be easily replaced, the Blackhawks’ farm system is full of ready and willing prospects hoping to trade in their minor league sweaters for the Indian Head this upcoming training camp. Centers including Brandon Pirri, Drew LeBlanc (RFA), Phillip Danault and Mark McNeill might get a shot at the big leagues, although the job is really Pirri’s to lose, while wingers like Jeremy Morin, Ben Smith, and Jimmy Hayes will get another look.
Ignoring all intangibles and breaking down these deals to simple math, Bowman traded two fourth liners for five picks while freeing up $5.7 million in cap space in the process. Not a bad day at the office, if you ask me.
Before Bowman even finished counting the money, the Blackhawks closed a deal with Bryan Bickell, giving the power forward a four-year extension worth $16 million.
Bickell had a breakout season with the Hawks, and an even better post-season to add to his resume, making him a very desirable UFA. Although Bickell’s past performance doesn’t scream “$4 MILLION DOLLARS,” Bowman is making an investment in the future, where Bickell and Brandon Saad could be interchangeable pieces on the first and third line, proving the Hawks with balance and options in key matchups. Plus, he didn’t get a no-trade clause, just in case things don’t work out.
In the span of a few short hours, Stan Bowman managed to snag five draft picks that could be the next Pavel Datsyuk (hey, you never know), freed up $5.7 million in cap space, and locked in a power forward.
Even after signing Bickell, the Blackhawks have $9.5 million in cap space (about $7 million more than they had last week), giving them the room to sign RFAs, Marcus Kruger and Nick Leddy, test out the Free Agency frenzy next Friday, or simply put the money in the bank for Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, who are due for new contracts after the 2014-2015 season.
The Blackhawks are looking good, the farm system is growing, and there’s still money to be spent. I love options. Don’t you love options?
All in a days work. In Bowman we trust.
*The Toronto Sun ran a “Thank You, Chicago” story after the Blackhawks tied and beat the Bruins in 17seconds in the last minutes of game six, avenging the Leafs game seven loss in round one.
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