Not long after celebrating the end of a 49-year title drought,
the Chicago Blackhawks began feeling the weight of the NHL salary
Whether the Blackhawks can become the first team in 12 seasons
to repeat as Stanley Cup champions might depend on how wisely they
managed their money.
With several key members gone and some newcomers joining its
young core, Chicago opens its Cup defense against the Colorado
Avalanche on Thursday night in Denver.
The Blackhawks ended nearly a half century of futility with
Patrick Kane’s overtime goal in Philadelphia, but began saying
goodbye to nearly half of their playoff roster just two weeks after
parading with the Cup down Michigan Avenue.
As it sought to create cap space, Chicago started by dealing
playoff hero Dustin Byfuglien to Atlanta on June 23. Among the
Blackhawks’ other moves included trading former Calder Trophy
finalist Kris Versteeg to Toronto, refusing to accept goaltender
Antti Niemi’s $2.75 million arbitration award and assigning former
starting netminder Cristobal Huet to the Swiss National League.
“We knew there were going to be some moves,” forward Troy
Brouwer said. “We didn’t know maybe the extent of what it was going
to be. We can’t worry about it any more. What we have to do now is
defend the Stanley Cup.”
With Niemi and Huet gone, former Dallas stalwart Marty Turco was
signed to a one-year contract Aug. 2. The three-time All-Star is
coming off two of his worst seasons – a 55-51-21 record and a
combined 2.78 goals-against average – but could bounce back with a
better supporting cast.
“My game is all right, but in my head there’s just some
fine-tuning,” Turco said.
That support includes 23-year-old defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson,
whose four-year, $14 million offer sheet from San Jose was matched
July 12. He joins a group of highly regarded young players that
includes Kane, Conn Smythe-winning captain Jonathan Toews, reigning
Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith and fellow defenseman Brent
“You look at our team and we lost a lot of guys,” Kane said.
“But at the same time you still have those core guys who have been
here for a while.”
Four-time All-Star Marian Hossa, Dave Bolland and Tomas Kopecky
also return for coach Joel Quenneville, who signed a three-year
contract extension last month. Quenneville could get scoring help
from Viktor Stalberg, former first-round draft pick Jack Skille and
Fernando Pisani in his team’s attempt to become the first repeat
Cup winner since Detroit in 1997 and 1998.
Chicago, however, won’t have defenseman Brian Campbell on the
ice for at least four weeks because of a sprained right knee. The
Blackhawks could look to 19-year-old Nick Leddy, a former
first-round draft pick of Minnesota, to take over Campbell’s
The Avalanche, meanwhile, will likely have Matt Duchene back
from illness for the opener. In 2009-10, the Calder finalist led
all rookies with 55 points and finished tied for first with 24
Duchene is part of a roster that’s stayed virtually intact after
the franchise’s 12th playoff appearance in its 14 seasons since
moving from Quebec.
The most recent trip came under first-year coach Joe Sacco, and
ended with a first-round defeat in six games to San Jose capped by
three straight losses. Still, Colorado’s postseason appearance may
have been the most unexpected as it came off a Western
Conference-worst 69-point campaign.
The Avalanche had as many as 10 rookies on their roster last
season while finishing eighth in the West with 95 points. Those
first-year players combined for 64 goals and 102 assists.
“I think we should be good (this season). We’re still a young
team and we have a year together under our belts, so I don’t see
why we can’t compete with anyone,” center Ryan O’Reilly told the
Craig Anderson is back in net after starting 71 games during his
first season in Colorado, 44 more than his previous career best.
The former Blackhawk and Park Ridge, Ill., native was 38-25-7 with
a 2.64 goals-against average and seven shutouts.
Paul Stastny also returns after posting a team-leading and
career-best 79 points last season. Chris Stewart led the Avalanche
with 28 goals, including five game-winners.
The Blackhawks were 3-0-1 last season against Colorado with two
wins coming in shootouts.