The respective GMs of the Chicago Blackhawks and Buffalo Sabres could have a busy summer ahead. Read the latest on what player moves might be in store for both clubs.
NBC SPORTS/CHICAGO SUN-TIMES/CHICAGO DAILY HERALD: report Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman admits his top priority this off-season is to get goalie Corey Crawford re-signed. Crawford is set to become a restricted free agent but said he wants to remain with the Blackhawks. Crawford has arbitration rights like Antti Niemi did last summer but Bowman is confident it won’t reach that point with Crawford. Bowman also said another priority would be to re-sign forward Patrick Sharp, who has one season remaining on his contract but also hopes to remain with the ‘Hawks long term, saying he’s “love to sign right now.” Tim Sassone of the Daily Herald suggested Bowman also has to decide if he’ll re-sign restricted free agents Chris Campoli, Troy Brouwer, and Viktor Stalberg or use them as trade bait, but considered RFA forward Michael Frolik amongst Bowman’s priorities to re-sign.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Adam L. Jahns posted the list of the Blackhawks key free agents and his take on which ones they’ll retain and which ones could be cut loose. Crawford and Frolik are expected to be re-signed, as could Campoli, Brouwer and possibly Stalberg, but Jake Dowell is considered a “borderline returnee”. Jahns doesn’t expect UFAs Marty Turco, Fernando Pisani, Jordan Hendry and Tomas Kopecky to be re-signed, but Ryan Johnson might if he’s willing to accept the same salary ($500k) as this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks have around $51 million invested in 14 players so they have some room to retain some of their key players. Crawford’s new salary (around $3 million per) will eat up a good chunk of that cap space, as could re-signing Frolik and perhaps Campoli. Once the key players are re-signed there won’t be much available space left to bring in that depth at center as well as adding toughness, so going the trade route might be the best option.
BUFFALONEWS.COM: Bucky Gleason reports Sabres GM Darcy Regier now has to prove he can rebuild the Sabres into a Cup contender unencumbered by the salary constraints of the previous ownership. Gleason noted the acquisition of Brad Boyes at the trade deadline looked good down the stretch but he didn’t perform well in the playoffs, wondering if Boyes stays. He also pointed out the club lacks a first line center but there isn’t many options available in this summer’s UFA market, which could mean turning to the trade market, which could cost the Sabres good prospects and could take imagination to land a quality center.
John Vogl meanwhile reports most of the Sabres players are excited about their prospects for next season. Vogl also reports the Sabres need depth at center and defense which might be addressed via trades but also via free agency thanks to new owner Terry Pegula’s willingness to spend to improve the club. Vogl and Mike Harrington report however one player who might not return is oft-injured and pending UFA center Tim Connolly, who avoided speaking to the media as the players cleaned out their lockers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres have just over $40 million invested in 12 players for next season so they’ll have the cap space to retain key players like Drew Stafford, Chris Butler and Mike Weber, but as Gleason noted the free agent market doesn’t have a lot of depth in quality talent this summer, so trades might be a more viable option. Connolly’s play improved down the stretch but his injury history and inconsistency probably means he won’t be returning. Boyes will likely be retained for next season (the final one of his contract) to give him a full season to see how well he fits into their future plans.