While general manager Stan Bowman may sign a veteran or two, his first order of business is his own set of free agents. In no particular order, here are the major names and the chances they’ll return for another year or more with the Hawks:
John Madden Chance of returning: 10%
Unless Madden wants to take a huge cut in pay and the Hawks return him to third line center, this match doesn’t seem to fit like it did 365 days ago. The newly acquired Marty Reasoner is under contract and takes up one of the bottom two center spots, but the other one is open for debate. Dave Bolland probably returns to the second line, which puts Patrick Sharp back at wing. There might be that opening on the third line again but Madden made $2.75 million last year. The Hawks probably won’t go higher than $1.5 million at that spot.
Adam Burish Chance of returning: 20%
Some might believe the departure of Ben Eager, and even Colin Fraser, move Burish’s value up a notch. I’m not buying it. Bryan Bickell played in front of Burish at times in the playoffs and there is nothing that says he won’t again -- at a cheaper price. Burish is entering his prime. If he wants to prove himself as more than a five-minute player, then he might want to do it somewhere else. And he’ll probably get paid more for it.
Andrew Ladd Chance of returning: 65%
Yes, he may have been dangled, but at the end of the day he is about the only forechecking presence the Hawks have right now. And he still comes relatively cheap. His qualifying figure was around $1.6 million, though that number might make him attractive for an offer sheet. It’s hard to go wrong with a 24-year-old who already has won two Cups with two different teams. This could come down to hundreds of thousands of dollars -- not millions. If a team offers him more than $3 million, the compensation package jumps up to a first- and third-round pick. If the Hawks can afford it, they should offer him between $2-3 million and call it a day.
Jordan Hendry Chance of returning: 85%
The Blackhawks did not qualify him but do want to sign him, which means one thing: He’s not getting much of a raise -- if any – from his $650,000 salary. More likely a decrease. Since he’ll be unrestricted on July 1, there’s always the chance someone else sees more in him than the Hawks, and pays him more, but smart money says he’s back in a similar role at a similar price.
Nick Boynton Chance of returning: 50%
Not sure what the Hawks are thinking here but one thing is for sure, he won’t make $1.5 million in a Blackhawks uniform again. Maybe half that. He did pass Hendry on the depth chart at the end of the playoffs, and played well, so there could be a spot -- just for a lot less money. He’s unrestricted, so like Hendry, it depends on what others think and how much they are willing to pay.
Niklas Hjalmarsson Chance of returning: 75%
It’s hard to imagine another run at the Cup without the hammer. Reliable in all areas, he’s only getting better. Having said that, I don’t think another team breaks the bank for him. He’s not a one or a two -- yet -- and doesn’t have much in the way of power-play skills. He deserves a raise, but not a jump from $600,000 to $4-5 million. More like $2-2.5 million.
Antti Niemi Chance of returning: 65%
I thought long and hard of reducing that number but at the end of the day, I believe both sides will be fair. Make no mistake, this is the wild card. With Europe an option and unrestricted free agency just a year away, Niemi holds some leverage. A fan revolt might occur if he leaves, plus all his side has to do is point to other goalies who have accomplished a lot less and make much more. His starting point is $3 million. It goes up from there.
Bryan Bickell Chance of returning: 95%
Simple. The Hawks need him and Joel Quenneville likes him. He played some first-line minutes and can bang with the third-liners. And he’ll come cheap.
Jack Skille Chance of returning: 50%
Hard to know if the Hawks think he’s had his chance, or will give him so little money that there won’t be much downside. For some reason, I still don’t see him as a third-line player and there is no room in the top six. But as his name suggests, he does have some skills so a return wouldn’t be a surprise.
Kim Johnsson Chance of returning: 0%
No explanation needed.