Q: I was just wondering why the Hawks have to deal Troy Brouwer to free up cap space. Didn't he just come off a career year (albeit quietly)? He's a player who can play about any position on any line, which I think is key for the Hawks given injuries, their depth at center, and the youth of some of the third- and fourth-line forwards. And they can't trade him because I just got his jersey last offseason. I feel like they could free up space elsewhere, like moving Niklas Hjalmarsson or sign and trade Viktor Stalberg. They have solid depth at the blue line and Hammer just got a pretty big raise last offseason. -- Chase S. (Sioux City, La.)
A: First of all they don’t have to trade him, it just might make the most sense. He’s due a good raise with that “quiet” career season. The numbers dictate it. He is valuable in one sense but maybe just not in that $2 million-plus range. The Hawks are deeper at wing with the emergence of Ben Smith and the prospects of Jeremy Morin, and they come cheaper right now. You are right, trading Hjalmarsson opens up more room but I’m not sure they will sacrifice defense to specifically retain Brouwer. They would probably use the money to get a center. Again, it could go either way with Brouwer, but I’m leaning toward him not being here next season one way or another.
Q: What are your thoughts on Igor Makarov? I know the Hawks have talked pretty good about him, but I've never really seen him play. Will he be a key player on the Hawks' 2011-2012 roster? -- Aaron (Sycamore, Ill.)
A: I really liked him coming out of camp last year. I thought he would get a cup of coffee this past season but for whatever reason it didn’t happen. I think he’s behind a couple other prospects and wasn’t brought in as an elite guy necessarily, but I think he has the hands and hockey sense to play in the NHL. He’ll be in a numbers game for sure but should get some time in the NHL at some point this season depending on injuries, etc.
Q: With the Hawks needing a defenseman for penalty killing, is there a chance that the Hawks could or would sign Brent Sopel? -- Dave (Melrose Park, Ill.)
A: Without any inside knowledge, I would say the only way that would happen is if the Hawks traded a defenseman and Sopel was willing to play for near minimum type money. Are either of those scenarios realistic? It’s not out of the realm of possibility. Shot blockers are nice to have but aren’t worth the $2 million he was making and definitely not at his age. If the Hawks trade Hjalmarsson there would be an opening for a guy like Sopel so it’s something to think about if a D-position opens up.
Q: Are the teams in the finals in the same financial situation as the Hawks were last year? If so, who do you think realistically could end up wearing the Indian head sweater. -- Curt (Chicago)
A: A quick look at the financial shape of the Bruins and Canucks shows neither team is in the desperate shape the Hawks were in after winning the Cup. Vancouver looks like the Hawks do this year more than last year. They have to do some tweaking and re-signing some guys but not a complete overhaul. Boston is in very decent shape with many on their current roster signed for next season. I’m not sure how that affects the Hawks anyway. They have enough money to basically sign one multi-million dollar type player and that could come from any team in the NHL not just the teams in the finals.
Q: Two questions. Do you think it was a mistake not dressing John Scott in Game 7 against the Canucks? I think he could have contributed more to the team by just sitting on the bench acting as the police officer compared to what Marcus Kruger did. -- Chris (Ontario)
A: At that point I don’t think it was a mistake. Game 7 is about winning the game by scoring goals and preventing them not by any intimidation. I don’t see why putting a non-offensive player on the ice over a guy with some skill would be the right thing to do. Any little bit can help and Kruger showed some offensive ability in limited action and that’s better than none.
Q: If Kevin Cheveldayoff goes up to Winnepeg, will we see Rick Dudley back as an assistant GM with us or should we look for him to join Dale Tallon in Florida? -- Steve (Downers Grove, Ill.)
A: Good question. I definitely see him with Tallon in Florida over Chicago, though I think he’s respected here. I just see him more of a Tallon guy to begin with. He’ll be working somewhere, not necessarily as an assistant GM but a consultant or adviser type is my guess.