|Brad Richards – C||Jason Labarbera – G|
|Pierre-Cedric Labrie – LW|
|Cody Bass – C|
From a distance it looks like the Chicago Blackhawks had a quiet offseason, but they might have made the two biggest signings this summer, inking both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to eight year contracts. Those deals will not kick-in until next season, but will keep two of the NHL’s top players in Chicago through the 2022-23 season.
In addition to the Toews and Kane signings, the Hawks brought in veteran centre Brad Richards to fill the hole they have had at second line centre. He signed a one-year, $2 million contract so it is a great contract for the organization and gives Richards an excellent chance to win his second Stanley Cup. Bringing Richards in should help Kane a ton in 2014-15. He has played the last few seasons with a bunch of different centres and spent most of last year with Michal Handzus, so Richards is a huge upgrade in the offensive zone. Aside from Richards, the roster looks virtually the same. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it right? Last season marked the fourth time in six seasons the Hawks made an appearance in the Western Conference Finals (Won 2 Stanley Cups in that span).
In goal, Corey Crawford, 29, enters his fifth season as Chicago’s number-1 goalie. He finished last year 32-16-10 with a 2.26 GAA and .917 SV%, which is right on par with his career numbers (2.36 GAA / .914 SV%). From a fantasy perspective, he is rock-solid. You can count on similar numbers in 2014-15 with the upside for more wins. Behind a team as good as Chicago, in win-only leagues, Crawford is as reliable as they get. He has the 25-year-old Antti Raanta returning as his back-up for the second season. The young Finnish netminder impressed in his rookie season, posting a 13-5-4 record, 2.71 GAA and .897 SV%.
On the blueline, it is the same old story. Duncan Keith is one of the best two-way defensemen in the NHL and he will be paired with Brent Seabrook, a big physical D-man with tremendous offensive instincts. Then there is Niklas Hjalmarsson who had the best offensive season (4G / 22A) of his career, while leading the Hawks in blocked shots (157) and shorthanded minutes played per game (2:49). Mixed in with the veterans is 23-year-old Nick Leddy, who appeared in all 82 games, while racking up seven goals and 24 assists. He is great in the offensive zone and on the power-play–and the best part is he has not missed a game in three seasons.
Finally, their group of forwards has no shortage of top-end fantasy talent. We’ve already talked about Toews and Kane and we all know what they can do and know they will be top-15 picks. Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp are both top-50 picks and each have 30-plus-goal potential with 60 points as a near certainty. 21-year-old Brandon Saad put together a second straight strong season. He had 19 goals and 28 assists (47 points) in 78 games and is sure to be dangerous again in 2014-15. Andrew Shaw had 20 goals and 76 PIMS while Kris Versteeg had 29 points in 63 games with the Hawks… The options are endless when you look at this team.
Look to the Draft (Ranking Blackhawks Fantasy Players)
- Patrick Kane – RW
- Jonathan Toews – C
- Patrick Sharp – LW
- Duncan Keith – D
- Marian Hossa – RW
- Corey Crawford – G
- Brandon Saad – LW
- Brent Seabrook – D
- Brad Richards – C/LW
- Andrew Shaw – C
- Nick Leddy – D
- Niklas Hjalmarsson – D
Click HERE for the Blackhawks’ potential line combinations heading into the 2014-15 season.
Season prediction: After finishing 3rd in the Central last season, the Blackhawks reclaim their position atop the Central in 2014-15 and push for the President’s Trophy.