Given the Dany Heatley trade request and a decent pool of free agents, many Hawks fans have spent the last days of spring counting on a big move from GM Dale Tallon.
On the other hand, the Feather has downplayed the likelihood of either a trade for the disgruntled Senators star or another big splash in the free agent market. And, it’s not a new strategy for us. Even back in 2008, we played the role of “party pooper,” screaming from the mountain tops that the $13 million coming off the books for Nikolai Khabibulin and Martin Havlat was essentially fool’s gold. After all, the Hawks need that money to make Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith “happy humans” next offseason. We asked how the Hawks could spend money already earmarked for other uses. Our answer, of course, was that they could not.
Then, sometime between the drafting of Patrick Kane and the Hawks’ run to the Western Conference Finals, something changed. One of the worst franchises in all of sports became one of the most desireable destinations for NHL players. Odd, I know.
And, while the Hawks have quickly become one of sports’ great stories, the economy has hit the skids like the Wings in games six and seven of the Stanley Cup Finals, most contenders have found themselves in salary cap purgatory and most players have come to the realization that they won’t get the kind of money their friends did in past offseasons. It’s a perfect storm for the Hawks.
As such, the key to this offseason will be Dale Tallon’s use of the money earmarked for use in the Toews/Kane/Keith offseason to improve the 2009-’10 squad.
First, signing Martin Havlat would be nice; we all know that. While Havlat spent most of his first two years as a Hawk in the ICU, he was the Hawks’ most dominant offensive force last season. But, if the Pittsburgh Penguins proved anything last week, it’s that a team can lose a veteran star and still ask its young guns to win. Bottom line: it would be nice to have Havlat back, but Tallon must do it at reasonable – if not favorable – terms. I expect that’s exactly his stance.
So, what to do with the remaining cash, with or without Havlat? Sure, the Hawks don’t have long-term money to toss around this offseason like they did last July 1st, but they have money. And, given the tough economy and salary cap trouble of many contenders, we may be surprised to find a handful of free agents waiting out the downturn and signing one-year deals.
No better place to do that than Chicago. We will also most certainly see this offseason’s crop of aging veterans sign short-term deals for less money than they’re accustomed to making. How would Alexei Kovalev, Saku Koivu, Bill Guerin or Mike Knuble look as Havlat’s cheaper, more temporary, top-six replacement? Not too shabby, I say.
So, yes, I am reversing course a touch in regards to my stance on the Hawks’ involvement in the offseason markets – but not as to big name free agents looking for long-term money or … Dany Heatley.