As the dust begins to settle from a pretty busy first day of NHL free agency, the Hawks show with three additions to the current roster.
As reported across numerous platforms, the Blackhawks signed goaltender Cam Ward, forward Chris Kunitz and defenseman Brandon Manning.
Cam Ward comes to Chicago on a one-year, $3 million deal with a full no trade clause. Formerly the 1B option in Carolina behind Lemont native Scott Darling, Ward now comes to provide a similar role in Chicago. Ward’s career numbers are not overwhelming, owning a career GAA of 2.70 and career save percentage of .909. Ward is purely a backup addition, a sign that management is trying to reduce Crawford’s number of games. In reality, Ward was probably overpaid, considering two goaltenders in their 20s (Lehner and Mrazek) received one-year, $1.5 million contracts and a 34 year old goaltender received $3 million. It is worth examining how Ward fares this year in Chicago.
Kunitz, the four-time Stanley Cup champion, joins the Hawks from the Tampa Bay Lightning last season. Last season, in mainly a fourth line role, Kunitz posted 13 goals and 16 assists, while playing in all 82 games. Although 38 years of age, Kunitz bring a quality veteran who can move up and down the lineup while also bringing leadership to the Hawks locker room. He signed for a one-year, $1 million contract with his wife’s hometown team (the Kunitz’s also have lived in Chicago during the offseason for about a decade now). Although Chicago needs a true top nine forward, which Kunitz three years ago arguably was, Kunitz is still a welcomed addition with little to no risk involved.
Brandon Manning spent the last six seasons in the city of brotherly love with the Flyers. The 28 year old landed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with Chicago, giving him an average annual value (AAV) of $2.25 million. Manning recorded career highs in goals, assists and points last season registering 7-12-19, respectively. He brings good depth to a Hawks blue line that is getting pretty crowded. Arguably, there were better signings out there. Bowman was quoted saying they were trying to avoid giving larger than two-year deals in free agency, but John Moore received a five-year deal from Boston with an AAV of $2.75 million. Many, including myself, would argue Moore is a much better defenseman than Manning and exactly the type of player Chicago needed. Nonetheless, Manning is a Blackhawk and hopefully he can contribute on a blue line that needs a lot of help going into this season.
After these signings, it sounds like Bowman and co. are done making moves via the free agency market. They are supposedly exploring trade options to acquire a center and top four defenseman. The real question with this team is… where do we go from here?
The Blackhawks have not improved enough to be a cup contender. Playoff contender maybe… but the Hawks are most likely still a bottom ten team this coming year. After the Blues improved, Predators and Jets remained strong, and the rest of the division having remained competitive, they need to do something worth mentioning in the trade market. Unless they look forward to welcoming Jack Hughes to Chicago next June…
I’ll leave the debate to the Blackhawks social-sphere, but in the meantime, what do you think the Hawks need to do via trade? Who should they have signed in free agency? Now is the time to rant about your opinion. Take a seat on the armchair GM throne and let us know what you think!
Photo: AP Photo