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Let Free Agency Begin

06/30/2009 4:04 PM - Mike Peck

Wednesday marks the beginning of free agency making it the next “significant” day in the hockey world.  I mentioned in my post yesterday that I thought it was tough to address needs specifically in the draft, but teams can surly do that in free agency.

Chicago made a big splash last season signing Cristobal Huet and Brian Campbell.  This season it will be interesting to see what they can do in-house to keep some free agents and help set them up for next summer.

I am a big proponent of the “win now” theory.  But Dale Tallon and his staff are trying to balance that while trying to set them up for a big summer next season in which Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith all will be in need of new contracts.

Free agency begins tomorrow at 11 a.m. and don’t expect a whole lot on the Rockford front right out of the gate.  The first couple days, “Tier 1” free agents will be courted and signed and then “Tier 2” and “Tier 3” free agents will be inked.  The latter two groups include the players who will end up in Rockford.

Chicago did announce today that they have re-signed Jake Dowell and Antti Niemi.  Some teams have also announced players whom they’ve offered qualifying contracts.  These players are would be restricted free agents.

This is when the fun really starts in the offseason!

One last thing today, USA Hockey announced a roster for the 2009 US Men’s Olympic Orientation Camp that will be held in Chicago later this summer. 

The list includes former IceHogs d-man Dustin Byfuglien along with Kane. There are 34 players overall on the roster so neither one is guaranteed a spot on it as the roster will have to get cut down a bit before the Olympics in February.

Byfuglien and Kane are the only representatives from Chicago or with Illinois ties. San Jose’s Joe Pavelski (Stevens Point) and Nashville’s Ryan Suter are the only Wisconsin native’s on the roster.

Minnesota (9), Michigan (7) and New York (5) have the most representatives on the roster. The event will take place Aug. 17-19, at Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge. This is camp is set up to assist in the preparation for the Olympics in Vancouver.

My Grade For the Hawks Draft: No Grade

06/29/2009 10:18 AM - Mike Peck

We’ve been blogging on the NHL draft for the past couple of weeks and now that the event has come and gone, we have some names to put with the picks.

I know a lot of people try to grade drafts after the actual draft day and I think that is ridicules, especially in the NHL.  Unlike football, baseball or basketball, most of the players drafted are two or three years away from even playing professionally, let alone making an impact for their selected club.

I did hear an interview with Dale Tallon this morning on 670 AM and he mentioned that they were drafting for need and that is why they took six centers. 

With that said, let’s look at what the Hawks did pick:

Overall the Hawks took two defenseman and six centers. Dylan Olsen was the team’s first round pick on Friday night.  The defenseman has good size (6’-2”) and he will attend the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD) this fall. 

Defense is a bit thin for the Hawks from a prospect perspective and looking at the immediate future (isn’t that an oxymoron?) the top prospects on the blueline include Jonathan Carlsson, Brian Connelly, Mike Brennan and Jordan Hendry.

Hendry has a one-way contract and will probably be given every chance possible to make Chicago out of camp next fall, so he has pretty much graduated from “prospect” status.  The other defenseman drafted was Paul Phillips, a Darien native, in the seventh round. Phillips played last season in Cedar Rapids (USHL) and will also play NCAA hockey at Denver this fall.

At the trade deadline last spring Chicago ended up acquiring Sammy Paulson, a third line center, because the organization wanted to add depth at that position.  So it shouldn’t come to any surprise that Tallon and his staff grabbed a bunch of centermen.

The draft pick most likely to see time in Rockford sooner than later would be Marcus Kruger, taken in the fifth round out of Sweden. Kruger was the only 19-year-old selected by Chicago and last season he got his first taste of the Swedish Elite League.  Six of the other picks are 18 and Phillips is the only 17-year-old taken by the Hawks.

Third round pick Dan DeLisle will also attend UMD this fall meaning three of the Hawks eight draftees will take the college route before turning to the pro game.