Couple nuggets the past couple days that pretty much lead one to believe this is your Hawks team taking the ice in October, if you didn’t already believe that. We have this from friend of the program Scott Powers that the Hawks aren’t going to LTIR Hossa until the season begins. And then there was Mirtle’s piece yesterday in Toronto’s Athletic about how the Leafs are using summer LTIR. If you’re getting confused, you’re not alone.
Ever since the announcement that Hossa wouldn’t play this season, Stan Bowman has been strongly hinting he didn’t want to use LTIR until the season began, essentially being cap compliant with Hossa’s contract on the books when the puck drops, because he wanted “flexibility” during the season. And that’s reasonable enough. Except it doesn’t appear to be that simple.
It certainly isn’t bothering the Leafs to use it during the summer, though thanks to Joffrey Lupul and Nathan Horton they have a ton more of it than just about anyone else, and the financial strength to pay a bunch of money outside the playing roster. The Leafs will be using this to get a couple of their restricted RFAs back into the fold.
This is clearly not something the Hawks want to do. But it seems as if most people think that either the Hawks stay under the cap with Hossa, or they have to use all of Hossa’s LTIR space at once. That isn’t the case. They could partially eat it up before the season, and then say leave a couple million of it open for when injuries arrive or they need to make trades.
Then again, Stan might need the trade space because the roster he has right here almost certainly isn’t good enough to do anything that anyone is going to write songs about. The problem with this “flexibility” is that midseason trades, especially ones at the deadline, rarely do anything that matters.
Quick, name the deadline pickup that really made a difference for the Penguins this year. Ron Hainsey? He really just took up space once Letang got hurt. How about the Preds? Vern Fiddler do much for you? Penguins last year? Possibly Justin Schultz, but again that’s more a bottom-roster piece. That’s the kind of thing that helps, not the big splash. If you want to argue Vermette in ’15 I won’t stop you, but that took until the third round of the playoffs and he was a third line center. For the big splash you probably have to go back to Marian Gaborik and the worth-the-deal-with-the-devil that turned out to be. So maintaining a million or two of flexibility is worth it for tune-ups but not a major move. They rarely work. Ask Andrew Ladd.
On the other side, without a move this looks pretty short, no?
Some unholy combination of Kero, Hinostroza, Wingels, Bouma, Kero, Tootoo, Jurco, Hayden.
And we haven’t really gotten into how Wingels and Bouma both blow. One day soon I promise.
On the back end…
Forsling-? (whatever I put here will not make you happy)
There are some “ifs” here that would not be huge leaps that would make the Hawks mediocre in a hurry. Like, if Panik isn’t actually a 20-goal scorer, if DeBrincat is not ready at any point this season, if Schmaltz can’t play center, if Seabrook is Palace Grill stuffed again, if Kempny’s peripherals are a mirage.
Now, does the following collection of “ifs” sound more or less plausible than the one previous: if Panik is a late-blooming top six power forward, if DeBrincat can make the leap from junior, if Schmaltz an be an effective NHL center without the hammock shifts Anisimov needs, if Kempny can get out from Q’s glare and go from also-ran to NHL top four d-man, and if the Hawks can produce a free safety for Forsling to bum-slay on the third pairing. That didn’t even include if Murphy is ready to become all that is forecast, Sharp isn’t completely toast, and Toews is still capable of a dominant possession season if not points-wise.
Stomach bubbling a bit?
While we’ve been encouraged that it at least appeared that Stan was getting to run the show as he saw fit, some of the signings still feel a bit stuck in the past. Wingels and Bouma are, at best, bowling balls who can’t play with the puck. I don’t think the Hawks are dominant enough possession-wise on the top nine to just punt on that in the fourth line. Dominic Moore was out there. John Mitchell still is, and the Hawks still look short down the middle. But if they’re determined to stay under the cap until after the curtain is raised, there’s no room.
We’re going to be riding on the wings of maybe, at least to start next season.