Now that the calendar has turned over from 2020, training camps across the league are now open, and the Men Of Four Feathers hit this ice this morning for their first practice of what will surely be many over the next week-plus where they will finally hone their man-to-man defensive zone coverage skills under the tutelage of Coach Kelvin Gemstone. Here are a few takeaways from what transpired on the West Side this morning and early afternoon.
- Dylan Strome was on the ice after signing a two-year bridge deal worth $3.0 mildo per against the flat salary cap. Strome was one of the last RFAs league-wide to sign, and he didn’t have much leverage to get anything more either in term or dollars, so this is about right. Strome will have every opportunity to get prime power play minutes this year with both Kirby Dach and Jonathan Toews presumed out for the entirety of the season, and this could increase his value elsewhere in the event the Hawks want to move him to get help elsewhere, because they need help everywhere.
- On the flip side of that coin, Zack Smith was placed on waivers today, and if he goes unclaimed, the Hawks could in theory demote him to Rockford (if the AHL figures their season out) they’d have about $2 million of dead money on the books, as only $1.075 million can be buried in the AHL. But most importantly it IN THEORY opens up a spot for a younger forward to get some time at the NHL level, and the Hawks need to figure out what they have in guys like Philipp Kurashev, Tim Soderlund, Pius Suter (who was “unfit” today), and others. And there is always the off chance that Smith gets claimed, as he is a depth center, and as he showed for a fair amount last year, he isn’t completely useless yet, though coming back from injury isn’t going to help that.
- Other than Suter, Evan Barratt and everyone’s favorite expensive oaf Brent Seabrook were deemed unfit for today’s festivities. This isn’t a particularly good harbinger of things to come for Bottomless Pete, as he’s coming off basically having his entire body replaced by surgery last year, and has not seen any kind of NHL action in 15 months. With no exhibition games to even kind of get a look at him, if he does come back it’s going to be right into game action, and that’s not going to be pleasant for anyone involved. This is more than likely just another milepost that this slow-motion car crash has to skid by on its path towards the inevitable (and likely antagonistic) end of Seabrook’s storied Blackhawks career. It remains to be seen how everyone involved handles it, but given the lack of communication last year before he was shut down and not taking him to the Edmonton bubble, don’t expect this to end without there being some hard feelings.
- Speaking of the blue line, while camp pairings mean nothing, it’s all anyone has to work off of in the absence of a single exhibition game. But that said, the pairings today of Boqvist-Zadorov, Mitchell-de Haan, and Keith-Murphy at least make sense from a free-safety/puckmover template. However, in order for them to work, that requires a) that de Haan and Murphy remain upright which is will almost assuredly not happen for any considerable length of time, and b) that Vinny del Colliton (or anyone in the organ-I-zation for that matter) has any idea how to develop a defenseman that isn’t completely turnkey and pro-ready. As usual, the future is blindingly bright.