For the Chicago Blackhawks, it will be difficult to top a Stanley Cup championship season. But the Blackhawks have something going for them in this Cup defense that they did not have the last time the team won it all. For the 2013-14 season, the Blackhawks did not have a fire sale of its role players. After the team won the Stanley Cup in the 2009-10 season, it had to shed almost all of its role players because of salary cap concerns. This team is designed to withstand cap hits, even when the salary cap is lowered. Chicago made some very good offseason moves, and it looks to defend its title with authority next season.
2014 Stanley Cup Odds: 6/1
Notable Change #1: Signing Nikolai Khabibulin.
The Chicago Blackhawks made very few offseason moves, but they did try to fill some holes left behind when some players jumped ship. When goaltender Ray Emery left the Blackhawks after the Stanley Cup victory, there was a huge void in the goaltending department. The Blackhawks signed veteran Nikolai Khabibulin to a one-year deal to backup starter Corey Crawford. Before Chicago fans start screaming out loud, it should be noted that the Blackhawks’ farm system is deep in goaltenders. Khabibulin knows he is the backup, and he may be able to offer some sage advice and much-needed stability to Crawford, who just signed the biggest contract of his career.
Notable Change #2: Re-signing Bryan Bickell.
The Blackhawks traded away forwards such as Dave Bolland, who scored the Stanley Cup winning goal for the team. But there was no way that the Blackhawks were going to allow a young forward like Bryan Bickell to get away. The team expects great things from Bickell, who will take a more prominent role on the team. Bickell’s new contract is worth around $16 million over four years, which means that the team is going to lean on him a lot to produce points and start being one of the team leaders. It appears that Bickell is up for the task and keeping him on the team was a huge move by the Chicago Blackhawks.
Notable Change #3: Trading Dave Boland.
The Blackhawks would have preferred to not lose backup goalie Ray Emery, but Emery wants to try and win that starting job in Philadelphia. However, the Blackhawks did want to part ways with Dave Bolland. So, days after he clinched the Blackhawks’ second Stanley Cup in four years, Bolland was sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs. In all fairness, Bolland will be given more responsibility in Toronto and the move was a good one by Chicago. But it does leave a gaping hole at center on the team’s vital second line. At this point in time, Chicago does not have an answer for who will be stepping in to put up the points that Bolland’s departure leaves on the table.
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