Bryan Bickell, who scored the winning goal for the Blackhawks in Sunday's 1-0 win at Vancouver, was sent back to the Rockford IceHogs on Monday. Bickell, knocked dizzy at Edmonton on Saturday, scored his first NHL goal of the season a night later. His return to the minors is undoubtedly tied to salary cap considerations and the likely return of Marian Hossa to the lineup in Wednesday's game at San Jose. Bickell had been playing on a line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Hossa has practiced with Toews and Kane and figures to move into Bickell's spot once he's deemed ready to play. He had shoulder surgery four months ago.
November 2009 Archives
Center Andrew Ebbett, put on waivers by the Blackhawks on Friday, was claimed by the Minnesota Wild. It'll be the third team of the season for Ebbett, who had a great opportunity with the Hawks but didn't take advantage of it. He was installed as the second-line center when Dave Bolland required back surgery but couldn't establish himself in a 10-game stint. The Hawks got Ebbett on waivers from Anaheim and coach Joel Quenneville used him first as a fourth-line winger before moving him to the center spot. Ebbett, who played in two games with the Ducks, had one goal and two penalty minutes with the Hawks and was a healthy scratch in the last two games before he was put on waivers.
TSN suggests that one reason the Blackhawks haven't announced the signings of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith to long contract extensions could be what the NHL calls ``tagging room.'' The seldom-used term is the available salary cap space for next season, which is difficult to determine. It's calculated by totaling the dollar values of the contracts that will expire at the end of the season plus available salary cap space now available. The Hawks apparently don't have much ``tagging room'' now and TSN predicts that one way to get more would be to move veteran defenseman Brent Sopel. He represents and $2.33 cap hit for the Hawk both this season and next, which is quite a bit for a depth defenseman. Sopel, out most of last season after elbow surgery, has played in 19 of this season's 20 games.
All those recent reports that Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith were about to get long-term contract extensions together hasn't materialized, and Kane called it ``just speculation and rumors'' when the Canadian media confronted him after Thursday's morning skate in Calgary. Don't get me wrong. I think all three will get long-term extensions eventually but they might not get them together. And, whenever they do sign, a prime topic of discussion will immediately be which players will stay with the Hawks next season and which ones won't. That salary cap's a tricky thing and working with it will take some time. In the meantime there'll be lots of Hawks in limbo as this most promising season reaches crunch time.
According to TSN Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will receive identical contract extensions -- five years at $6 million per season -- and Duncan Keith's money will be spread over 13 seasons. Keith's contract is certain to be investigated by the NHL, much like that of Marian Hossa's was, with critics believing it's an attempt to circumvent the league's salary cap. If those figures prove accurate the Hawks will have 15 players signed for next season at a salary cap hit of just over $60 million. This year's cap is only $56.8 million so there'll be some player movement, to be sure.
Dave Bolland's back surgery, which will sidelined the Blackhawks' second-line center for 12-16 weeks, won't bring new faces to the team's roster. At least not immediately, general manager Stan Bowman said. ``We've got to sort things out internally first,'' said Bowman, speaking several hours after Bolland's surgery from the NHL GM meetings in Toronto. ``We've got guys who deserve the chance to see how they can play before searching for someone else.''
Center Dave Bolland's lingering back problems are becoming increasingly a cause for worry. Last season he played through the problem, but this season a sore back kept him out of much of training camp. He'll missed his second regular season game on Friday at Colorado, meaning the Hawks will play the first-place team in the Western Conference without their top two centers. Jonathan Toews practiced for the third straight day during the morning skate and could return to the lineup next week when the Hawks play four home games prior to their traditional two-week trip when a circus takes over the United Center.
Jonathan Toews went through the morning skate with the Blackhawks on Thursday but won't be in the lineup against the Phoenix Coyotes. It was the second straight day on the ice for the team captain, who was off the ice for two weeks with concussion-like symptoms after taking a hit from Vancouver's Willie Mitchell on Oct. 21 at the United Center. He'll be re-evaluated on Friday morning to determine whether he can play in that night's game against the Avalanche in Colorado. The Phoenix game is the fifth straight that Toews has missed.
Another day has passed and Jonathan Toews still isn't on the ice with the Blackhawks. The team captain missed the last United Center workout before the first game in November -- on Thursday in Phoenix. The Hawks still are calling him day to day with his concussion-like symptoms. Meanwhile, suggestions of a suspension for Andrew Ladd for his hit on Montreal's Matt D'Agostini seem moot. General manager Stan Bowman still hasn't heard from the NHL on the matter, ``and we don't expect to,'' said Bowman. The Hawks have maintained that Ladd's hit was a clean one.
Ben Eager, who has been nursing concussion-like symptoms since Oct. 4, skated with the Blackhawks for a full practice on Sunday, though his status for game duty remained uncertain. Coach Joel Quenneville it'd be ``overly optimistic'' to expect Eager to be ready for the next game -- on Thursday at Phoenix. Jonathan Toews didn't practice, and he's been off the ice since taking a hard hit from Vancouver's Willie Mitchell on Oct. 21. Though some thing Andrew Ladd will be suspended for his hit on Montreal's Matt D'Agostini in Friday's game, neither Ladd nor coach Joel Quenneville had heard from the NHL office on that matter as of Sunday and both insisted Ladd's hit was a clean one.