The Chicago Blackhawks enter the day leading the Western Conference, but certainly have their work cut out for them in the second half of the season if they hope to win their fourth Stanley Cup of the Joel Quenneville era, her are a few bold predictions to look for in 2017.
The Blackhawks finish the regular season on top of the Western Conference? Another Stanley Cup? Maybe even some more individual hardware for a Blackhawks player, or a shocking salary cap casualty this summer. The second half of the season is sure to be entertaining, and I have three bold predictions for the Blackhawks entering the 2017 calendar year.
Patrick Kane Will Win the All-Star Game MVP
Patrick Kane will head to Los Angeles later this month to be one of the four Chicago Blackhawks representatives for the Central Division in the 2017 NHL All-Star Game. He will be joined by fellow Blackhawks players Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Corey Crawford in Los Angeles, but lets be honest, is there a better three-on-three player in the NHL than Patrick Kane?
When the NHL announced that the new regular season overtime format would be the three-on-three format, as a Blackhawks fan, I was ecstatic because the idea of getting Patrick Kane in the open ice with only three opposing skaters standing between him and his dazzling stick-handling skills was just exhilarating.
The Central Division team is loaded, even in terms a game featuring some of the best players in the game, advantage Patrick Kane. Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith will be skating with Kane all night long, giving him his familiar faces to excel, advantage Patrick Kane. The only thing that could make Kane more of a favorite to have a memorable performance would be to have is line-mate of two years, but that’s a snub story that I’ll stay away from here. You could of course read about it here.
The Blackhawks Will Trade Corey Crawford This Offseason
It’s no secret that the Blackhawks will yet again face some very tough decisions this summer when they have to dance around the NHL salary cap while putting together their 2017-2018 roster. Stan Bowman to his credit his done one of the better job’s in the NHL at putting a winning, cap compliant product on the ice each season over parts of the last decade, evident by the Blackhawks three Stanley Cup Championships over that span.
The Blackhawks were teetering around the salary cap threshold this season, roughly $1.5 million dollars under the limit. I said for weeks that the Blackhawks needed to do everything that they could do in their power to extend Artemi Panarin, and of course they did in December, signing the forward to a two year bridge deal worth $6 million dollars in 2017-2018 and $6 million dollars in 2018-2019.
So the Blackhawks are now already staring down the task of shedding $6 million dollars of cap space this summer, just to be where they were a month ago, about a million dollars under the cap ceiling. I know a lot of Blackhawks fans don’t want to consider this, but we have seen some of our favorite Blackhawks players suffer the same fate in the previous years, and this year it may very well be Corey Crawford.
Crawford is now 32-years-old, and owed $6 million dollars per year for the next three seasons. Coincidence that the Hawks’ gave Panarin the exact amount owed to Crawford each season moving forward? I think not. Moving Crawford this summer would open up the $6 million dollars that they will owe Panarin in each of the next two seasons, and allow the Blackhawks to extend Scott Darling, and make him Crawford’s successor next season, which he proved is a role that he is more than capable of assuming.
Blackhawks Win the Stanley Cup in 2017
The Blackhawks lead the Western Conference entering play today, and feature a fantastic mix of veteran and youth impact players heading into the second half of the season. They have two goalies that are inside of the top ten in the NHL in save percentage to turn to in crunch time down the stretch as well.
The Blackhawks have the talent across the roster, and are receiving contributions from youngsters like Vinnie Hinostroza and Ryan Hartman, while veterans like Artem Anisimov and Marian Hossa are having seasons like they are in their youth again. The Blackhawks seemingly have it all going right now for the most part, and will win their fourth Stanley Cup in the Joel Quenneville era this summer if they remain healthy across the board.