The Chicago Blackhawks are coming off an impressive 2013 Stanley Cup run and have most of their roster intact for next season. Unfortunately, due to the NHL's salary cap, they couldn't keep every player. They didn't lose any stars, but some key role players are now gone and their void will need to be filled.
Let's take a look at the players the Blackhawks lost this past offseason:
1) Forward, Dave Bolland (New team – Toronto Maple Leafs)
The 27 year old forward was drafted by the Blackhawks in the second round (#32 overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. For seven seasons he appeared in games with the Blackhawks. Bolland battled through injuries the past four seasons, but he still managed to be a key contributor and leader when he was on the ice. Last year in the regular season, Bolland scored seven goals and added seven assists in 35 games. He only scored three goals in the playoffs, but he had perhaps the most memorable one as he scored the Stanley Cup winning goal. Bolland provided the Blackhawks with a solid center who excelled in the face off circle. His veteran leadership will be missed. With Bolland gone, the Blackhawks will now turn to their young prospects to try and replace him. Bolland was traded to Toronto on draft day for three draft picks.
2) Forward, Viktor Stalberg (New team – Nashville Predators)
Stalberg spent the last three seasons with the Blackhawks. He is a speedy player who also showed the ability to find the back of the net. This past season, Stalberg scored nine goals and added 14 assists in 47 games. He only had three assists throughout the playoffs, but his speed provided the Blackhawks with an advantage at certain times. Although he made an impact on occasion, Stalberg wasn't a key part of the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup winning team. Hoping to get more playing time, Stalberg signed a four year, $12 million contract with Nashville in July.
3) Forward, Michael Frolik (New team – Winnipeg Jets)
Like Stalberg, Frolik also spent the last three seasons with the Blackhawks. He never lit up the score sheet, only scoring three goals and adding seven assists in the 2013 regular season. He did however match his goal and assist total in the playoffs. Frolik was a key member of the Blackhawks fourth line and played a major part in the penalty killing unit. His presence will definitely be missed on the penalty kill and it will be interesting to see who the Blackhawks pair with forward Marcus Kruger to lead the unit. Frolik was traded to Winnipeg on draft night for two draft picks.
4) Goalie, Ray Emery (New team – Philadelphia Flyers)
Ray Emery spent the last two seasons with the Blackhawks as the backup goaltender to Corey Crawford. Emery was very productive, filling in nicely for Crawford. Last season, Emery posted a 17-1-0 record, with a .922 save percentage and a 1.94 goals against average. He kept the Blackhawks in many games and was a valuable asset to their team. Emery battled an injury at the end of the year and that, along with Crawford's exceptional play, led to him not making an appearance in the playoffs. In July, Emery signed a one year, $1.65 million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Blackhawks brought in veteran goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin shortly after to fill the backup role.
The Blackhawks also lost Daniel Carcillo to the Los Angeles Kings, but he never truly made a strong impact for the team. After looking at the players the Blackhawks have lost this past offseason, it can be seen that some of them will truly be missed. Although they mostly played a secondary role to the stars on the team, these four players contributed to the Blackhawks and some were a big part of their recent success. So it begs the question, which player will the Chicago Blackhawks miss the most?
As nice as it is to have a solid backup goalie who can come in and constantly win games, Emery won't be the player who is most missed next season. Crawford should be exceptional again and when he needs a game off, Khabibulin is more than capable of coming in and earning a victory.
Viktor Stalberg was arguably the Blackhawks' fastest player and showed the ability to score on occasion. However, with the depth the Blackhawks have at forward, Stalberg was not finding the ice as much as he had hoped. He should get top six forward minutes in Nashville and should make a bigger impact to their team next season. Stalberg will not be the most missed Blackhawk next season.
Dave Bolland became a fan favorite. He was a good all around player and helped contribute to the Blackhawks since joining the team. He also scored one of the most important goals in Blackhawks history as his Stanley Cup winning goal this past year capped off an improbable comeback. Although he has been a great asset, Bolland has been battling through injuries the past few seasons and the Blackhawks have seen other guys show the ability to step in and take Bolland's role. Dave Bolland will not be the most missed Blackhawk next season.
That leaves us with Michael Frolik. Not a common household name, but Frolik's presence on the Blackhawks will be missed next season. He centered a fourth line that was very productive and was a leader on the penalty killing unit. The Blackhawks were great at killing penalties last season and a lot of that credit should go to Michael Frolik. The Blackhawks will have a tough task ahead of them finding a replacement for Frolik. If you notice the Blackhawks penalty killing unit isn't as effective next season, you'll know why.
So, with the Blackhawks losing these four players this past offseason, which player do you think they will miss the most?
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