Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon found time during Monday's Prospects Camp scrimmage to talk to chicagoblackhawks.com about his new top line winger, the need for flexibility in the new NHL and much more.
How does a complicated deal like this get done?
Well, it started as a two-way deal. As the conversations continued on, we tried to widen it and make the deal bigger. We started talking to San Jose, then brought in Ottawa. Ottawa wanted a piece that San Jose had, and we were able to get it.
Have you had your eye on Martin Havlat for some time?
I've liked him since his draft year when I saw him in Germany when he was 18 with the Czech team. The only question mark at that time was his size, not his ability or his work ethic or energy. But now he's 6-1, 190-something and plays with a lot of grit. He's a dynamic player; he's a gamebreaker. He scores most of his goals at even strength, if you look at his numbers. It's almost 2-to-1 power plays to even strength, so that's a real positive because there aren't many goals scored even strength. So that tells you he's got tremendous ability.
Is Havlat possibly the most skilled player Chicago has had in a while?
Well, he's certainly one of them. He's a very good player with a great work ethic and a lot of energy.
You've taken a bit of a beating lately for not adding a top line forward in free agency. Do you feel like this is vindication at all for you?
I don't care about that; that stuff doesn't bother me at all. Flexibility is important. We spent a lot of money in free agency last year on long-term contracts and some panned out and some didn't. Just because you spend a lot of money doesn't guarantee success; you can see that last year. The key for us is to build our foundation, develop through the draft, and be able to make trades... and having the flexibility in the new market. If you're not near the cap, the teams that purchase a lot of players in free agency have to make moves -- that's how we ended up getting Havlat. Ottawa was up against the cap with guys to sign and didn't have enough room to pay Havlat. As a result, because of our position and not overpaying for free agents early, we had room to make this move. So that's what you have to look at and that's what we want to be -- to be flexible in this new system.
So there was a silver lining in all of the free agent frustration then...
Yes, yes. Definitely.
Does Havlat have the character you're looking for to go with his skill? He's been known to tick off a few opponents...
That's why we like him. He plays with passion. He plays on the edge. Our fans will really like him. He creates havoc. Besides being skilled, he can get under your skin, so that's what we like.
Havlat is obviously familiar with Bryan Smolinski from Ottawa. Do you foresee them possibly playing on a line together here?
That's the coach's decision. But it's always nice when you go to a different city and you have a friend or someone you've played with before. Smolinski had 48 points last year and he's 34 -- won't be 35 until December; that's young today. He plays all forward positions, including the point on the power play, and he can take faceoffs as well. He's a very versatile guy.
With the additions of Smolinksi and Denis Arkhipov at center, plus top draft picks Jonathan Toews and Dave Bolland waiting in the wings, is there a chance Tuomo Ruutu will return to the wing?
Yes, we're going to explore all posibilities. It's good that we have the ability to play him at wing or back at center, whichever he prefers and plays best at.
Is this team set?
We're never set. We're never happy or satisfied. We feel we made steps in the right direction, but every day we try to get better. We're going to continue to explore every opportunity to get better before October.
How hard was it to let go of Mark Bell?
Very hard. Mark is one of my favorite guys, on and off the ice. He's a quality person. He's done everything we've ever asked him, on and off the ice. It's hard, but he's going to a good situation. [Sharks GM] Doug Wilson is obviously a friend of mine and former teammate. He's going to a good team in San Jose and has an opportunity for success. I'm sad he's leaving us, but glad he's going to a good environment.
Has anyone stepped up at Prospects Camp so far and made a case for being with the big club in October?
We've got three or four kids who have been really good. Cam Barker is the one who probably has the best opportunity. [Jack] Skille has been very good; [Jonathan] Toews has been solid. We're excited. This was a great Prospects Camp. [Director of Player Personnel] Rick Dudley can't get over the number of quality players here. After our top seven or top 10, there's not a lot of difference between 10 and 20. There are other guys too -- college guys and guys from previous drafts that are very good. And [2nd round pick Igor] Makarov wasn't here either. Our fans are really going to like him. He plays a lot like Havlat.
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