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Team Reset

Blackhawks add Ward to back up Crawford, Manning to shore up defense

Chicago signs veterans after missing playoffs for first time since 2007-08, acquires Kruger from Coyotes

by Tracey Myers @TraMyers_NHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is taking a look at where each team stands. Today, the Chicago Blackhawks:

The Chicago Blackhawks will try to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after missing them for the first time since 2007-08.

The Blackhawks signed free agent goalie Cam Ward as a backup or possible starter if Corey Crawford is unable to return from an upper-body injury that sidelined him for the second half of last season. Chicago was 17-30-8 in games Crawford did not have a decision and finished seventh in the Central Division (33-39-10).

 

[RELATED: Complete Team Reset coverage]

 

Chicago also signed free agent defenseman Brandon Manning after it allowed 3.10 goals per game last season, tied for 25th in the NHL.

The Blackhawks traded forward Marian Hossa, who has three years remaining on his contract, forward Vinnie Hinostroza, defenseman Jordan Oesterle and a third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft to the Arizona Coyotes on July 12 for forwards Marcus Kruger and Jordan Maletta, defenseman Andrew Campbell, the rights to unsigned 2017 draft pick MacKenzie Entwistle, and a fifth-round pick in the 2019 draft.

Here is what the Blackhawks look like today:

 

Key arrivals

Cam Ward, G: When Crawford was injured last season, the Blackhawks didn't have a proven veteran to take his place. Enter Ward, 34, who played 668 NHL games for the Carolina Hurricanes. Ward, who signed a one-year contract July 1 as an unrestricted free agent, was 23-14-4 with a 2.73 goals-against average and .906 save percentage in 43 games last season. … Brandon Manning, D: The 28-year-old signed a two-year contract July 1 as a UFA. Bowman called Manning "one of those later bloomers." He had 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) in 65 games with the Philadelphia Flyers last season, and the Blackhawks like the physical presence and edge they believe Manning can provide. … Chris Kunitz, F: He signed a one-year contract July 1 as a UFA. Kunitz, who turns 39 on Sept. 26, brings plenty of postseason experience, having won the Stanley Cup four times (with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007 and the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, 2016 and 2017). He had 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 82 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season and is expected to play a bottom-six role. ... Marcus Kruger, F: The 28-year-old center had six points in 48 games with the Hurricanes last season and adds depth at forward. The Hurricanes had traded him to the Coyotes on May 3.

Video: Kunitz on signing a one-year deal with the Blackhawks

 

Key departures

Patrick Sharp, F: The 36-year-old announced his retirement in April. He had 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) in 70 games last season in his return to the Blackhawks after two seasons with the Dallas Stars. … Anthony Duclair, F: The Blackhawks chose not to extend a qualifying offer to Duclair, who signed a one-year contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets on July 6 as a UFA. Duclair's opportunity with Chicago was brief after he was acquired in a trade from the Coyotes on Jan. 10. He sustained a lower-body injury in a collision with Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand on March 10 and missed the rest of the season. He had eight points (two goals, six assists) in 23 games with Chicago. ... Jordan Oesterle, D: The 26-year-old had NHL career highs of five goals and 15 points in 55 games last season. ... Vinnie Hinostroza, F: The 24-year-old had NHL career highs in goals (seven), assists (18) and points (25) last season, when he got time on the top two lines.

 

On the cusp

Dylan Sikura, F: He had 54 points (22 goals, 32 assists) in 35 games in his senior season at Northeastern University. The 23-year-old got a taste of the NHL at the end of last season and had three assists in five games. … Henri Jokiharju, D: The big question entering training camp is if Jokiharju is ready to make the jump to the NHL. The 19-year-old had 71 points (12 goals, 59 assists) in 63 games with Portland of the Western Hockey League last season, but the Blackhawks can't put too much on his shoulders. Coach Joel Quenneville often says defensemen need more time to mature and develop in the NHL. If Jokiharju isn't ready for the NHL he would have to return to Portland.

 

What they still need

Another defenseman. They have plenty of depth at the position but traded Oesterle and need a more established defenseman who could play on the top pair with Duncan Keith or on the second pair with Brent Seabrook or Manning.

 

Fantasy focus

Keith is coming off the lowest goal total (two) of his 13-season NHL career, and his shooting percent (1.1) ranked 553rd of 568 NHL skaters who played at least 45 games. Keith's struggles led to Quenneville playing other defensemen (Seabrook, Oesterle, Erik Gustafsson) on the first power-play unit. The good news for Keith is that he likely will earn a fresh start on the top unit next season, giving him bounce-back fantasy appeal. The bad news is that he once again led the Blackhawks in ice time (23:50 per game) and has played nearly 1,000 NHL games (995), opening the door for potential newcomers. The Blackhawks have two offensive-minded defenseman prospects in Adam Boqvist, the No. 8 pick of 2018 NHL Draft, and Jokiharju, selected with the No. 29 pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, who soon could make the jump to the NHL. After Oesterle was traded to the Coyotes, Keith will be relied on to quarterback the power play and brings exposure to always fantasy-elite forward Patrick Kane. Keith and the Blackhawks in general would gain value if Crawford is ready to start the season. -- Rob Reese

Video: CHI@STL: Keith rips one-timer for late lead on PPG

 

Projected lineup

Brandon Saad -- Jonathan Toews -- Dylan Sikura

Alex DeBrincat -- Nick Schmaltz -- Patrick Kane

Victor Ejdsell -- Artem Anisimov -- David Kampf

Chris Kunitz -- Marcus Kruger -- John Hayden

Duncan Keith -- Connor Murphy

Brandon Manning -- Brent Seabrook

Gustav Forsling -- Jan Rutta

Corey Crawford

Cam Ward

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