By: Jacqueline Brennan
On Sunday July 1, free agency opened and deals were made. The Blackhawks were in desperate need of filling spots on defense, scoring, and goalkeeping. The Blackhawks announced three free agent signings, forward Chris Kunitz, defenseman Brandon Manning, and goaltender Cam Ward. Shortly after that, the Blackhawks announced that they had signed their first round draft pick, Adam Boqvist, to a 3-year entry level deal through the 2020-21 season. Since then, the Blackhawks haven’t acquired anyone else.
Below is more on each acquisition:
Chris Kunitz, 38, signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks. Kunitz is 6-feet tall, weighs 195 pounds, plays left wing and shoots left. Kunitz is a four-time Stanley Cup champion, winning in 2006-07 with the Anaheim Ducks and with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008-09, 2015-16 and 2016-17. He is an experienced veteran that can bring more leadership to the young guys on this team. He has played in 966 games in his career, has posted 263 goals and 346 assists for a total of 609 points, in the regular season alone. During the playoffs, Kunitz has played in 178 games, posted 27 goals and 66 assists for a total of 93 points. Due to only signing a one-year deal, it is not clear if he will play for the Blackhawks for more than that. Adding Kunitz to the roster can help bring more scoring, depth to their lines, and someone willing to take hits to make a play, which is something the Blackhawks need if they wish to make it back to the playoffs.
Brandon Manning, 28, signed a two-year deal with the Blackhawks Sunday morning. Manning is 6-foot-1-inch defenseman, weighs 200 pounds, and shoots left. Manning has played most of his career in the minors, until last season when he had a breakout year with the Philadelphia Flyers. He scored a career high of seven goals and added a career high of 12 assists, which helped the Flyers make the playoffs. Manning has been described as a fiesty, physical, stay-at-home defender, something the Blackhawks could use on the back end. The Blackhawks need to get physical and it needs to start on defense because without a physical presence the opposition will skate right past the defense without hesitation and possibly make it past the goaltender.
Cam Ward, 34, was the third player to sign a one-year deal with the Blackhawks on Sunday. Ward is a 6-foot-1-inch goalie, weighs 185 pounds, and catches left. Ward has played in 668 games, posted a career record of 318 wins and 244 losses, a goals against average of 2.70 and a .909 save percentage. In 2006, he was the first rookie goaltender to win a Stanley Cup since Patrick Roy of the Montreal Canadiens in 1986. Ward is believed to have signed on as the backup to starter Corey Crawford, but only time will tell if he will stay the backup or become the starter when the season rolls around. No matter what happens, Ward will have to carry his weight for this team if they wish to make a successful comeback after one of the worst seasons over the last decade for the organization.
Adam Boqvist is a 17-year-old Swedish defenseman who was drafted eighth overall by the Blackhawks on June 22, 2018. Booqvist signed a 3-year entry level deal with the Blackhawks on Sunday. Boqvist is 5-feet-11-inches tall, weighs 165 pounds and shoots right. Boqvist said himself that he was still years away from the NHL, but the Blackhawks must think differently and believe he could possibly play this season. Quenneville values defensemen who can make the initial breakout pass from the defensive zone, and Boqvist has the talents that are sure to get him noticed by the head coach. He is known for the offensive skills he has, and has been compared to Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson.
All of the Blackhawks’ problems cannot be fixed in a single go around, but it’s a start. It’s not quite clear yet what role these acquisitions will have during the season, but it is rumored that the Blackhawks are looking to find the right mix of veterans and rookies to get back to their winning ways. Only time will tell if these were the right moves, or if there’s a much deeper issue.