Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Three Biggest Improvements For The Blackhawks From Free Agency

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After the Blackhawks finished last season as the second-worst team in the entire NHL, GM Kyle Davidson and his front office promised change, vowing that Chicago was done finishing in the bottom three. When free agency came around, change is just what the Blackhawks did. With eight free agent signings on July 1, Chicago’s spending spree had fans excited enough to even be whispering about the playoffs.

But how did the team improve so much? It’s true that with a woeful team like the 2023-24 Blackhawks, quantity of signings in general is a great sign. On the other hand, some signings are clearly more important than others. Adding players like Teuvo Teravainen and Tyler Bertuzzi help out the power-play unit and give Connor Bedard competent teammates, while bringing in players like TJ Brodie helps shore things up on the back end. But even more influential than those improvements are three main factors from free agency. This year’s class is proof that the biggest improvements aren’t always those given the biggest contracts.

Laurent Brossoit

Much of the blame on 24-year-old goaltender Arvid Soderblom last year was transferred to a somewhat lackluster defensive unit, but there’s no question the Swedish netminder didn’t have the best campaign. Averaging nearly four goals per game, he posted a save percentage of .880 – Petr Mrazek, who played behind the same defense, allowed just three goals per game. After what I feel was the biggest signing for the Blackhawks this summer, Soderblom will now be playing elsewhere. Mrazek will share the pipes with Laurent Brossoit, who was signed for two years at $3.3 million annually. With the numbers Brossoit has been posting the past few seasons, that’s a huge steal and one that didn’t get talked about enough last week. While backing up Connor Hellebuyck in Winnipeg last year, Brossoit played in 23 games, allowing an incredible two goals per game with a save percentage of .927. The 31-year-old is a massive improvement sharing the net with Mrazek. As a result, the Blackhawks, who allowed the fourth-most goals per game in the NHL last year, will let in a much smaller number this time around.

Alec Martinez and TJ Brodie

Though the unit didn’t make as many headlines last week as the forwards, Chicago certainly prioritized its defensive unit, bringing in strong veterans like Alec Martinez and TJ Brodie, among others. With the two potentially sharing one of the bottom defensive lines, they’ll directly replace Jaycob Megna and Jarred Tinordi and represent a massive improvement of an entire blue line pairing. With a combined 30 years of NHL experience, Martinez and Brodie have great defensive instincts because of their veteran status, but also boast the playmaking ability to promote a dangerous offense that Megna and Tinordi clearly lacked.

Improved Depth

Blackhawks fans everywhere remember last year’s brutal injury bug that at one point saw Chicago have more cap dollars on injured reserve than healthy. The number of injuries this season is likely to go down, but even if it doesn’t, the Blackhawks will be much more prepared. After all the additions in free agency, the team is much deeper at every position. Players like Joey Anderson and new addition Craig Smith appear lined up to serve as extras, and a talented D-man like Wyatt Kaiser may be waiting in the wings on the back end. If and when injuries happen, Chicago won’t be forced to go to the well of players like Reese Johnson and Megna. Beyond the team’s viable extra players, AHL Rockford is brimming with talent. High-upside forwards like Frank Nazar and Landon Slaggert, as well as young defensemen like Ethan Del Mastro, will be ready and eager to make the jump back to the bigs.

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