Blackhawks announced their upcoming 2011 preseason schedule on Monday.
Chicago will again play seven exhibition games and see home-and-home games with the Penguins and Red Wings, as they did last fall. The Capitals return to the Hawks’ preseason slate after a one year absence. The two teams will also play a home-and-home series as they did in 2009. The Blackhawks other exhibition game will be a neutral site contest against the Oilers in Sasaktoon.
Tues Sept 20 (in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) vs Edmonton Oilers @ Credit Union Centre – 6pm*
Thur Sept 22 @ Pittsburgh Penguins (Consol Energy Center) 6:00pm
Fri Sept 23 vs. Washington Capitals (United Center) 7:00pm
Sun Sept 25 @ Detroit Red Wings (Joe Louis Arena) 3:00pm
Wed Sept 28 vs. Detroit Red Wings (United Center) 7:30pm
Fri Sept 30 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (United Center) 7:30pm
Sun Oct 02 @ Washington Capitals (Verizon Center) 4:00pm
*Not sure about the time on that Saskatoon game, but that’s what is currently listed. I’d bet that is a mistake (taken from the Hawks’ official press release). All other times appear to be central. Saskatoon is on central time (UTC-6) year round. So that would mean either mean a 6pm start in Saskatoon and 7pm in Chicago, or a 5pm Saskatoon, 6pm Chicago scenario. I don’t know why it would be anything other than a 7pm or later start in Saskatoon? I’d go with that (8pm Chicago). The building holds less than 15,000 and is the home of the Saskatoon Blades (WHL). Pearl Jam plays the Credit Union Centre the night before.
Last year’s preseason began with a trip to Winnipeg for a neutral site game with the Lightning. Comcast SportsNet-Chicago gave that game a broadcast because it had the added element of being captain Jonathan Toews’ homecoming.
The September 30th game will be a chance to see about as close to the Hawks’ Opening Night roster as you’re going to get prior to the opener. Fat chance you’ll get a look at Sidney Crosby in person that night however.
NHL SALARY CAP FLYING HIGHER AGAIN
— Positive news for the top revenue franchises looking to keep their star players, bid on free agents and spend to the cap.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting that when the salary cap is officially set and announced next week, the upper max will come in at $64 million. The “upper limit” was previously rumored to be anywhere from 62 to 63.2 million for the upcoming season. Each of these figures would figure in the NHLPA’s escalator option to automatically push the upper limit up by five percent.
Of course this news also greatly impacts franchise on the other end of the spectrum as well. The CBA mandates that the lower end, or “floor” (minimum a team must spend on their NHL roster) will be $16 million less than the upper limit.
This year’s “floor” will thus be $48M, an increase of $4.6M from last year’s $43.4M lower limit.
Florida, Phoenix, Dallas and the Islanders have some work to do. All teams already bleeding money, by the way. Funny how the system works.
In Chicago, this development likely means Stan Bowman will be in the game on bidding for anything but the few top-level free agents if he’d so choose to. The extra two or so million also should eliminate any ideas of moving Niklas Hjalmarsson for the purpose of freeing up cap space and maneuverability – Which is a good thing for his regular defense partner Brian Campbell. Still, that defense needs some tweaking and with Leddy and Campoli in the mix there isn’t a space to plug in another defenseman. There will be a need for a seventh defenseman, but that won’t be an expensive slot. Some have suggested Brent Sopel could be brought back but that should only be if he is willing to accept less than a million on a short term agreement. He’d also need to know that he’d start seventh on the depth chart. If John Scott’s on the NHL roster he’s an emergency forward or defenseman, or specialty option against select teams. If his skating can improve and he can provide more, great, but it shouldn’t be counted on. There’s a need for a blue line penalty killer, preferably with some jam to his game that can take some of that responsibility away from the over-taxed Duncan Keith.
— While a decision is said not to be imminent, the Winnipeg head coaching job is down to Blackhawks’ assistant Mike Haviland (Cheveldayoff) and AHL-Manitoba Moose head coach Claude Noel (True North). Sitting “Thrashers” head coach Craig Ramsey is no longer sitting. After interviewing for the job he held during the 2010-11 season in Winnipeg on Saturday, Ramsey was informed he wasn’t getting the job. As was former Oilers’ bench boss Craig MacTavish.
— Wanted to make mention – Since the last game of the Finals was played on June 15th, the CBA dictates that the league-wide moratorium on new player contracts would not go into effect until 48 hours after the conclusion of that game. The actual wording is “the later of June 15th or 48 hours after the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Finals.” Why new contracts continue to come out five days later (Nicklas Lidstrom) is anyone’s guess. Its not that teams and agents cannot negotiate, its a moratorium on paperwork filings that make those new SPC’s official. So perhaps its semantics or the league could be making up new rules and overriding the collective bargaining agreement when they deem fit as they go along?