In a very competitive NHL, GM's can't afford to hesitate - FOX 32 News Chicago

In a very competitive NHL, GM's can't afford to hesitate

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

On Friday night the Blackhawks selected forward Teuvo Teravainen as their first selection in the NHL Entry Draft. Some believe Teravainen was a steal at number 18. That belief could be validated a few years from now. Some think the reason Teravainen fell out of the top 10 was because of his size - 5'10" 169 pounds - and the fact this draft was very deep in defensemen. There are so many variables it is hard tell but sometimes players slip for the wrong reasons.

For anyone wanting to understand more about the inner-workings of prospect evaluation and the NHL Draft, there was a very good book written a few years ago. It is called "Future Great and Heartbreaks" by Gare Joyce and it featured the Jonathan Toews draft of 2006. The book also dealt with prospects in the 2007 draft and included some interesting views on Patrick Kane as well as Toews.

In 2006, Flyers stud Claude Giroux was selected 22nd in the first round. Giroux was another slightly built forward and had some other baggage attached to his profile. There were questions about Giroux's drive and ability to bounce back from adversity. Giroux was also from a very small town and was not as well scouted. Obviously the character issues weren't accurate and although Giroux isn't very big in size he has proven to be a top NHL player.

The biggest lesson in the book is although there is a great deal of time and money spent to make the correct draft selections it isn't a science. These are very young kids and they can change a great deal in the next few years, and it isn't always for the better. There are also many reasons why a player may slip in the draft and sometimes it isn't purely based on hockey ability.

Sometimes prospects are a poor interview, they are shy or appear awkward in a new setting. Then there are the parents who could be considered overbearing, or problems with a past coach or other players. The important point is once these things come to the surface they sometimes take on a life of their own. Players are hung with some baggage which might be deserved and often not.

Selecting young prospects is risky so a franchise could easily lean toward being conservative, especially with early round selections. Hawk fans will find out if first round pick Teravainen turns out to be a gem like Giroux, but the jury will be out for awhile.

With their eight selections, the Hawks took four forwards, two defensemen and two goalies. The goaltenders are both well over six feet tall and were taken in the seventh round with the Hawks final selections.

Popular opinion is it could take two or three years for Teravainen to be NHL ready. The others, especially the goaltenders could take much longer.

Al's Shots

To no surprise, the rumor mill is buzzing with Niklas Hjalmarsson trade chatter. In my view, there is a better than 50 percent chance Hammer will be dealt, but the Hawks could play their current hand.

There are two good reasons Hjalmarsson could be in a new home soon.

First, Hjalmarsson has trade value. He would be a top four defender on most teams and his salary in that case isn't excessive. If my tea leaves are correct, the Hawks are leaning to Johnny Oduya and Nick Leddy to be the second pairing for next season. My feeling is that will be the case if a Ryan Suter or another top defenseman isn't acquired.

The second reason has to do with cap allocation. Under the Joel Quenneville regime, and more so with Mike Kitchen steering the defense during games, the number five defender doesn't get a lot of playing time. So $3.5 million in cap space used for a 8 to 12 minute per game defenseman probably doesn't work here.

Trading Hjalmarsson won't be about dumping salary but rather about using it elsewhere. If a Suter signing isn't in the cards, the Hawks could replace Hammer with a less expensive player and use about $2 million in cap space to fill another need. There is no doubt Hammer's skill set will have to be replaced.

Two teams which need help on defense are Ottawa and Edmonton and both have centers the Hawks might want to pursue.

Maybe GM Stan Bowman will use additional cap space to pursue soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Paul Gaustad. He could be a solid third line center who can win faceoffs and kill penalties. If that route is taken, Dave Bolland could move up to the second line.

With their current cast of defensemen, including a healthy Steve Montador, the Hawks would be better off than the way they began last season. The question is whether the improvement will be enough to make a significant difference.

Two players I have mentioned in the past that would give the Hawks a new look would be the Stars Steve Ott and the Jets Evander Kane.

Word around is the new ownership in Dallas may want to shuffle the deck this summer and they have already started. The Stars traded center Mike Ribeiro over the weekend.

Kane would have to sign a new a contract extension before being a viable trade candidate. If Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff wanted to restock his talent pool with a couple of top prospects and also add a solid NHL player or two, trading Kane could be the ticket. Winnipeg will stick to a budget and if they feel Kane is soon going to be too expensive, they may look to deal him this summer. Cheveldayoff is well aware of what exists in the Hawks prospect pipeline.

Hawk faithful will find out soon if Bowman expands his reach and works with GM's who were not former Blackhawk employees.

No need to waste a lot of keystrokes on the Roberto Luongo trade rumor to Chicago. Until proven differently, the Hawks model doesn't allow for a goaltender with a mega contract.

GM's who hesitate seem to fall into a position of weakness.

For a number of reasons, some having to do with ownership uncertainty, the Predators did not quickly resign Ryan Suter and Shea Weber to long-term contracts as soon as they had the chance. Now it appears likely they will lose Suter and soon the same might be said for Weber.

For the past couple of years Canucks GM Mike Gillis knew he had a standout goalkeeper in-waiting in Cory Schneider. With Luongo's mega contact which runs through 2022, Gillis needed to be aggressive. Instead, he waited for Schneider to obviously outplay Luongo and now is stuck with dealing Luongo who also has a no-trade clause.

Interestingly, Luongo is pushing the trade issue and Gillis can't afford a $7 million back-up goalie. Luongo will posture that he will only accept a trade to Florida or another destination of his choice. Gillis has only the threat of sending Luongo to the AHL to motivate his former number one goalie to accept a trade. In any event, Luongo will continue to get paid and now Gillis really has little leverage.

In the last week or so, Penguins GM Ray Shero offered the best third line center in the game, Jordan Staal, a 10 year contract extension. It was thought to be in the $60 million range and was a considerable commitment to a player who has missed 60 games due to injury over the past two seasons.

Obviously Shero's first choice was to keep Staal, which would have given the Penguins an unequaled group at the center ice position. After realizing Staal would probably opt for free agency on July 1, 2013, Shero connected the dots quickly and pulled off a good trade.

Most thought the reason Staal would leave $60 million on the table was to go play in Carolina with his brother Eric for the 2013 season. Staal could get an opportunity there to be a first line center, and that wouldn't happen in Pittsburgh.

Shero knew the same and was able to get a very good young center, Brandon Sutter, plus a prospect and the eight selection in last weekend's draft. That's a great return for Staal considering he could have walked away after this season and Pittsburgh would have received nothing.

Shero is one of the best GM's in the NHL and he doesn't hesitate. Hawk fans will find out soon if Bowman can be as bold and as aggressive as Shero and other managers around the league.

In the NHL these days, he who hesitates is lost.

On Twitter @AlCimaglia

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