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Blackhawks Mon Sep 29 2014

Blackhawks Look to Trim Roster/Cap as Preseason Rolls On

Chicago BlackhawksMeasuring quality talent can be a tough test for any coaching staff, especially with as much of it that has come through the Blackhawks' organization in recent years. A mixture of key draft picks and trades have rebuilt a franchise, which captured two of the last five Stanley Cups and the imagination of a city.

With a nice balance of youth, speed and hockey awareness, it becomes a difficult situation -- a good problem to have, mind you -- to decide who makes the final 23-man roster and who heads to Rockford. The roster currently sits at 40, after a few young hopefuls were given the IceHogs assignment last Friday. That leaves 17 more tough decisions to make before opening night, Thursday, Oct. 9, when the Hawks begin the season in Dallas.

Making the trip up I-90 include 2013 Hobey Baker Award winner Drew LeBlanc, Alex Broadhurst and Mark McNeill, as well as defensemen Dillon Fournier, Mathieu Brisebois and Viktor Svedberg. LeBlanc saw some playing time in 2013, but of the three centermen/forwards, McNeill's size and scoring touch could give him the edge for a call-up sooner than later.

There's also the other "good problem to have" for the Hawks, and it's the overabundance of talented forwards. Of the 21 offensive skaters currently on the team, 12 are wingers (seven left, five right).

Of the 17 remaining players needing to be cut, it's likely to include a majority of these young wingers in order to make room. Pierre-Cedric Labrie, a free agent who signed back in July, likely will receive the free bus ticket, as well as center Cody Bass.

Hawks fans also should be prepared to keep their shirt on (something Cuba Gooding Jr. should have considered) with the prospect of Teuvo Teravainen starting the season in Rockford, or at least spend a good majority of time there at the onset, so as to continue to grow into the North American game. Whereas some of the young defensemen in Adam Clendening (21) and Klas Dahlbeck (23) might finally get their turn on the roster, which will be important for them to earn a little more ice time with veterans like Duncan Keith.

The goalie situation might be a little more clear cut. Of course Corey Crawford will get the start with Antti Raanta and recently acquired Michael Leighton (remember him?) battling it out for backup. Local boy Scott Darling, from Lemont, IL, will at least stay somewhat close to home if he gets to play in Rockford.

And as if trimming the roster fat isn't difficult enough, there's also the aspect of bringing down the cap numbers, which currently has the franchise at about $2.2 million over. The cap number also is something that needs to be worked out before opening night, and the thought of Johnny Oduya, Nick Leddy and possibly Kris Versteeg leaving town is a reality.

The Hawks have two more preseason games remaining before opening on the road next Thursday. The clock continues to tick on the fates of those competing for a spot, as well as the cap number. As each day passes, the decisions become a little more difficult in shaping a team looking to get back on top as champs.

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