Ok, heading to the Hawks vs. Oilers game today.
Arco and Jones are still benched. Please follow the #FreeArco hashtag on Twitter. I'd prefer the 4th line as Jones-Arco-Joensuu as the Hawks aren't a fighting team and we need more skill than anything, but Eakins is sticking with what's working. But let's admit that the 4th line is only really playing when the team is up by a couple goals.
But let's look at the plethora of free agents next year. Consider this year to be the big tryout for a tonne of players.
- Hemsky? Gone. I don't see him being resigned but definitely picked up by a team. MacT has to work the phone hard near the trade deadline or that's a lot of value wasted.
- Smyth? Please retire gracefully. He's having a not bad year, but can we really see it happening for another year? I love the guy, but I just don't see it at 39 years of age.
- Jones? Tough one. Gone? He hasn't been picked up on waivers before, so he'll dissipate.
- Pitlick? Please sign him. Please! He's the future on the 3rd or 4th line.
- Gazdic? Meh. Although nice to have a fighter, despite what others say.
- Arco? Sign the guy if you can trade Gagner or trade him in a package deal. He has a lot of value, has proven it, despite his size (tops in hits!).
- N. Schultz? Maybe one more year until Nurse ready.
- Petry? Duh. Sign him unless you get that big package deal for a #1 d-man.
- Larsen? Buh bye. Good on the PP, poor on the 5v5.
- J. Schultz? Yes. Sign him to five years at $4.5 - 5.0.
- Belov? Yes. Sign him up to a few million for 3 years.
- Potter? Maybe another year for $1.5-2.0 as a backup guy. He's cheap and good value.
Now here is the big question mark?
- Dubnyk? I say sign him. If not a #1, he's definitely an excellent backup.
- Bryz? We'll see.
- Bachman? Keep him down in OKC.
- Grebs? Nah.
- Eager? Nah.
- Labarbera? Nah.
That leaves the team with this potential lineup for next year:
Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Yakupov - Gagner - Perron
Joensuu - Gordon - Arcobello
Jones - Acton - Pitlick
Belov - J. Schultz
N. Schultz - Petry
Ference - Fedun
For forwards, we need to move Gagner when possible and find a total two-way veteran centreman. Don't mind moving Jones out either.
On D, the key is to wait for Nurse, who'll need to play a year or two in OKC if we are truly committed to development. Fedun is ready. Klefbom, I'm not so sure of right now in OKC.