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June 25, 2008 | 10:05pm ET
Watch out for those Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks will be among the teams to watch come July 1, says TFP Editor-in-Chief David Pagnotta.
 

[TORONTO, ON] -- With so much attention put on the New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins these days, people seem to be forgetting about one of the league's brightest up-and-coming teams.

With Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane leading the way, the Chicago Blackhawks are going to be a very dangerous team next season.

Providing Martin Havlat remains healthy, Patrick Sharp continues to shine and Nikolai Khabibulin stays on his head, Blackhawks fans have plenty to look forward to.

As good as they are now, the Hawks could look even more dangerous by mid-July.

Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon and his staff will be quite active once July 1 rolls around. Atop their priority list is a puck-moving defenseman. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were solid in Chicago's back-end, but the team wants to add a proven offensive-minded blueliner.

San Jose Sharks defenseman Brian Campbell is expected to hit the open market on Tuesday and could command in between $6 million and $7 million per season. While the Sharks are still trying to sign Campbell, and their GM (Doug Wilson) continues to speak with agent Larry Kelly on a regular-basis, the Blackhawks will lead a group of teams knocking on Campbell's door.

The Blackhawks are extremely interested in Campbell and will pitch him a significant offer as soon as they have the opportunity to do so.

Speaking to sources close to Campbell, the veteran defenseman has a lot of interest in playing for the Blackhawks, despite reports suggesting he wants to stay in the Eastern Conference.

At the same time, however, Campbell's also keen on re-signing with the Sharks if the right offers comes along.

If Campbell becomes unavailable, or if another club blows him away with a huge offer, the Blackhawks will shift their focus to New York Rangers blueliner Michal Rozsival and Montreal Canadiens defenseman Mark Streit. It doesn't look like the Blueshirts will re-sign Rozsival, while the Habs are interested in keeping Streit even though he's going to test the market.

It's been reported that another target will be Wade Redden of the Ottawa Senators, but sources suggest the Hawks have set him as their Plan D.

Even more interesting than the Blackhawks' interest in Campbell is their recent infatuation with Marian Hossa.

The Pittsburgh Penguins pitched Hossa a five-year offer, contrary to a seven-year deal, worth just over $7 million per season, but the sniper has decided to field offers from other teams next week.

With reports suggesting the Boston Bruins, Vancouver Canucks, New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers and Canadiens will go after Hossa, the Blackhawks have been quietly waiting in the background.

Will they pounce? You betcha!

According to a league source, the Blackhawks are one of the teams Hossa has expressed an interest in playing for.

Tallon must figure out a way to fit his expected salary ($8 million) under their cap. The Hawks are not going to bring back the likes of Jason Williams, Kevyn Adams and Yanic Perreault, which will free up some space, and ownership is apparently willing to let Tallon acquire the necessary players in order to get the team into the playoffs in 2008-09.

The Blackhawks are most definitely interested in both Hossa and Campbell. Whether the team can fit both of them under the cap is another story. The team might be forced to pick between the two, and they may choose in favor of the Slovakian sniper.

Acquiring either Hossa or Campbell would drastically improve Chicago's chances next season. Imagine seeing Kane, Toews and Sharp on the first line, and Hossa, Havlat and Robert Lang as the club's next attacking unit? That's a very dangerous top-six.

When I visited the Hawks this past season, it became quite evident that hockey fever is back in the city. Fans in Chicago are alive again and giving them the opportunity to watch a contender is long overdue.

While it's always hard to predict which teams will be able to sign certain players, the Blackhawks will have plenty of options ahead of them.

Whichever direction the Blackhawks take, they'll be a competitive squad come October.


David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period Magazine and covers the Toronto Maple Leafs and the NHL for TheFourthPeriod.com. He is also a contributing writer for NBCSports.com and MSNBC.
 

 

 

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