The Chicago Blackhawks, who yesterday promoted Dale Tallon to general manager and fired coach Brian Sutter, are positioning themselves to beat out teams such as the Maple Leafs for free agents under the future collective bargaining agreement.
With just $13.5 million US committed to eight players (not including restricted and unrestricted free agents), Tallon promised the usually tightwad Hawks would be active in what's expected to be an unprecedented free-agent market this summer. Teams such as the Leafs have the opposite problem of the Hawks -- too much money tied up in too few contracted players --though there is talk that clubs will have a one-time chance in the CBA to buy out any player without the money counting against the cap.
"This is a new beginning," said Tallon, who had been the Hawks' assistant GM. "We are in position to sit there and see which are the players we'd like to have."
Sutter, who had been the Hawks coach for three years but had just one winning season and one playoff appearance, was let go as part of Tallon's changes.
Tallon identified Trent Yawney, the coach of Norfolk, the Hawks' American Hockey League affiliate, as the leading candidate to replace Sutter.
HOCKEY NIGHT IN CHINA
New York Islanders general manager Mike Milbury spent part of the lockout investigating new hockey frontiers in China. He scouted games in Harbin and QiQihar, cities which have teams in the Asian Hockey League with Japan and Korea.
But according to Leafs player personnel boss Mike Penny, the Griffiths family, the former owners of the Vancouver Canucks, had the same idea years ago. Penny is not averse to the idea of the Leafs sending scouts to China, but gave the impression he doesn't think it's a ripe enough market yet.
"We don't leave anything unturned," Penny said. "We've covered all the bases around the world. Slovenia might be the next place to look, given (its) record in recent games."