Blackhawks' Bryan Bickell ready to cash in as free agent

Blackhawks forward Brian Bickell reacts after scoring against the Kings during Game 3 of the NHL...

Blackhawks forward Brian Bickell reacts after scoring against the Kings during Game 3 of the NHL Western Conference final at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, June 4, 2013. (MIKE BLAKE/Reuters)

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:27 PM ET

CHICAGO - What's the big deal about big Bryan Bickell?

With his playoff scoring spree, the Blackhawks forward has assured himself of being not only a major story of the post-season but of the rapidly approaching off-season as well.

If it weren't for teammate Patrick Kane's tap-in of a goal -- it would have been Bickell's -- Thursday, the 6-foot-4, 233-pound forward would have had a share of the post-season goal-scoring lead, with nine.

As it was, he added his eighth of the playoffs to make him arguably the top surprise performer so far.

High among the reasons for his emergence as a scoring threat is that Bickell has made a concerted effort to develop some hands to go along with the imposing presence he provides in front of the opposition net. He also took the advice of teammates Jonathan Toews and Marion Hossa, who implored him not to be so hasty to get rid of the puck.

"I know Hossa and Toews emphasize holding onto the puck and not just throwing it away when you are pressed," Bickell said. "Use your size. Hossa is probably the best guy in the league at protecting the puck. Just to look at him, it gives me confidence to do it, too."

That confidence will soon lead to some serious cash.

As an unrestricted free agent, Bickell will be among the biggest names as the July 5 free-agent frenzy approaches.

Bickell, who at a salary of $600,000 is one of the lowest-paid forwards still in the playoffs, will likely be worth at least four times that much when the ink dries on whatever new deal he decides on.


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