CHICAGO – The “Madhouse on Madison” has been awfully quiet lately.
The Blackhawks headed off of the ice and into a long offseason after a Game 6 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on April 23. The Bulls fared no better in a first-round playoff series loss to the Philadelphia 76ers that abruptly ended their season May 10.
Hawks general manager Stan Bowman and Bulls general manager Gar Forman do not have to dwell on their playoff disappointments for much longer. The NHL entry draft begins today and ends Friday while the NBA draft is next Thursday.
Meanwhile, the signing period for both leagues’ free agents begins July 1.
Although it’s tough to predict exactly what the Hawks and Bulls will do in the coming weeks, one thing is certain. They won’t be as quiet as the United Center.
What they have: Barring a surprise trade in the next couple of days at the draft, every member of the Hawks’ core is set to return for another season.
The Hawks have about $8.2 million in salary-cap space, which trails only the Boston Bruins ($3.8 million) for the least amount of flexibility heading into free agency.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing that the Hawks have limited money to spend this summer. They have 14 forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders under contract, so they can focus on signing a couple of role players instead of a star.
What they need: The Hawks finished No. 6 in the NHL with 248 goals during the regular season, but a lack of toughness proved to be their downfall in the playoffs. The Phoenix Coyotes bullied their way to a first-round series win thanks to a physical approach that outweighed the Hawks’ finesse playing style.
To fix that problem, the Hawks would be well served to add at least one big-bodied defenseman as well as a physical forward. Free agent defenseman Bryce Salvador (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) played for Hawks coach Joel Quenneville in St. Louis and would provide a great presence on the blue line. Free agent forward Dustin Penner probably will be too expensive, but what about bringing back Adam Burish?
What they’ll get: The next 48 hours will help to answer this question. The draft typically is when Bowman likes to trade, and if he deals a couple of players with hefty salary-cap numbers (Niklas Hjalmarsson, perhaps?), then it will free up space for Bowman to pursue something more than a low- to mid-level free agent.
The guess here is that Bowman makes a few roster moves while maintaining his core group, which would mean that Patrick Kane returns next season despite his off-ice shenanigans. The Hawks might not have tons of roster flexibility, but Bowman will try to switch a few pieces to help the Hawks recapture their success of 2010.
What they have: Much like the Blackhawks, the Bulls have a young core in place that will eat up a big chunk of their payroll for next season and beyond. The Bulls reportedly will pay about $64 million to seven players – Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Richard Hamilton, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler – and they have team options for Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson. Backup center Omer Asik is a restricted free agent, so the Bulls can match any offer.
What they need: The Bulls need to add scoring and depth at value prices. Rose could be out until the NBA All-Star Break because of a torn ACL, and Deng could miss the start of next season if he requires wrist surgery after the Olympics.
Given those injuries to their two best players, the Bulls will need to re-sign Watson or find another point guard who can carry the load while Rose is out. They need additional help in the backcourt, be it Korver or someone else to back up Hamilton. If a team offers top dollars to Asik, they might have to look elsewhere for a big man.
What they’ll get: The Bulls expect to fill at least one roster vacancy in next week’s draft. They have the No. 29 pick in the first round, where ESPN’s Chad Ford projects them to select Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins, a sharpshooting “2” guard.
Beyond that, the Bulls might have to be willing to go over the salary cap and pay the tax penalties for doing so. Watson and Korver could return, but Butler will take over Brewer’s spot in the rotation. Kirk Hinrich could return at the right price. Chauncey Billups is another veteran combo guard who might savor a chance to win. A higher-ceiling option is wing player Nick Young, who averaged 14.2 points a game last season.