Bowman clears more cap space by trading Marty Reasoner

In an effort to free up enough cap space to re-sign restricted free agent Antti Niemi, Stan Bowman traded Marty Reasoner and his $1,150,000 cap hit to the Panthers. In return, the Hawks received 29-year-old journeyman, Jeff Taffe ($550,000 cap hit). Bowman’s latest move is nothing more than a salary dump. Taffe should play most of the season with Rockford, and he may make a rare appearance with the Blackhawks on a bottom line if needed.

Today’s trade is a tell-tale sign that Bowman is going to re-sign Niemi. Hopefully they can come to terms before the scheduled arbitration hearing on July 29. As it stands right now, the Blackhawks have sixteen players locked-up with $138,410 cap space.

Cristobal Huet’s ($5,625,000) cap hit will come off the books before the season starts, but the organization will have his contract count against them till they can send it to Rockford. The collective bargaining agreement allows any team to go over the cap ceiling by 10%, and the Hawks will use that space to re-sign Jordan Hendry and Bryan Bickell on top of Niemi.

The 2010-11 Blackhawks’ cap ceiling ($59,400,000) plus the 10% summer cushion ($5,940,000) equals to a summer ceiling of $65,340,000. So the Blackhawks have $6,013,410 cap space with the summer cushion. As I mentioned above, Bowman will use this space until he needs to have his roster legal by opening night. When you take out Huet’s cap hit from the equation, the Blackhawks actually have $5,763,410 to work with.

Hawks re-sign Evan Brophey

The Blackhawks re-signed 23-year-old center Evan Brophey to a one-year deal worth $500,000. He played 79 games in Rockford last season with 14 goals and 17 assists. Going into the off-season there is no way I would have thought Brophey would crack the Blackhawks roster out of training camp, but a cap friendly hit might have an effect on where he plays come fall.

Bryan Bickell inks three-year deal

Stan Bowman can cross another item off his to-do list by re-signing forward Bryan Bickell to a three-year deal worth $1,625,000. He is slated to make $500,000 in 2010-11, $525,000 in 2011-12 and $600,000 in 2012-13, which is a cap hit of $541,666. It’s a small raise compared to the $500,000 Bickell earned last season, but he’s guaranteed a spot on the Blackhawks’ roster because of his price tag. I thought he was going to get $550,000 per year. Every penny counts.

Bickell could have a Ladd-like role down the road, but should begin the season on the fourth line. In fourteen regular season games Hawks last year, Bickell had three goals with one assist. He also skated in four post-season matches.

Next, Bowman and company have Jordan Hendry and Antti Niemi to take care of. Hendry will get a deal done with the same cap hit he had last season ($625,000), which should be possible because the Hawks didn’t tender him a qualifying offer making him an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

With Niemi, on the other hand, it’s difficult to foresee what will happen. Bowman is making the extra effort to re-sign his goaltender by signing guys like Bickell to minimum deals, and trading away inexpensive pieces such as Marty Reasoner. Anything over a cap hit of $2,500,000 could force the Blackhawks to walk, or trade Tomas Kopecky ($1,200,000).

Two more signed

The Hawks signed restricted free agent Nathan Davis and free agent forward Hugh Jessiman to one-year deals worth $500,000. Both will spend the 2010-11 season with Rockford where they are to earn significantly less (Davis – $75,000; Jessiman – $105,000) in the AHL as they have two-way deals. Jessiman was selected 12th overall in the 2003 entry draft, and has yet to play a game in the NHL.

Silvertips trade Byron Froese to the Rebels

Byron Froese, the Blackhawks fourth round (119 overall) selection of the 2009 draft, was traded by the Everett Silvertips (WHL) to the Red Deer Rebels (WHL). He was traded with a third round pick in 2012 for center/right winger Landon Ferraro – a prospect in the Red Wings system. In 70 games with the Silvertips, Froese scored 29 goals with 32 assists in his second season with the club. He was at the Blackhawks’ prospect camp earlier this month, and he looked good out there on the ice – good skater, big body and a hard shot.

Toronto Rookie Tournament

The Blackhawks will send a full squad of prospects to London, Ontario to participate in this season Maple Leafs Rookie Tournament in September. The Senators, Penguins and Maple Leafs, of course, will also field teams. Top prospects Kyle Beach, Shawn Lalonde and Jeremy Morin are already slated to play, but a complete roster is expected to be announced sometime down the road.

Good thing I have a ton of family in the London area, and one of them will have the hono(u)r of hosting me for the weekend of the tournament. If that doesn’t happen, hopefully it will be televised on the NHL Network.

Delivering New Plants

Considering they were traveling from Devon all the way to Tatton Park, it’s no surprise our plants didn’t arrive on time!  So, they have snuggled up with us here at the campsite for the night (not literally, though I was tempted to keep them safe!).  They were packed into a 7.5 tonne, and with Pam made the long journey and arrived at half 7 this evening.  They look brilliant, and given the unpredictable weather we’ve had this year, I can say I’m very pleased with the outcome.  As ever, we will pick and choose to get the best specimens for the garden, and I can safely say for now I have plenty to choose from!  Remains to be seen tomorrow….

Another lorry of plants!

Colours and textures

Borage in the trailer

Our New Planting Tactic for Spring 2018

Day 9 has been all about the plants, with a few construction bits to finish off too.  Since our plants were kept overnight with us at the campsite, the first order of the day was renting a transit and ferrying them to site, which ended up taking nearly all day in 5 different trips!  Ah well, they are on site now and happily awaiting their setting out tomorrow.

We finalized the Carpinus hedge planting most of today as well.  They took a fair amount of jiggery pokery to get level and lined up.  With the geometry of the layout, they too had to be lined up along both the length of the garden, as well as the width. They’ve now created a brilliant, but subtle, frame to the garden.  The breaks in the length of the hedge are offering lovely vistas across the garden, punctuating the geometry and softening the edges.

View from side over looking the hedges

View along the length of the hedges

Busy bees!

The first section of wildflower turf was also laid today, and it looks fantastic!!  We had the wildflower turf grown at Lindum turf in Yorkshire, and I couldn’t be happier.  Some have said it’s the best they’ve ever seen!  For a truly instant garden, I’d say this is the way to go.  The way the wildflowers nestle around the apple tree is exactly the image I was trying to create.  It transforms the garden into a very inviting and enticing space, and once the benches are brought in amongst the turf, the garden will transform into a space to spend time in, not just a space to view (though the view so far is spectacular!).

The first bed of wildflower turf

Mr. Matt James having a weed-through

Leddy leaves Golden Gophers, and signs entry-level deal

Nick Leddy, former defenseman of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, signed a three-year deal worth $2,700,000 with the Blackhawks this afternoon. The exact details of the contract have yet to be released, but Leddy will be on the books with a cap hit of $900,000 each year. Once he signed the dotted line his collegiate career over, but he still has junior level (CHL) eligibility. Leddy is leaving the University of Minnesota after one year in the program. He had 3 goals and 8 assists in 30 matches in 2009-10. Leddy did suffer a broken jaw that kept him sidelined for nine games.

There were murmurs that Leddy was in talks with Stan Bowman and company regarding an entry-level deal. I chalked it up to nothing more than message board gossip, and quickly forget about the rumor. It made little sense to me then. He wasn’t all that impressive in his freshman year as a Golden Gopher. The Minnesota Wild’s opinion of their 2009 first round (16 overall) draft pick soured as a result, and the Blackhawks were able to acquire Leddy in the Cam Barker for Kim Johnsson deal.

The Blackhawks came to a different conclusion then the Wild. The problem wasn’t Leddy. It was the Gophers’ hockey program. According to Gopher Puck Live, the reason for Leddy’s lack of production last season was because the 2009-10 squad was “one of the worst goal-scoring Gopher teams in history.” Under Don Lucia the once rich hockey program regressed. They haven’t been to the post-season in two seasons.

It sounds as though the Blackhawks are saving the top prospect from a bad situation by signing Nick Leddy to an entry-level deal, and Bowman can justify because of his performance at prospect camp. I liked what I saw from Leddy at the camp, but don’t think he needs to be rushed to the AHL at this point. The 19-year-old Leddy could use more seasoning elsewhere, and add more bulk to his 5’11” 179lbs. frame.

A few things that must be said about the signing of Nick Leddy is that 1) this doesn’t mean Brian Campbell will be traded, 2) he won’t be in competition for a roster spot out of training camp, and 3) he’s still eligible to play in the CHL. So get those dirty little thoughts out of your mind.

IceHogs ink Palmer and Leblanc

The Rockford IceHogs signed Joe Palmer and Peter Lablanc to AHL/ECHL contracts. Palmer and Leblanc were in attendance at the Blackhawks’ prospect camp earlier in this month, but were rather unimpressive. Because they signed deals with the IceHogs they’re technically not in the Blackhawks’ system any longer, thus they are stricken from the ‘In the Organization’ page.

Day 10 – Setting out the garden begins!

The garden really began to take shape today, with hedges completed and the beds prepared for planting.  The wildflower turf was laid in most of the beds, and it is proving to be a wonderful complement to the surrounding planting.  The day was occupied mostly with setting out the plants into their (somewhat) final composition, and with much shifting and adjusting, and the very helpful perspectives of the whole team, we managed to achieve a layout we were happy with!

We’ve created a beautiful juxtaposition between the controlled layout of the perennials and the relaxed and more randomly scattered planting matrix existing in the meadow.  The colour scheme is also proving to be a brilliant contrast/complement situation.  The meadow contains a fair amount of yellow, while the perennial planting is  more subdued palette of lavenders, blues and pinks, with green foliage to offset the tones in the planting.

The first of the wildflower turf is laid

The planting design is taking shape

Meadow close-up, and check out the tree shadow!

A much-needed drink

View from the front left of the garden- best view for the ‘designed’ planting

Meadow close-up, looking along the garden

Blackhawks on hold as they wait for Niemi’s number

Antti Niemi and his agent Bill Zito met with the Blackhawks in Toronto to plead their respective cases in front of an arbitrator because they were unable to come to an agreement before yesterday’s hearing. A ruling is expected to be made on Saturday. From what I’ve been reading Niemi’s camp has their hearts set on a number above a $3 million cap hit. Knowing the Blackhawks’ cap situation, it becomes hard to believe all the rhetoric that Zito fed the media regarding his client’s desire to play for Chicago next season.

In Stan Bowman’s conference call earlier in the evening, he said:

“Depending on where it comes in, it’s going to dictate what we have to do. We’re going to try to make it work, but it’s hard – we’re kind of playing a guessing game and I don’t want to speculate because I don’t know where it’s going to be.

“There are numbers that we have in mind which would make it more easy to fit him in versus really difficult to fit him in. We’re just going to have to wait and see.”

The impartial arbitrator will have to either pick the number the Blackhawks submitted, the number Niemi’s camp submitted or choose a salary somewhere in between. If the arbitrator sides in favor of the 26-year-old goaltender, it will likely force Bowman and company to move on. The Blackhawks will have 48 hours to sign Niemi, trade him or walk, thus making him an unrestricted free agent.

Anything above a $2.5 million cap hit could be detrimental to the Blackhawks ability to field a roster of twenty skaters and two goaltenders. It wouldn’t surprise me if Bowman had deals already in place if Niemi’s price tag is too high. There have been rumors floating around that Bowman has already talked to Jose Theodore and Marty Turco, and that suitors have called regarding Niemi’s availability. In one last-ditch-effort to keep their goaltender around, the Blackhawks could move Tomas Kopecky and his $1.2 million cap hit.

Chicago’s net belongs to Corey Crawford

Along with the announcement that Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Viktor Stalberg won’t lace up for Sunday night’s match against the Los Angeles Kings, Coach Quenneville stated that he will turn to Corey Crawford once again. It will be his third consecutive start, and his tenth start in the last 13 games for the Blackhawks. After Marty Turco was pulled 20 minutes and four goal into Monday’s game in Colorado, any residual goaltending controversy ended.

Going into the season there was always the chance Crawford would un-seat Turco, but I for one never gave thought it would ever happen. In my experience covering the Blackhawks and their prospects for three seasons, Crawford didn’t have the skill-set to be a starter at this level. He didn’t move well within the crease, and his rebound control left a lot to be desired. I had my apprehensions whether he’d be an adequate backup.

What we saw Friday night from the 25-year-old rookie in the 4-1 victory over the Red Wings was one of this better performances in his short career. He was quick, moved well from side-to-side, he didn’t give up any juicy rebounds and stopped 29 of the 30 shots faced. Detroit’s only tally happened after the puck took a generous bounce off the backboards, and Crawford couldn’t recover in time.

The starting gig is his to be lost.

Come season end, the Blackhawks’ brass will be faced with a similar problem last summer with Antti Niemi. Granted they won’t be faced with the payroll problems, as the salary cap ceiling is expected to rise again on top of the $4M is performance bonus penalties will be alleviated, but they will have a goaltender in their mid-20s with an expiring contract (RFA).

Don’t expect the same outcome, however. The Blackhawks have nothing in the pipeline that is anywhere close to being NHL-ready and I doubt Bowman will turn to the free agent pool keeping the goaltending carousel spinning. Crawford is the Blackhawks’ goaltender for the immediate future.

Warm up to Nick Leddy

Nick Leddy was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs on Monday. Per usual, the move was made in order to circumvent the cap free up cap space. According to, the Blackhawks will save $6,007 each day the 19-year-old defenseman isn’t on the roster. It’s a given he’ll back with the NHL club before Saturday’s game against the Red Wings.

In eleven games with the Hawks, Leddy has tallied only one goal – a fluky one at that. His defensive positioning is suspect, his back-checking leaves a lot to be desired and he needs to be strong in front of the net. Leddy’s development would benefit from playing games at the AHL level, but the Blackhawks need him rounding out their third defensive pairing. With him in the lineup – since he was re-called earlier this month – the Blackhawks are 4-0-1.

The recent success is less about the addition of Leddy to the blue line, but more so the subtraction of Nick Boynton from it. The Blackhawks are willing to sit through the growing pains with the former. Leddy and Jordan Hendry give them the best chance to win, which is why the organization was willing to burn a year on his entry-level contract to keep him in Chicago.

This won’t be the last time Leddy will be demoted to Rockford, as the Blackhawks are right up against the cap ceiling. Despite how you feel about him or his readiness, he’s going to be part of the defensive corps indefinitely, or as long as Boynton has the ‘flu’