Numbers Game: Blackhawks Take Two Wings

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Scott Cullen
7/1/2009 3:00:48 PM
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After signing a one-year deal as a free agent last summer, Marian Hossa went long-term and moved to a divisional rival.

Numbers Game looks at the Blackhawks' additions of Hossa and Tomas Kopecky.

The Blackhawks Get: LW Marian Hossa and C Tomas Kopecky.

Hossa, 30, has been one of the most productive scoring wingers in hockey, scoring 29 or more goals for eight straight seasons and hitting the 40-goal plateau three times, including last season in Detroit.

Somewhat overlooked in Hossa's game is that he's also a sound two-way winger who has been a double-digit plus player in three of the last four seasons.

Though he struggled in the playoffs, particularly in the Stanley Cup Final, Hossa was one of Detroit's most reliable and productive players last season and that shouldn't be discounted.

In Chicago, Hossa joins a rising young team that will appreciate his goal-scoring ability as it seems inevitable now that they will lose leading scorer Martin Havlat to free agency.  But, given Hossa's consistency and durability (he's played at least 72 games for nine straight seasons), Hossa is a safer option for the Blackhawks in the future.

Not surprisingly, Hossa's 12-year contract is front-loaded, with $59.3-million in the first eight years and then $3.5-million over the final four years of the contract.  If Hossa is a productive player for those first eight seasons, or thereabouts, then the deal can be manageable, but if he starts declining sooner than that, the contract will be an anchor.

In any case, this financial investment is going to present challenges for the Blackhawks, who have a lot of quality young players (including Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews) who have contracts expiring at the end of next season, so there may be more moves to come from Chicago, just to clear out salary.

Kopecky is a raw talent.  The 27-year-old has good size, at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, and flashed some offensive ability with nine points in a 10-game stretch from mid-February to mid-March. 

He figures to get a decent opportunity in Chicago, but it's likely going to be in a checking role, where Kopecky's size and willingness to get involved physically (he led Detroit forwards with 109 hits last season) should endear him to his new team. 

The two-year, $2.4-million contract that Kopecky signed is a reasonable price to pay while the Blackhawks explore the late bloomer's upside.

With Hossa and Kopecky leaving Detroit, there would figure to be better opportunities for Jiri Hudler and Ville Leino to play significant roles next season.

Detroit has enough talent that they will survive these departures, but with both players going to Chicago, the gap in the Central Division should only get tighter.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca

Marian Hossa (Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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