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Marko Dano to Rockford, Bryan Bickell placed on waivers as Blackhawks trim roster

Surprises abound as Blackhawks trim roster

After the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2013, they rewarded one of the heroes of that playoff run, Bryan Bickell, with a lot of new money.

Bickell, who scored nine goals that postseason after scoring just nine during the regular season, signed a four-year deal that had an average annual value of $4 million.

But after Bickell struggled in 2014 and went goalless in the playoffs during this season’s Stanley Cup run, the Hawks have been looking for a way out from a contract that has been an albatross to the team’s efforts to rebuild amid tight salary-cap constraints. But they could find no trade partners willing to take on the remaining two years and $8 million on cap hits.

On Friday, the Hawks stated they were willing to give Bickell up for nothing and placed the 29-year-old winger on waivers in one of two surprising roster moves announced Friday. The other was assigning promising young winger Marko Dano to Rockford.

Teams had 24 hours to claim Bickell from the time the Hawks placed him on waivers Friday morning. If no team claims him, as was expected, Bickell can be reassigned to the Hawks’ AHL affiliate in Rockford and under the collective bargaining agreement, the Hawks would gain $950,000 of salary-cap room, precious space for a team counting every penny it is spending against the $71.4 million cap.

“We had a lot of business decisions to make and hockey decisions to go along with it,” coach Joel Quenneville said of his roster, which the Hawks trimmed to 25 players Friday. “We’ll address deeper into that (Saturday) when we see what happens.”

Quenneville said Bickell, who has battled vertigo off and on since last season’s Western Conference finals, is healthy and able to play, so placing him on long-term injury reserve seems off the table. Bickell practiced with the Hawks on Friday but didn’t address the media.

Quenneville said he hasn’t much in the past had to tell veterans they are going on waivers.

“There are some tough decisions we have to make and obviously it’s not easily accepted,” Quenneville said. “(With) the salary cap you have to do some tough things.”

The Hawks also placed goaltender Michael Leighton on waivers, according to a source.

The move to place the 20-year-old Dano in Rockford also comes as a bombshell after the Hawks acquired him as one of the key pieces in the trade that sent Brandon Saad to the Blue Jackets.

Dano played in 35 games last season with the Blue Jackets and seemed to be ready for a full season in the NHL.

“He had a decent camp, but I thought he was ordinary in a couple of games,” Quenneville said. “We want him getting pace into his game and getting our system in tune to his game. We just want him playing.

“There are a lot of guys who were in the same boat. We sent a lot of guys who were competing for the same opportunities here who, down the road, can play.”

Presumably, if Bickell clears waivers and is assigned to Rockford, one of the forwards assigned there could take his place on the roster.

In addition to Dano, those players are Ryan Hartman, Vincent Hinostroza, Brandon Mashinter, Dennis Rasumssen and Garret Ross. Defensemen Erik Gustafsson and Ville Pokka also were assigned to Rockford.

With Michal Rozsival and Kyle Cumiskey injured, it would appear David Rundblad, Viktor Svedberg and Trevor van Riemsdyk will make up the back end of the blue line for the Hawks to start the season.

The Hawks wrap up their exhibition season Saturday against the Stars at the United Center.

chine@tribpub.com

Twitter @ChristopherHine

 

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