Even as Bryan Bickell was skating at the Blackhawks’ morning practice Saturday, he was cognizant of the time.
“What is it, 11:16 a.m. now? So I’m still here,” Bickell said after the skate.
That’s because a day earlier, the Hawks had placed Bickell on waivers, and the fact he was at his locker at 11 a.m. Saturday meant he had cleared waivers and still was a member of the Hawks. Not another NHL team, not the Rockford IceHogs, but the Hawks, and that meant something to Bickell.
“It was a little bit of a shock (to be placed on waivers), but … there’s always two sides of it,” Bickell said before the Hawks’ exhibition finale Saturday night against the Stars. “Guys move and players stay and to be put on (waivers) and clear it’s kind of deflating, but I get some spark here and I’m still here and looking forward to proving myself.”
Even though the Hawks now can send Bickell to its AHL affiliate in Rockford, the plan is to keep him on the roster to open the season, coach Joel Quenneville said.
“Organizationally we know Bicks can bring a lot to or team,” he said. “We’ll talk to him individually, like we will all the players on Monday, about roles and job descriptions. We think he can be a factor and we need him to be. So that’s where it’s at. “
The Hawks have been trying move Bickell since the offseason began. His contract carries a hefty $4 million salary-cap hit each of the next two seasons and they haven’t found a trade partner. The Hawks can save up to $950,000 against the cap if they send Bickell to Rockford, but he will remain with the team through the season opener Wednesday night against the Rangers at the United Center.
According to the collective-bargaining agreement, the Hawks can send Bickell down to Rockford without placing him on waivers again before he plays in 10 regular-season games or has been on the roster for 30 days.
In essence, Bickell must prove to the Hawks he can play at the level that earned him his four-year contract after helping them win the Stanley Cup in 2013.
“I’m just taking it as an awakening, to set a fire.” Bickell said. “I want to be a Blackhawk forever and (it’s a) second opportunity.”
Bickell said he is healthy enough to play but not 100 percent. He said he had vertigo during the playoffs last season, which affected his play on the ice.
“I don’t know if it’s vertigo or whatever it is now,” Bickell said. “I feel fine to play. … I’m feeling good. Every day’s getting better, every week. I just need to get out there and prove myself.
“It’s all in my hands now.”
It’s a place Bickell is glad he is in after so much of the last two days were out of his hands.