Tallon: "We're Not Done"
General Manager Dale Tallon talks exclusively to chicagoblackhawks.com about the Blackhawks' recent acquisitions, the ones that got away and much more.
You've signed three players so far (D Adrian Aucoin, RW Martin Lapointe and D Jaroslav Spacek) and missed out on a couple others. How would you assess your progress in free agency?
Our team is better. And the bottom line is that although we missed out on a couple guys that we had a lot of interest in -- that were star players -- it's a team game and our focus has been on character and having a solid team that is going to play aggressive, in-your-face hockey. We're getting that type of team together. You're never 100 percent satisfied; you always want to shoot for the moon. But we've done everything in our power to do what we needed to do to get better and we're not done yet. So we're pretty happy with the way things have developed.
When you include the additions of Jassen Cullimore, Curtis Brown and Matthew Barnaby last off-season, do you put the Blackhawks up with anybody in the league in terms of what you've done to improve your club?
Well, I don't compare myself to anybody. We're in the business of making ourselves better. With those people and the players we've added, we addressed some needs that we were lacking in, and we feel very confident that we're a better team because of these free agents.
With Columbus signing Bryan Berard and the Hawks signing Spacek at similar prices, it was essentially an even trade. Berard puts up better offensive numbers, but obviously you feel that Spacek brings a better all-around game...
Well, that's what you're saying. I'm just saying that they're different players. Bryan is a very highly-skilled offensive weapon. Jaroslav is maybe not quite as gifted offensively, but he's very effective and smart. He's a good two-way player who doesn't make a lot of mistakes in his own end.
How many more free agents are you looking to add?
We're still looking at a couple of quality players and we're almost done. We're seeing the makings of a team now and we're putting the pieces together and understanding a little bit better what we still need. We also have to leave room for some of our kids, too. We've got some really good kids coming and we want to give them an opportunity to fit in nicely as well.
You expect the final payroll to be in the low-30's. Can you explain the Blackhawks' situation and how it differs from other teams considering the number of young players whose salaries project to go up while the salary cap could potentially go down?
There are many reasons to want some wiggle room. The age for free agency next year will be 29... the cap might be lower depending on how successful the league is coming back and how revenues are doing. So you've got to be prepared for anything. It would be silly for us to go spend $39 million and then next year, with the greater talent pool to draw from, see the cap drop to $34 or $35 million and have to get rid of players for nothing.
This is a long-term approach. This is not a sprint. We're not going to run out and spend $39 million because someone else did. We want to make sure that we're a good team and we get better and better each year. We're in this for the long haul and we want to make sure we're always in the right position.
Looking back now on the Peter Forsberg and Mike Modano negotiations, would you do anything differently if you could do it all over again?
No, not at all. The two players that we really made bona fide, good offers to... I don't know what else we could have done. There were things beyond our control. You can't foresee that. You try to sell the city and the team and where we're going, and those people will come and tell you that we did a good job of that. But there were some circumstances beyond our control that told them to go where they were going.
Clearly you set out to get a top-line forward and there are going to be fans who will argue that, regardless of the recent acquisitions, the Hawks will have failed in free agency if they don't get one. How do you respond?
It hasn't been a failure because the first and most important thing we needed to address was our defense. We had a terrible defense and now it's real solid. It's a defense that can play well under the new rules. We'll get a lot of our offense from the back end, on the power play especially -- Aucoin and Spacek are very good at it.
This offense will be a team concept. We'll have three lines that can all score, and they'll all have speed and strength and aggressiveness -- and we're still not done yet. There are other free agents we are looking at. We tried to make an impact with a couple guys and it didn't work out, but we're still in the market and still looking for it.
The Blackhawks are one of a only a few teams who have four 20-goal scorers returning in Arnason, Bell, Calder and Ruutu -- five if you include Eric Daze and his offensive potential. Is there enough skill on the club if you aren't able to get a top forward?
Well, it's always an issue. But Marty Lapointe is capable of scoring 18-22 goals, he's done it in the past. He'll be a real asset on our power play in front of the net. Aucoin and Spacek will chip in a good number of goals. As I said, this is a team game. We saw Calgary and Tampa Bay in the Stanley Cup finals and they both played as a team, as a unit; they got their offense from everybody.
Obviously it would be nice to get a highly skilled player and we're still looking for that. We're not done. And if we don't happen to get one in free agency, there are always trade possibilities because we do have a lot of depth in our minor league system and with our recent drafts.