Bryan Bickell will surely be a man in demand this summer, assuming he doesn’t get an offer from the Blackhawks to remain in Chicago. The danger for any team pursuing the big hawk is that he’ll be coming off an impressive playoff performance individually, and his production –throughout his career– isn’t overly significant (albeit improving). Remember Fernando Pisani? He had one strong year, followed by a dominant playoff and turned it into a good contract which he never lived up to. There is always that danger in a weak free agent market.
A weak free agent market means Bickell stands to absolutely cash in. That said, the Rangers may need to look at Bickell if he makes it to the July open market. With size, a scoring touch, and a winning pedigree in Chicago, Bickell brings a lot to the table. At 27 with a huge frame –6’3, 230+ lbs– Bickell is also far from an aging veteran and isn’t your standard type of player that is approaching free agency. With a 17 goal season on his resume and a strong (abbreviated) season fresh off the bat, Bickell’s offense should only get better.
According to media reports Bickell has a good wrist shot, uses his size well and works well both in the bottom six and with Chicago’s more skilled forwards (although really, who would struggle to play with Kane or Hossa?). That said, it was less than a year ago when there were some reports calling Bickell potential Chicago dead wood. Was that a legitimate concern or Chicago being spoiled?
Caution comes in the form of the Rangers overpaying –the way the Caps did for Joel Ward in a similar situation– and making bad decisions in free agency. Bickell would likely be a a player selling his services in a wild auction while his stock is at its highest. The biggest concern here is whether these playoffs are a sign of a breakout performance, or just a one-off on a guy who is going to cash-in come July.
The Rangers may have some cap to play with come the summer (if they buyout Richards) and Bickell may be the best alternative that makes the open the market. It will be an interesting summer and Bickell could be central to the summer plans. He’d certainly make an exciting addition if the Rangers could acquire his services.