CHICAGO (AP) — Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell cleared waivers Saturday and will remain with the Stanley Cup champions for now.
Bickell could have been sent down to Rockford of the American Hockey League after no team claimed him, but he skated with the Blackhawks on Saturday morning and was expected to play in their exhibition game against Dallas.
“He’s going to start here, he’s here and we want him to be a part of it,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’ll get the opportunity.”
The Blackhawks are hoping for more production from Bickell after he had 14 goals and 14 assists in 80 games last season, and then struggled in the playoffs. The rugged winger was drafted by Chicago in 2004 and signed a $16 million, four-year deal after he played a crucial role in the Blackhawks’ 2013 Stanley Cup title.
Looking for more room under the salary cap, Chicago reportedly shopped Bickell around this summer but was unable to put together a trade. Bickell’s contract likely was a major stumbling block.
“I’m thankful,” Bickell said. “There’s a business part of it too, where we have a lot of high-end players here that a lot of pieces are moved. Over the course of the summer, I had an opportunity to stay and they made moves to make the cap, and I just need to perform if I get an opportunity tonight to play and to prove myself. Hopefully, I can stay here.”
The 29-year-old Bickell had nine goals and eight assists in the 2013 playoffs, including four points in the final three games of the NHL final against Boston. He had another solid postseason last year, but had no goals and five assists in 18 games in the 2015 playoffs.
Bickell was hampered by vertigo at the end of last season, and the symptoms lingered into the summer.
“I’m feeling good,” he said. “Every day’s getting better. Every week. I just need to get up there and prove myself. It’s all in my hands now.”
Bickell said he was a little shocked when he was placed on waivers on Friday. But he planned to use the move as motivation.
“Really show that I really want to be here and I don’t want to leave,” he said, “and you know play like I used to play and be a physical presence on the ice, and with this team that’s what I think we need and I need to bring it every night.”
Also Saturday, the Blackhawks assigned goaltender Michael Leighton to the IceHogs. The move lowers Chicago’s active roster to 13 forwards, nine defensemen and two goalies.
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