With the Blackhawks' season in shambles, what better time to look toward … the rest of this season?
Coach Joel Quenneville and general manager Stan Bowman have hinted that some new — and even some familiar — faces will receive auditions.
"If anything, we want to find some chemistry, some combinations, find out about some of the younger players, what roles they could realistically play next year," Bowman said. "It's an opportunity to see, in a competitive environment, who responds well and who can take on a bigger role."
The Hawks are free to add as many players as they would like now that the trade deadline has passed, but they must stay under the salary cap while doing so.
According to capfriendly.com, the Hawks have $5.6 million under the cap with which to play, a portion of which could go toward signing prospect Dylan Sikura.
With that in mind, here's a look at five players who likely could — or will — get a look-see.
Matthew Highmore, center: He was called up from the IceHogs on Monday, a day before his 22nd birthday. He likely will get his first taste of NHL action after recording a team-best 21 goals and 14 assists in 56 games for Rockford. The undrafted free agent is in the first of a three-year deal with the Hawks.
John Hayden, forward: Hayden headed straight to the majors before he was assigned to the IceHogs earlier this season. The 6-foot-3, 223-pound 23-year-old brings some toughness. He has five goals and nine assists in 19 games since he was sent down. He has played 51 NHL games over two seasons and had three goals and 11 assists in 39 this year. Will be a restricted free agent after this season.
Gustav Forsling, defenseman: After a promising start while playing alongside Jan Rutta, the 21-year-old was designated to the IceHogs. The Hawks may look to rekindle some of that promise, even though Forsling had just one goal and two assists in 12 games with the IceHogs. He had three goals and 10 assists in 41 games this season for the Hawks. Will be a restricted free agent after next season.
Tanner Kero, center: The 25-year-old has played parts of the last three seasons with the Hawks, tallying eight goals and 14 assists in 72 games. He has seven goals and 10 assists in 30 games with the IceHogs. Will be a restricted free agent after next season.
Dylan Sikura, center: Bowman remains confident the team will sign its 2014 sixth-round pick. Sikura is finishing his senior season at Northeastern. He has 17 goals and 31 assists. He will be 23 in July and, assuming he signs, likely would quickly get a taste of the NHL. His brother, Tyler Sikura, has 16 goals and seven assists in 54 games with the IceHogs this season.