Stanley Cup Champs Face Difficult Cap Questions

Here's the good news for the Chicago Blackhawks (outside of that whole "winning the Stanley Cup" thing) — the NHL salary cap won't drop as many predicted when the season started; in fact, it'll either stay static or go up by about 5%. Here's the bad news for the Chicago Blackhawks — that's not nearly enough to actually allow them to keep their team together.

Just like the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning, the Blackhawks face a huge dilemma coming off their Stanley Cup championship: trying to make it all work under the cap. For Tampa, the solution was jettisoning key veterans (Nikolai Khabibulin, Fredrick Modin) and expensive cornerstones (Brad Richards). Will the Blackhawks have to do the same thing? Put it this way; as it stands, the Hawks are already at around the cap number, and that's with only 14 players signed.

Chicago essentially has their top three lines and top two defensive pairs signed. However, goaltending hero Antti Niemi is unsigned, and the other roster spots don't come in for free. Even at the league minimum, the skaters would need about $3 million in cap space to roll a starting lineup — and that's without re-signing Niemi. A logicial projection is that Chicago would need to clear about $8 million in cap space to handle all of its issues while maintaining a shred of flexibility for later on. Something's gotta give, but what will it be?

Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Duncan Keith are the key building blocks. That won't change. However, the support players will shift around them. Here's the situation by position:


Patrick Sharp — A key penalty killer, Sharp's cap hit of $3.9 million is good for two more seasons. That's a large chunk to take out should the Hawks move him, and his role can be replaced by Dave Bolland, who is four years younger.

Kris Versteeg — Versteeg signed a long deal that goes two more years at $3.1 million. Is he worth it at that cap number or will the Hawks get more trade value back from a team looking for scoring punch?

Dustin Byfuglien — The Stanley Cup hero is coming into his own at age 24 and has a rough-and-tumble mix that is hard to duplicate. Big Buff goes to restricted free agency after next season. His trade value is probably at an all-time high should the Hawks decide to clear his $3 million cap hit.

Dave Bolland — Perhaps Bolland's a bit overpaid for a two-way forward at $3.375 million. The length of his contract (four more years left) is questionable, though Bolland is a strong penalty killer that can play in any situation. His highlights against the San Jose Sharks can increase his trade value.

Marian Hossa — Hossa's lifetime contract comes with a reasonable $5.2 million cap hit, but a span that no team would want to touch ... or would they? For a team desperate for scoring, it could be worth a gamble on a regular point-per-game guy. And with Hossa's strong two-way play, he'll still be a valuable forward as his scoring declines.


Brian Campbell — No one would dare pick up Campbell's bloated $7.1 million contract, would they? If they were desperate enough and the Hawks were willing to accept lesser value on the trade market for the cap space, moving Campbell could fix a lot of problems really fast. Note that Campbell has a limited no-movement clause.

Brent Seabrook — Chicago's other Team Canada blueliner has one year left at $3.5 million and he'll be due a hefty raise. Should the Hawks move him before he hits restricted free agency or will that hurt their blueline too much?


Cristobal Huet — Has Huet played his last NHL game? There's no doubt that Huet's contract is at the top of Chicago's least-wanted list. Given his performance, it's unlikely that anyone will take a chance on Huet, which means that he'll either be bought out or buried in the minors to alleviate cap space.

Comments and Conversation

June 14, 2010

Dhilip Purushothaman:

Move Huet to the minors. Trade Campbell for as less value as offered. That clears about 12M in cap. Sign the rest to contracts and win the Stanley Cup again.

June 16, 2010


Campbell may be overpaid, but he still wouldn’t be easily replaced. His speed and puck-handling abilities help the Hawks transition both out of their own zone and into the attacking zone. He’s also willing to jump into the play and create chances, something quite important in the team’s offense.

And Seabrook won’t be moved. He’s a long haul player.

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