So, let's take an early look at the challenge that faces our new GM. With every one trying to throw themselves out the first window they can find over the upcoming RFA status of Toews, Kane, and Keith, perhaps we should be rational (radical, I know) about what it's going to take. Rozner claims the Hawks have to clear out $15 million in cap space, a claim so ridiculous that "rozner" is now going to be an adjective describing something galactically stupid. Now, we can't predict what kind of seasons these guys will have, and Kane playing on the other side of Hossa could result in a 90+ point season and throw this all out of whack. But let's focus on what we know. On to it:
This one seems easy. Mike Richards makes a 5.75 cap hit, and you cannot find two similar players then these two. Both young, dynamic, forceful captains who bring it on both ends of the ice. I love Toews as much as anyone, but I also love Mike Richards. Richards also has three 70+ point seasons on his resume, and Toews donnae have a one. You have to figure that 5.75 number is where this ends up, probably with another impossibly long contract. Let's use nice round numbers, and say that results in a cap hit raise of 3 million.
Trickier than Toews. Because what is Keith? A great defenseman, no doubt. But what isn't he? Well, he's not a PP QB, and he's not going to be any time soon. Clearly doesn't have the hands and vision and shot to be that, at least not yet. That doesn't mean he's totally useless in the offensive zone, he's not. But his best work comes from the red line back. So if you put him on the same scale as defensive defenseman with the same +/- numbers, that puts you along with Willie Mitchell and Dennis Wideman, who each make 3.5. Now, clearly, Keith is a better all-around d-man then those two, but not by as much as you think (I still think Chara should cut his Norris trophy in half and give it to Wideman, that's how good he was this year). Komisarek, simply a brusing blue-liner, just got signed for 4, but provides much more physicality than Keith It's really hard to figure where Dunc fits. He's not Lidstrom, nor Mike Green, or Dan Boyle. The closest I can come to finding a similar player is Shea Weber, who makes 4.5. But Weber also QB's a top PP unit. Basically, I just can't see how Keith makes anything more than 5, and 4.5 would seem to be the number. Don't be blinded by Keith skills, which are so noticeable, i.e. speed and active stick. Remember what he doesn't do as well.
(I'm completely aware that someone's going to fill the comments section with something to the effect of "BUT CAMPBELL MAKES 7.1!!". Again, focus on what he does. An offensive d-man who's a premier PP QB, and there's about 10 of them in the entire league, all making north of 6 mil a year, so shut up).
So, if we settle on 4.5, that's another cap hit raise of 3, for a total of 6 with Toews.
The trickiest one yet. McClure and I spent considerable time trying to find like-players, and it's hard to do. Kane's also the most likely to see his point totals bounce up this year. The only one we could come up with was Ales Hemsky. Hemsky has the same hands, plays almost the same game as Kane. He has three 65+ point seasons to his name. It can be argued that Hemsky has never had a crack at playing with the talent that Kane has in his two years in Chicago. Hemsky's cap hit is 4.5. Now, Kane will get more than that on the open market. But to me, it comes down to this: Is Kane more valuable than Toews? You simply cannot answer yes. He doesn't do enough. Far too streaky, and who knows if that will ever go away? Kane still doesn't shoot enough, and doesn't score enough. At the moment, he's a pint-sized Adam Oates. He makes players around him better, but doesn't kill penalties, or play at all in his own end, really. The Hawks are going to have to take big risks on this one, and come to grips with the fact that some team very well might have an offer sheet of 7 mil or more. If that happens, sorry Kaner, but best of luck. Frankly, Kane can't come in at any more than 6, which isn't even a raise of 3 on the cap hit, but 2.3, for a total of 8.3 to sign THE BIG THREE.
And that can be easily done, and I maintain that they're going to do it by moving Huet after this year, if he proves effective. If you can find some dolt to take Scott Gomez, you can find one to take Huet. Huet plus Buff would be opening up close to 11 million with John Madden's deal up. If Huet can't be moved, or the Hawks don't have Plan B in net, then versteeg, Buff, and Madden would open up almost 9. It can be done, so please, get some sleep tonight.