The Chicago Blackhawks have traded forwards Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom plus a 2017 third-round pick to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for defensemen Dennis Robertson and Jake Massie plus a 2017 fifth-round pick, the teams announced Friday. The move frees up at least $2.2 million in cap space as the Hawks work to get under the cap before the start of the 2015-16 season.
Versteeg was always considered a possible trade candidate this summer due to Chicago's issues with staying below the $71.4 million salary cap. Now he's the latest casualty of a busy summer that's also seen Patrick Sharp, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards, Johnny Oduya and others leave due to the team's need to free up space for massive raises to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
By trading Versteeg's cap hit of $2.2 million, the Blackhawks now have roughly $68.9 million committed to 20 players for the upcoming season. That gives the team just over $2.4 million in cap space, but the roster presently doesn't include unsigned RFA Marcus Kruger or young Russian winger Artemi Panarin, both of whom are expected to be key contributors in Chicago in 2015-16. Adding those two players plus a seventh defenseman will put the team right back up near the cap, and that's before even touching the performance bonuses in Panarin's contract.
All that shows how necessary it was for Chicago to move salary, even if it meant giving up a talented, reasonably paid player like Versteeg along with a good depth piece in Nordstrom. The return on the deal isn't much -- Robertson's a longtime AHLer, Massie was a 2015 sixth-round pick -- but the real value comes from being able to re-sign Kruger and fill out the roster.