The Chicago Blackhawks have been trying to move Bryan Bickell for a long time and now it appears that desire for a breakup is mutual. Todd Diamond, Bickell's agent, says he hopes GM Stan Bowman can complete a trade to move the struggling winger and his oversized contract after clearing waivers for a second time.
"If we are watching things with our eyes open, it’s pretty clear that I would say his future is likely not with the Blackhawks," said Diamond, via the Chicago Sun-Times. "Hopefully, we can work out a trade. Stan [Bowman] is open to that. But making trading these days in the NHL can be a time-consuming process where in the past you could just move bodies around much easier. Now it’s not just a hockey trade, but it’s also a financial trade. Sometimes it just takes time. For some teams, every day counts towards the cap. Sometimes it can take a couple days or it can take months."
This doesn't sound like an outright trade demand and more like a public admission that the current situation isn't working out for both sides. Bickell's chances to salvage his career in Chicago are dwindling and the Hawks would surely be thrilled to get out from under his deal.
The Hawks have seemingly been trying to shed Bickell's contract since the end of last season. No trade came to fruition during the offseason, then the winger went unclaimed on waivers in early October. Chicago gave him another shot on the NHL roster after that, but he found himself in the AHL weeks later due to ineffectiveness. A solid stretch of play with the Rockford IceHogs earned him a call up back to Chicago, but he continued to play poorly in a Hawks uniform.
The team finally pulled the trigger on waiving Bickell again on Saturday. The forward cleared waivers Sunday after going unclaimed by the other 29 teams and was reassigned to Rockford for the second time this season.
Based on the comments from Bickell's agent, it sounds like he's not particularly interested in spending an extended stint in Rockford. The challenge, as always, will be finding a willing taker for his contract, which has a $4 million cap hit through the 2016-17 season. At that price, teams expect production, but Bickell has just two assists in 23 NHL games this season.
For now, the Hawks save $950,000 in cap space by having Bickell in the AHL. The remaining $3.05 million of his contract remains on the salary cap.
Diamond didn't sound completely resigned to the idea that his client's time with the Hawks is over, but it's clear he's trying to find opportunities for Bickell wherever they might exist, even if that means throwing some weight behind a potential trade. What's especially sad to consider is that Bickell might have potentially played his final game in the red, white and black.
"He’s a professional. He comes to work early. He leaves late. He works hard. It’s just to take that same attitude to wherever it may be," said Diamond. "Obviously we believe he’s an NHL player, and hopefully the future will show that we were absolutely correct. The time with the Blackhawks has been great. Who knows what’s going to happen as we lead up to the trade deadline and playoffs? But Bryan has always been a member of the team and obviously hoped he would be there his entire career. It doesn’t maybe seem like the case right now, but time will tell."