The Chicago Blackhawks made their first big move of the offseason Wednesday, trading the carcass of Bryan Bickell and young forward Teuvo Teravainen to the Carolina Hurricanes for a 2016 second-round pick and a 2017 third-round pick. With the move, the Blackhawks have freed up nearly $5 million in salary cap space, which in the end is probably the most valuable return they're getting in this trade.
The cap space will probably be used to re-sign Andrew Shaw and sign a free agent or two to fill out the roster for next season. However, regardless of what that cap space is used for, the impact will not be equal to the negative impact that losing Teravainen will have on this team.
Extremely skilled young forwards do not grow on trees. The only way to get one has been, for some time, to draft and develop, giving players time to grow their skills and promise to become good NHL players. That takes some patience, and while the Blackhawks did appear to have that level of patience with Teravainen, in the end they decided that what he brought to the table was not as valuable as the cap space they'd free up by packaging him with Bickell's albatross contract. Add him to the list.
In the past year, GM Stan Bowman has traded Teravainen, Patrick Sharp, Stephen Johns and Brandon Saad as direct results of the cap hell Bickell's contract has put them in. Toss in Marko Dano, Phillip Danault and Trevor Daley to the players traded out of Chicago in that time, and you could ice a relatively solid 3-on-3 team.
The list of players Bowman has brought into Chicago in the same time is less impressive: Artem Anisimov, Andrew Ladd, Dale Weise, Tomas Fleischmann, Ryan Garbutt (since traded), Jiri Sekac (who was then waived), Rob Scuderi (who has since been traded), Christian Ehrhoff, and Richard Panik. Dano and Daley go on this list as well. How many players on this list are still under contract with the Hawks for next season? One, Anisimov.
That is, in a word, bad.
Now, this isn't to say that Bowman is bad at his job. He's in a nearly impossible position, trying to build a championship caliber team around a generational core that makes a hell of a lot of money in a league that does not. The salary cap is projected to stagnate, or even worse go down, this year unless the NHLPA votes to use their cap elevator again. Blame Canada and their free-falling economy.
However, Bowman hasn't exactly helped himself out in recent years either. The Bickell contract is probably his biggest sin, but he also signed Brent Seabrook to far too much money and term, a deal that looks arguably worse than Bickell's after Seabrook's rough 2015-16 campaign, point total withstanding. He insisted on getting NHL caliber talent in return for Sharp last year, which ended up costing Johns and has now netted the Blackhawks no talent at any level.
He traded Saad in fear of an offer sheet that probably wasn't going to come, and while Anisimov was a key member of the Blackhawks' best line last year, after him the Blackhawks have little else to show for that deal. And if we want to play pretend, if Saad got the $6 million he was looking for via an offer sheet, Chicago would've received first-, second- and third-round picks.
Instead, the Blackhawks are now left without three of the best young players to have come through their system in recent years, and none of those trades feels like a real winner.
This makes the direction of the Blackhawks very hard to discern. They're still going to be considered one of the better teams in the NHL, and depending on how they spend their newfound cap space, they could very well be a strong contender for another Stanley Cup next season. I suppose that is truly the One Goal.
I'm not content with just one more Cup, though. I want all of them. I want the Blackhawks to win every Stanley Cup possible during this Toews-Kane-Keith era, and I'm sure they do, too. But continually trading away promising young talent like Teravainen for the sake of clearing up cap space is not helping them achieve that. The window isn't getting any bigger.