The Chicago Blackhawks needed to move Bryan Bickell's $4 million cap hit. That much I could accept. He's been a major hindrance on the team's ability to build its roster for two years and once again an offseason of reckoning stared back at Chicago. Maybe they even needed to save that $4 million so badly that it meant trading Teuvo Teravainen, a 21-year-old with major talent. Hey, at least they got a couple useful picks, too.
But apparently there's more to the trade of Teravainen and Bickell to the Hurricanes on Wednesday. According to multiple reports, the team is going to use most, if not all, of the money it just saved in order to re-sign restricted free agent forward Andrew Shaw.
Source says #Blackhawks fully expect to re-sign Andrew Shaw with Bickell's contract off the books. Still waiting on cap number, though.— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) June 15, 2016
At his teleconference Wednesday night following the trade, Bowman also commented on the ability to sign Shaw as a result of the deal.
Bowman on signing Shaw: "This is a step in the right direction. We certainly had to move Bickell to have some flexibility." #Blackhawks— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) June 16, 2016
Bowman on Shaw: "I realize everyone wants an answer to that question, but it’s just too hard to make guesses at this point." #Blackhawks— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) June 16, 2016
This is, to be blunt, a very, very questionable move by the Blackhawks to prioritize Shaw over Teuvo. One that I'm still trying to wrap my head around because it goes against so much of what we expected when this team seemed to put a premium on high-skilled players and being smart about managing the cap. This is the unimaginative move.
Shaw is a good player. He's someone the Hawks will undoubtedly love having back, a versatile forward who can skate into tough areas and at times display a good bit of skill. With 34 points in 78 regular-season games, Shaw had another solid year. He was one of the best players in the team's first-round series against St. Louis. Maybe those memories are working their magic a tad too much right now.
Teravainen, in what was supposedly a disappointing age-21 season, just produced a 0.45 points per game figure that tops Shaw's 0.43 points per game mark for his career. Shaw turns 25 in July. The odds of Teuvo, who clearly has a level skill higher than Shaw's with the puck, taking a major leap soon are significantly higher. His improvement as a defensive player over the past two years was impressive, even as his critics pointed to his underwhelming scoring totals. Playing most of his minutes with Andrew Desjardins, Phillip Danault and other bottom-six talent didn't do much to service that aspect of his game.
Instead of choosing the player who's younger, more skilled and possesses greater upside, the Blackhawks are choosing the one who's more physical, more "gritty" and has been around longer. Chicago hasn't been shy about committing to certain core players, arguably to a fault given what the team has had to relinquish.
And in this move, assuming Shaw indeed re-signs for somewhere around $3-4 million, they've effectively chosen him over Teravainen with no other benefit.
For the 2016-17 season, Teravainen has a cap hit of $894,166. Bickell, when buried, would have a cap hit of $3.05 million. So if the Blackhawks had simply chosen to keep Teuvo and bury Bickell, they would've had a cap hit of $3,944,166 for next season. Assuming Shaw's deal is closer to the high end of that $3-4 million range, you're talking about little to no cap benefit at all whatsoever.
Oh, and those draft picks? Well, let's say the Hawks decide to keep Teuvo and bury Bickell. Then they can't re-sign Shaw, so what do they do? Naturally, they would've traded him prior to the draft in order to get what likely would've been a similar draft pick haul to the one they received from Carolina.
And when it comes to Teravainen's restricted free agency status, unless he was in for a monster breakout season in 2016-17, he likely would've signed for something similar to the $3-4 million range Shaw is asking for. If Teuvo DID end up having that monster year, and you couldn't afford to keep him, then you get to trade him for a haul much more valuable than retaining Shaw long-term. This is also to say nothing of Artemi Panarin, who will need to get paid as the Hawks continue tying up money through 2017-18 and beyond.
Now, it's important to note that, in this very moment, Shaw is pretty much as good as Teuvo was in 2015-16. If Teravainen never, ever gets better, then great, the Hurricanes just landed a player similar in value to Shaw. But the point is that the Hawks just gave up a great bet in the form of Teuvo in exchange for the older, lower-risk, lower-upside Shaw, and that's not something we've typically seen from the Blackhawks. They've typically prioritized the higher-skilled players, at least when their roster clearly needs them up top, because those players are much harder to find than energy guys, even relatively talented ones like Shaw.
From here, this all looks like a major miscalculation in asset management. GM Stan Bowman has overvalued Shaw relative to the more valuable asset in Teravainen, effectively giving up the latter in order to clear cap space for the former. It's a clear decision to choose Shaw over Teuvo because the draft picks (or other assets) would've come Chicago's way regardless, whether it was through this set of moves, trading Shaw or letting him sign an offer sheet. Now you'll have to find a way to protect Shaw in the expansion draft, just as you would've with Teravainen. Bowman said expansion didn't play a big role in making this decision.
Maybe Teuvo never gets better, Shaw continues to be an effective, versatile piece and this deal ends up looking fine. But that's pretty much the upside, which pales in comparison to what Teravainen might become in Carolina. This isn't Teuvo Teravainen as a 2016 cap casualty. This is apparently Teuvo Teravainen, 21-year-old potential top-six forward, as a casualty of the need to keep Andrew Shaw, 24-year-old third-liner.