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Blackhawks reassign Nick Schmaltz, 3 others to AHL in salary cap move

The Blackhawks are banking salary cap space during their bye week.

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Chicago Blackhawks Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks have reassigned Nick Schmaltz, Gustav Forsling, Vinnie Hinostroza, and Tanner Kero to the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs, the team announced Sunday. Michal Rozsival was also activated from injured reserve. The moves are purely being made for salary cap purposes, and all four rookies will likely be called back up to the NHL before the Blackhawks’ next game.

As part of an agreement between the NHL and NHLPA, the Blackhawks have the next five days off as part of their “bye week” for the season. The team’s next game won’t come until next Saturday at home against the Edmonton Oilers.

That opened up a nice opportunity for some salary cap trickery, and GM Stan Bowman happily obliged Sunday morning. By sending Schmaltz, Forsling, Hinostroza, and Kero to the AHL for the next few days, the team will effectively bank salary cap space that can be used at the trade deadline or to pay for bonuses following the season.

The way the NHL salary cap works, the Blackhawks have a daily cap hit number for all 185 days during the season. The team’s final cap hit total for the entire season is simply an average of its daily cap hit for those 185 days. So when the Blackhawks lower their daily cap hit ($69.5 million after the reassignments), it allows them to add cap space later in the season while keeping their projected final average cap hit below the upper limit of $73 million.

Schmaltz, Forsling, Hinostroza, and Kero are waivers-exempt, so they could be sent down without needing to clear waivers. You also can’t go below 20 players on the active roster, which explains why Rozsival was activated.

This is often how cap-strapped teams acquire seemingly too-expensive players at the trade deadline, and it’s a key way that the league’s big budget teams work the system to maintain some semblance of flexibility. By sending down the four rookies for just the next few days, the team should add roughly $100,000 in salary cap space to its year-end books.

If the Blackhawks are eyeing a trade deadline acquisition, it should open up even more space, although you shouldn’t go with Cap Friendly’s current $6.3 million projection as that assumes the Hawks will roll with 11 forwards until March 1, which obviously won’t happen. That projection will drop significantly once the four rookies are back on the books next weekend. Cap Friendly says the moves will add a smaller sum of $477,360 in salary cap space at the trade deadline, which should push its deadline cap space over $2 million.

But if you were sitting at home on Sunday morning, enjoying a nice of cup of coffee when you were befuddled by the Blackhawks demoting a bunch of talented players, here’s your explanation. It’s just some good ol’ fashioned salary cap manipulation, and they should all be back soon enough.