Brent Seabrook Extension: Great move or financial detriment?
Should fans be praising Stan Bowman for getting a key piece locked up, or should we continue to panic about the Blackhawks' salary cap situation? Hint: It can be both.
Earlier this summer, when the Chicago Blackhawks were in a spot where they were desperate to move some cash in order to find some relief against the salary cap, there were whispers that the team could try and move Brent Seabrook, due both to the return they'd receive and the heavy relief that they'd likely find in doing so. Stan Bowman quickly dispelled those rumors, though, stating that the team had it in mind to extend Seabrook, rather than explore a trade of their no. 2 defenseman.
Fast forward a few months later and here we are, as the Blackhawks have locked up a piece of their core for another eight years, signing Seabrook to an extension worth $55 million. In the immediate future, it's an important piece to get locked up, as Seabrook was obviously set to become a free agent at the end of the year. But long-term, it's a deal that makes an already cloudy salary cap picture even murkier. As such, reviews have been mixed on the deal in the short time since it became official.
And it really is a deal that has two sides two it.
On the surface, you have Brent Seabrook, one of the league's top defensemen. He's a three-time All Star who's garnered votes for the Norris Trophy on two separate occasions. His 318 career points rank eighth among Blackhawk defensemen in the franchise's history, and his 71 career goals rank sixth. He has 13 career game-winning goals in the regular season and three in the postseason, the latter of which all came during two of the last three Stanley Cup runs for the Blackhawks. That's something that Stan Bowman noted in his announcement of the deal.
His possession numbers have always been strong, despite constantly being matched up against the toughest competition. He has a 51.8 CF% for his career and is coming off a season in which he posted a figure of 53.7, the second highest mark of his career. He plays the big positional, physical game that the Hawks have found to be such an asset on their blue line, and there isn't any question that he's an elite defenseman. This is true to the point where he easily could have fetched more than the sub-$7 million he'll get over the next eight years with the Blackhawks. So they did get a slight discount in that regard.
When you consider what Seabrook brings to the mix, you can see why the Hawks were so eager to lock him up, despite continued limited financial resources brought about by other members of the "core". From a pure personnel standpoint, it was imperative that the Blackhawks get Seabrook locked up. The other side of it, though, relates to the salary cap and what this particular deal means for it. It's from that perspective that we've seen the negative reviews pour in.
And that, to an extent, is justified. The Blackhawks already had Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on the books at $10.5 million, Corey Crawford at $6 million, Duncan Keith at $5.5 million, Marian Hossa at $5.275 million, and Artem Anisimov and Niklas Hjalmarsson both north of $4 million. Add it all up, including Seabrook, and the Hawks will be at about $49 million committed to those players. Not to mention that Marcus Kruger and Andrew Shaw have deals up after this season, while Teuvo Teravainen and Marko Dano are only two years away from free agency. We've already seen the Blackhawks encounter salary cap disaster, and that trend will likely continue now with Seabrook liked up to this degree.
There are some who look to the age as a basis for questioning the deal. Seabrook will be 31 by the time this deal kicks in, so that's understandable. At the same time, when you have a game predicated around positioning and physicality, that age factor tends to be less of a concern than someone who might rely on speed and finesse. If there's reason to question it, it relates almost exclusively to the impending cap trouble that the Blackhawks will soon face.
When you consider what a commodity an elite defenseman is in the National Hockey League, it's hard not to like the Seabrook deal, regardless of what financial implications it could hold down the road. At the same time, it's hard not to maintain a sense of foreboding as to what this could mean down the line for other players departing in the way that Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp were forced to this summer. From a personnel standpoint, getting Brent Seabrook locked up was the right move. That's hard to argue. It keeps the league's top d-man pairing together with Seabrook and Keith well into the future. We'll just have to wait and see, though, what it means for the Blackhawks later on.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.