Is it time to worry about the Blackhawks' salary cap issues?
After failing to move any large contracts at the NHL Draft, should we now start to worry about the Chicago Blackhawks and their salary cap situation? Not quite yet.
With the NHL Draft set to begin earlier this weekend, all eyes were on the Chicago Blackhawks. Not because of who they could potentially select, but who might find their way out before the draft came to an end. With names like Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell on the block, it was widely expected that the Hawks would be able to pull off a deal that would, at the very least, land them a first rounder and provide them with the salary relief that they covet.
That didn't happen. The only trade that the Hawks made came in the form of the Antti Raanta deal, as they moved him to the New York Rangers for forward Ryan Haggerty, in a move that provides virtually no cap relief. This began to ignite concern that the Blackhawks could be in more trouble than we realize, as it relates to their current financial situation in battling the salary cap.
The Blackhawks are currently working with just a touch over $7 million in cap space. That's with 13 players on the books for next season and doesn't include the prospects that will be making their way to Chicago full-time in 2015-16. That's also the space that the Hawks currently have in order to re-sign restricted free agents Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger. Stan Bowman also mentioned on Saturday that bringing back Brad Richards and/or Johnny Oduya could be possibilities as well, if the money works out.
Of course, that requires the Hawks to move large contracts out, which isn't something that they haven't been able to do to this point. Patrick Sharp's $5.9 million cap hit is still on the books, as is Bryan Bickell's figure of $4 million. So does that mean it's time to worry about the state of the Blackhawks, with free agency approaching in the middle of the upcoming week?
While the lack of a marquee move has incited panic throughout some quarters of the Blackhawks' fanbase, it isn't necessarily quite time to hit the panic button. Is it ideal that the Hawks weren't able to get the first round pick they coveted for Patrick Sharp in this weekend's draft? Of course not. But if Stan Bowman isn't seeing the type of return that he wants, he's going to be patient. We've seen that throughout his tenure as general manager, particularly at the trade deadline. Bowman is going to wait for the move he wants, rather than forcing something prematurely.
The primary concern related to the Hawks' cap situation is that it's so widely known that the Blackhawks are seeking salary cap relief and that NHL teams will essentially collude in order to damage their chances at contention next year, in addition to the potential ramifications it could have in trying to bring back Brandon Saad on a new deal.
While that would present some logic, in trying to keep a modern-day dynasty in as dire financial straits as the Hawks find themselves, they're not trying to move Mike Richards. There is a ton of value in a guy like Patrick Sharp, who is just a season removed from his best offensive season of his career, in terms of point output. Even Bryan Bickell brings the type of size, and occasional offensive upside, that makes him an intriguing pickup for prospective teams. His postseason was poor prior to permanently landing in the press box, but he's proven to be a top notch playoff performer in the past.
Not to mention the likes of Kris Versteeg or Andrew Shaw. While these moves are less likely, given their relatively small cap hits and value they could provide on those hits, teams aren't going to shy away from either one. Especially with the way Versteeg performed early on in the season and in the Stanley Cup Final, in addition to how well Shaw performed when moved back out onto the wing.
So when it comes down to it, no, there is not reason to be concerned about the Blackhawks' cap situation at this point. It's been less than two weeks since they won the Stanley Cup. They can carry enough money to take them over the salary cap for the majority of the summer. It might become a situation where Stan Bowman has to settle for less than he wanted, but it's not time to sound the alarm quite yet on the Hawks' salary cap problems.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.