Dynasty Dreams + Draft, Trade, Buy Out and Free Agency Thoughts
Lots to cover today, so little time, so I'll jump right into it.
Obviously, congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks and the fanbase. Winning the Stanley Cup is a momentous accomplishment for any franchise, but winning two in 4 years, after jettisoning half your team following the first one and rebuilding a new championship roster is simply remarkable. Also, huge kudos to the Boston Bruins and their fanbase. They made this arguably the best Stanley Cup Final in recent memory and gave the city of Boston something to rally around after the tragic events at the Boston Marathon.
Let's talk dynasty
This Stanley Cup Championship also signalled the beginning of a new era for the Blackhawks organization, one that has not been seen since the introduction of the salary cap: a dynasty era. The inevitable salary cap sell-off made such a dynasty impossible in 2010. However, with a more manageable salary cap situation, such a fantasy becomes a very real possibility following this championship.
The team as its currently configured has one of the best core groups in the NHL, along with a versatile supporting cast. Coupled with a top coaching staff, stable and reliable goaltending and renewed emphasis on team defense, systematically this team appears poised to be a dominant force for years to come.
But its not just the team on the ice that gives hope for the dynasty dream, its organizational depth, culture and way of doing business. The Blackhawks have proven they can scout, draft and develop young player better than almost any team in the NHL and possess a stocked pipeline that will ensure a steady influx of talent for the future. The Blackhawks have made themselves so appealing to players, both on and off the ice, that Chicago has become a highly desirable location for sought after free agents, as the recent signings of Drew Leblanc and Antti Raanta have demonstrated. Furthermore, it will ensure current players want to remain in Chicago, hopefully at a lower cost. And lastly, the Blackhawks have established a "culture of winning", a term historically referenced when talking about the Red Wings. Its a culture that expects a certain degree of excellence from players and is always set on winning the ultimate prize at the end of the season. And its the kind of culture that breeds championship teams and dynasties.
Let's talk draft
The Hawks currently possess the 30th overall pick and from what I've been able to piece together from a handful of sources, the Hawks could do any number of things with it.Obviously they could use it, but it seems that's become the least likely scenario to play out.
One rumor that's been floating around by more than one source is that the Hawks really covet a few of this year's top prospects and are seeking to move up in the draft. Such a move would likely involve moving a package of assets, likely consisting of the 30th overall pick, a prospect and a roster player. Consider the tight salary cap situation, I would consider this a very good possibility.
Another possibility is the Hawks pull the classic Detroit and flip their 30th pick for two 2nd's to make up for the last of a 2nd and 3rd round pick from the Oduya trade last year. Quantity over quality is never a bad idea when you're picking this low.
Either way it should be a really exciting draft. I'll try my best to have a draft preview post up before Sunday with some names the Hawks should be interested in.
Let's talk trades, buy outs and free agents
The Hawks have a number of impending RFA's and UFA's, including Bryan Bickell, Viktor Stalberg, Marcus Kruger, Nick Leddy, Ray Emery, Michal Roszival and Michal Handzus and a tight salary cap situation, with just over $2 million in space for next season. Obviously not everyone can come back so let's go over who will probably be departing this summer.
Starting with compliance buy outs, the Hawks announced today that they intend to use compliance buyouts on Rostislav Olesz and Steve Montador. Both didn't play a game for the Hawks this season and both make over $2 million, freeing up around $5 million in cap space.
Viktor Stalberg's impending raise and constant benching during the playoffs were a good indicator that he likely isn't sticking around. Ray Emery likely priced himself out of Chicago with his stellar season and the the signing of Antti Raanta makes him expendable. Michal Handzus is probably bound for retirement. Michal Roszival is 50/50 to resign; on the onehand he was an excellent third pairing defenseman but on the other his superb playoff will likely increase interest in him and thus his cost.
Onto guys the Hawks should get deals done with, starting with Bryan Bickell. By all accounts the Hawks don't want to lose Bickell. He could get $3.5 million on the open market but will likely leave some money on the table to stay in Chicago. My guess: he resigns with the Hawks at $3-3.2 million per season for 3-4 years. Bit of an overpayment considering his resume but his skillset and value to the team is too great to let go.
Regarding Nick Leddy, GM Stan Bowman announced today that he expects to negotiate a contract with him. Considering he's RFA, not arbitration eligible and doesn't have a huge resume, I would expect a two-year deal at between $2-2.5 million a year. But if the two sides are too far apart, look for Leddy to maybe be part of a package to move up in the draft.
For Marcus Kruger, same situation as Leddy. Look for a two or three year deal at about a $1 million.
Lastly, Pierre Lebrun reported on Twitter today that Dave Bolland is very much in play as a trade candidate, which makes sense considering his cap hit and what he could bring back in a trade. There's a long list of candidates that could fill Bolland's shoes as the third line center, so he is expendable in a way. But there's no question, if he does get traded, that he had an amazing run with the Hawks.
All for today. Talk to you soon!