The Chicago Blackhawks are one win away from winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1961. They also know if they fall short this season, it might be a while until they have another shot. The Chicago Blackhawks are in salary cap hell and will need to move more then a couple of players before next season if they are to field a team and no one knows that more than the players themselves.
Dale Tallon will be taking over the GM role in Florida next season and spent this season as the Blackhawks Senior Adviser of Hockey Operations after being the team's General Manager since 2005. Tallon did such a good job bringing in talent to the Blackhawks that starting next year, they can't fit them under the salary cap. That will be the job of Stan Bowman. Bowman took over the GM duties last summer after Tallon was re-assigned when he didn't get qualifying offers to six Restricted Free Agents in time. The paperwork mix up could have made those six players, (Versteeg,Barker,Eager,Fraser,Aaron Johnson and Brouwer) Unrestricted Free Agents.
According to CapGeek.com, the Blackhawks are just under $800,000 OVER the cap for next year with only 14 players signed not including their starting goalie Antti Niemi. They have signed 9 forwards, 4 defensemen and 1 goalie, Cristobal Huet. The Blackhawks are currently 9 players away from a full team (NHL allows a 23 man roster with 20 players dressed for each game) for the 2010-2011 season and must move some of their current players to open up space for either younger players in their system, the resigning of their own free agents, or outside free agents. The Blackhawks have 6 Restricted Free Agents on the list below that they must give offers too or lose them to free agency, notice one is their current starting goalie. How much is a Stanley Cup winner worth?
Lets take a look at the Blackhawks players under contract for next season:
Toews, Jonathan $6,300,000
Kane, Patrick $6,300,000
Hossa, Marian $5,275,000Sharp, Patrick $3,900,000
Bolland, Dave $3,375,000
Versteeg, Kris $3,083,333
Byfuglien, Dustin $3,000,000
Kopecky, Tomas $1,200,000
Brouwer, Troy $1,025,000
Campbell, Brian $7,142,874
Kieth, Duncan $5,538,462
Seabrook, Brent $3,500,000
Sopel, Brent $2,333,333
Huet, Cristobal $5,625,000
Ladd, Andrew RFA
Lets Play GM
Looking at their forwards first, it would be safe to say that Toews, Kane and Hossa aren't going anywhere. However,Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg might be the 2 most movable forwards. Both players have reasonable contracts and their asking prices, especially Versteeg's might be pretty low. Some GM's around the league might wait this out in hopes to force the hand of the Blackhawks and obtain one or both of these players at low cost.
On defense, the most obvious contract Chicago would want to move is Brian Campbell. Campbell cashed in after solid seasons with the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres who were in a bit of salary cap hell themselves a few years back, traded Campbell to the San Jose Sharks at the trade deadline during the last year of his contract knowing they wouldn't be able to resign the puck moving defensemen. Chicago gave Campbell an 8 year deal worth over $7 million a season. While Campbell has been solid for the Blackhawks, he still only has 14 goals in his first two years and his defensive game is not among the leagues elite, it's safe to say his contract is not a very good one.
Cristobal Huet's contract was never a good one at 4 years and $5.625 million a season. It's even worse now that he is sitting on the bench as Antti Niemi backbones the team towards a Stanley Cup. This contract might be impossible to move as Huet has never been overly impressive and only a team with an injury or desperate for depth might take a shot at him. No team in the offseason will give up much of anything for Huet unless a major injury occurs at training camp. The Blackhawks I'm sure would love to sign Antti Niemi and his price might be high if they win the Stanley Cup. Niemi has proven many people wrong and been strong in net during the playoffs.
Only a handful of teams are capable of taking on large salary this offseason so we will start with them. The New York Islanders are a team that currently sits about $15 million under the cap floor and about $30 million under the salary cap. The Islanders could be a perfect fit for Kris Versteeg as he played for Isles coach Scott Gordon in Providence and credits Gordon for turning his career around. Patrick Sharp's speed and veteran presence would be a great fit to a team that plays an uptempo pressure style that tries to create offense off of turnovers. The Islanders have a nice group of prospects and picks that could make a trade between these teams a cinch.
The Los Angeles Kings come off their first trip to the playoffs in 8 years and management has promised fans that they will go after some more talent this offseason. The Kings have just under $15 million in cap space and a trade for Patrick Sharp might be exactly what the Kings need. A solid, speedy second tier scorer to compliment or play with Anze Kopitar. The Kings aren't the fastest team in the league and an addition of Sharp would help them immensely and make the loss of Alex Frolov easier as HockeySureShot doesn't believe he will re-sign in Los Angeles.
The Sharks are a team that will look extremely different next year as they will lose several players to Free Agency if they don't resign them. San Jose could be a team looking to change things up after failing to get to the Stanley Cup Finals with their current group of players.
The Maple Leafs and Brian Burke are always a lock to try to do something nutty via trade and they might be a team that takes a chance on Brian Campbell. The Leafs are in need of a puck moving defensemen and he would fit in nicely in their system.
The Avs, Thrashers, Coyotes and Blues are all teams with cap room but will probably go the free agent route, rather than the trade route to field their teams this offseason.
What the Hawks must do or..
The Hawks must move at least 3 major contracts so they can resign some of their Restricted Free Agents, Free Agents or move up some of their prospects. The four players the Hawks will most likely attempt to move as we discussed are Patrick Sharp, Kris Versteeg, Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet. If the Hawks are successful in moving those players that would cut over $19 million dollars in salary giving the Blackhawks plenty of room moving forward. Problem is, will the Hawks get the interest they hope to get in moving these players? Will Chicago be willing to make trades receiving less in return then their market value? Or finally, will they have to buy out a few contracts just in order to be under the cap for next season. All of these questions will be answered in the next few months. For Blackhawks fans and their players and their management, they better win the Cup or it might make for the toughest offseason we have seen a team go through in the history of the sport.