Well, it’s been five days since the Blackhawks captured the Stanley Cup and quite frankly, it’s still just bizarre to think about. I won’t even try to explain ‘what it all means’ because I still have a look on my face reminiscent of Bill Guerin’s at the beginning of the ‘Speechless’ Cup commercial. Besides, Sam did a much better job than I could have.
Unfortunately, like a cold bucket of water, the Blackhawks salary cap situation sobers us all up. Depending on who you believe, the Hawks could really be up Crap Creek because of the seasons put together by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. According to James Mirtle of the Toronto Globe and Mail, the Hawks will exceed this year’s cap by well over $4 million dollars because of bonuses achieved by Kane and Toews. The penalty for that is the Hawks will have the number they exceeded this year’s cap by added into next year’s.
So far, the only thing that has been confirmed by Stan Bowman is that the Hawks will be on the hook for Jonathan Toews’ $1.3 million Conn Smythe bonus. Everything else, thus far, is merely speculation as the NHL does not release team’s cap counts.
Either way, it won’t make things any easier.
Thankfully, there are a few easy decisions to make.
*Trading Brent Sopel and Kris Versteeg are two of them. While Sopel was wildly successful this year, it’s far too easy to A) replace him and B) fully remove his 2.33 cap hit. Sopel is one of the few players the Hawks have where a simple trade for a mid-round draft pick would be more than equal value.
Versteeg is a luxury the Hawks simply can’t afford to keep around. While it’s amazing to have a 20-goal scorer and occasional playmaker on their third line, it’s not a necessity. Not to mention, if you watch him on game-by-game basis, you’ll notice he’s maddeningly inconsistent. So that decision is pretty straight-forward.
After that, Stan Bowman and company have some pretty difficult decisions to make.
*The Cristobal Huet situation will not go quietly into the night. It appears as though the best way (see: most realistic) for the Hawks to clear the maximum amount of cap space is to buyout his remaining two years. That would leave the Hawks on the hook with about a $1.8 cap hit over the next four years. After finally paying off the Curtis Brown contract, this probably isn’t the news you want to hear.
This could take just days to play out or it could take the remainder of the off-season.
*Finally, the biggest decision Bowman will have to make will be between Dustin Byfuglien, Patrick Sharp, and Dave Bolland. For whatever reason, the local media has dubbed Bolland as an untouchable while Sharp continues to see his name bandied about. This coming when just one summer ago, people were clamoring to trade Sharp for Garnet Exelby. I think I’d rather take Matt Ellison back.
Now let me say this first. Whatever the Hawks decide -and it’s still possible Sharp and Bolland both come back- we’ll see just how far this organization has come. Seemingly since the Blackhawks inception as a franchise, they’ve desperately been searching for a number two center. Too many times to count, the Hawks have force-fed a player into the role when it was quite obvious said player was much more equipped to be a third line center.
Which brings us to the present. The Hawks basically fell backwards into a 2nd line center when Patrick Sharp was handed the reigns after Bolland went down with back surgery in November. What happened after that needs no review.
Whatever the excuse is for Bolland, he didn’t excel this year until he started centering the third line. Then, of course, Bolland’s game took off. In the first round against Nashville while skating on a line with Marian Hossa, Bolland helped bring down one of the Hawks’ most dynamic offensive players.
While Bolland was incredibly valuable during this playoff run, as my partner Bob says, let some other team try to make him a second line center.
Something tells me this won’t be the last time this topic is broached.
–Last year’s first round pick, Dylan Olsen, was one of 45 players selected to skate in Team Canada’s Development Camp. With Canada only inviting back two defensemen from last year’s team and Olsen being one of the last cuts last year, the odds are in his favor to participate in next year’s World Junior Championships.