So….uh…yeah

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.

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30 Responses to So….uh…yeah

  1. Mark says:

    I don’t think your analysis of Bolland is fair and balanced at all. While you site the “bad”, the Nashville series. You don’t equally cover the “good”. Bolland’s line matched up agains both the Canucks, and Sharks top lines and by the end of the series each respective head coach broke up their top lines because they were completely dominated, on both ends of the ice.

    While your analysis of the Nashville series is spot on, it would have been nice to mention two rounds of outstanding play. Don’t forget some of the reason the Toews line did so well agains the Canucks and Sharks is our 3rd line set our first two lines up with mismatches. A lot of the credit for that goes to Bolland.

  2. John says:

    I’m comparing him to Sharp who was excellent throughout the regular season and playoffs. Bolland didn’t excel until he was placed in a checking role as I stated above. If that’s not fair and balanced, I don’t know what is.

    Bolland was great in the playoffs, don’t get me wrong. But with the Hawks faced with the possible decision of choosing between two guys, I would prefer they select the guy who is a sure thing and not someone who they hope can someday fill the role.

  3. Big Tony says:

    If the Hawks deal Byfuglien, would there ever be a better example of a team selling high on a guy? He was great after being moved back to forward in the playoffs, but he played forward during the season too and was invisible for long stretches. Unless we knew for a fact he’d be the same type of player all year round, I wouldn’t mind getting a nice haul for him while cutting his +3M contract.

  4. John says:

    Byfuglien has proven two years in a row to be a force in the playoffs. Not to mention, he’s only got one year left on his deal and also still restricted when his deal expires. I’m not sure that’s someone who is as expendable as some others.

  5. Patrick says:

    Dave Morris had a great article on this over at the Hockey Independent with some good follow-up. I recommend it – he’s a salary cap savant.

  6. Nick says:

    To add my 2 cents, I agree with the Bolland/Sharp analysis.

    If anyone is untouchable, it’s gotta be Sharp. His leadership, timely goal scoring, chemistry with Kane, and don’t forget he was a +10 for the playoffs.
    I’d hate to see Bolland go, but you just can’t afford to pay a 3rd line pivot the kind of coin he is being paid.

    As far as Buff, I’m still on the fence. He has definitely made himself a cult hero and you can count on him showing up in the playoffs, but if you can get some valuable assets from another team hungry for some Buff, you gotta do it.

  7. Leigh says:

    Bolland will be back next season, as will Sharp – he’s just too valuable to the team. Byfuglien’s trade value is as high as it might ever be right now. He’ll come back down to earth and play like he always is during the regular season, so I’d like Bowman to move him while the getting is good.

    Also, there are three defensemen returning that played on Canada’s 2010 junior team – Jared Cowen, Calvin de Haan and Ryan Ellis.

  8. Mark Giangreco Roman Wrestler says:

    I’m not sure if the last scenario of choosing between Sharp, Bolland, Byfuglien is necessary. Sopel/Versteeg/Huet (+1.8 mil) will result in a cap loss of 9.208 mil. Obviously it all depends on the bonuses and whatever Stanbow saves by shuttling guys back and forth between Rockford.

    Byfuglien has been a force his last two playoffs (much more this year than last), but you have to look at the Hawks organizational depth at Center. It’s woefully thin and whatever cap money you save by letting go of Dave Bolland, will have to be replaced via free agency. The going rate for a 3rd line center will be in between 2.5-3 mil a year (Pahlsson/Madden) and won’t be as good as Bolland.

  9. John says:

    Didn’t realize de Haan was a d-man. He’s listed on the bottom of the roster anyways as someone who won’t participate in the on-ice activities.

  10. Lou says:

    Food for thought. Burke likes to be a player in the market. The question is can you entice him to take some salary by offering this years first round pick in a package to offload salary? Is Kaberle and his expiring contract something to work on for Soup?

    I truly do think Sopel is going to be gone as is Steeg. Steeg only stays if say Sharp moves and they think he can play center on a permanent basis. Either way, it is going to be interesting.

    Are there moves to be had with Boston for Center depth if we choose to go that way?

    And the ultimate questions when does the Kyle Beach and Shawn LaLonde era start? Beach is a first round pick…

  11. Ben says:

    Damn it’s horrible. Difficult to argue against trading Versteeg, but I have emotional attachment to these players and I’ll hate to see them play for other teams. Especially players like Versteeg, who are obviously cool guys and popular in the dressing room

  12. Patrick says:

    I agree with MGRW – the Hawks are thin at Center so I think that Sharp and Bolland stay. If I could, I’d build a package to pry the first pick from the Oliers to get Tyler Seguin. Think pairing Buff and Versteeg with the Hawks 1st rounder would get the 1st overall pick? Too much, too little?

    Lou – the Leafs don’t have a first rounder this year. They traded it to Boston last year for Phil Kessel, and it ended up being #2 overall. D’oh.

    Do the Hawks match up with the Bruins as trading partners? I don’t know enough about them. Would love some thoughts.

  13. John says:

    In theory, Sharp and Bolland stay. However, we really have no idea what the Hawks cap count is for next year and how much they went over this year. I mean, we have an estimate but nothing 100% accurate. If things are as bad as Mirtle suggests, then it will be very difficult to keep both players.

    Edmonton’s not giving up the 1st pick for that. And even if they did, the Hawks would only save about $3 mill in cap space as Seguin or Hall is going to have the same cap hit Kane and Toews just had.

    I’ve heard Beach’s name flung around as some sort of cap space savant. His hit is about 1.275. If he’s not playing on the top 3 lines, the Hawks won’t be able to afford that.

  14. Patrick says:

    John – you’re right on the cap analysis. In October, I think that Stan Bowman will just end up telling the league that the Hawks are under the cap, and they’ll accept it because they really don’t understand the cap either.

    It’s going to be an interesting couple of weeks leading up to the draft

  15. Lou says:

    Patrick no kidding that is why he might be interested in ours

  16. Otter says:

    While I love Hot Stove talk as much as the next guy, I’m going to continue enjoy the fact that the Cup and the hawks have made it their goal to make sure that the Cup hits up ever single business north of Harrison in the last five days. Until their goal is met, I’m going to wait to chip in my two cents (sorry Stan… I kid.)

    How about Huet to the Flyers since they need to up grade their goaltending.

    BTW, a few of my Flyer friends thought that the Hawks won because we had the better goalie.

  17. Lou says:

    The flyer fans are still bitter talking a lot of smack on the buzz etc. We are screwed blah blah blah. Whatever, we won the CUP!!!!!!

  18. Lee says:

    The word is that the Blackhawks have either signed or are about to sign Niklas Persson from the Swedish league. Everything you read about him says he steps right in as a 2nd or 3rd line center and is a great PK and also great in the locker room

  19. Lou says:

    So Lee, were we tough enough after all??????

  20. Dave Morris says:

    “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.”

    Gentlemen, well said, and that pretty much says it all.

    James Mirtle, by the way, is notorious for his bleak view of anything Blackhawk, having been one of the more enthusiastic leaders of the Patrick Kane Lynch Mob last year.

    Mirtle is also a paid employee of the Toronto Globe & Mail, a newspaper which was worth reading about forty years ago…when young Mirtle was not even a protozoa.

    Factoid: the cap was supposedly $56.8 mil last year; the Hawks’ budget was estimated at $62.99…see NHLnumbers.com, link here:
    http://nhlnumbers.com/overview.php?team=CHI&season=0910

    If the cap goes up 2.5 million for 2010-11, does that mean the Hawks can then work with a budget of over $64 million?

    Whoever can answer that accurately gets a free baker’s dozen of Stan Mikita’s Donuts.

    There’s no question Stanley Glenn Bowman has work to do, but then, he said so as early as the beginning of the 09-10 season.

    He’s got the most valuable assets in the NHL right now…a team of Stanley Cup winners.

    There will be deals.

    Monsieur Huet may be playing in Grenoble next year for all we know.

    In Stanley We Trust.

    PS thanks to Patrick and Lee Rosenberg for the shout out.

    Enjoy being Champions, my friends.

    And stay thirsty.

  21. illinikc33 says:

    All I know is that if they trade Campbell I will be beyond pissed off.

  22. Brian Davies says:

    OK, not a sports contract lawyer here, but have a strong background in payroll and accounting. So I’ll take a gander at Dave’s donuts. 🙂

    Re: NHLNumbers.com, the $62.994 million they list is only our cap hit if every player on that list was on the roster for the full season (including not-really-roster guys like Bryan Bickell and not-even-really-Blackhawk guys like Andrew Ebett).

    That number is the total NHL salary this past year for the 34 guys who spent at least 1 day on the Blackhawks’ roster. But players don’t count against the cap while they’re in the minors, while they are serving suspensions, after they got traded, etc. So in terms of the cap, we’re on the hook for significantly less than that.

    (In terms of actual paychecks coming from the team, we’re also on the hook for significantly less — anybody on a 2-way contract is probably earning less on their days in the minors than they are on their days in the NHL. The $62.137 million figure listed as “estimated payroll” is NHLnumbers.com’s best guess at what Rocky actually paid those 34 guys. But nobody except Rocky and the 34 guys care about that.)

    The figure they list as “total cap hit” at the bottom is closer to our actual hit, as that’s adjusted for the number of days on the roster. So Bickell on a one-year contract for $.500 million would have a cap hit of $.500 million if he was on the roster all year, but the “total days” column lists him as only on the Blackhawks for 21 days of a 193 day season, so the “cap hit” column puts him at only $.054 million. The total of the cap hits for each player is the $60.724 figure.

    But that’s still not the actual cap hit, because NHLnumbers.com is making a worst-case-scenario assumption. The “09/10 Bonus” column lists the maximum bonus for players with bonuses in their contracts. So if Toews met all his incentives, he would make $2.150 million in bonuses. Toews, Kane, Skille, and Joseph Fallon all had incentives in their contract. If you add all those up, you get $5.445 million. I haven’t seen anything other than Bowman’s comment about Toews cashing his $1.3 million Conn Smythe bonus, so I think we, the general public, are probably in the dark on how much of that $5.445 million is actually on our tab.

    So the pre-bonus cap hit is a number not listed on NHLnumbers.com — it would be the $60.724 million figure listed as “total cap hit” minus the $5.445 million total of the “09/10 Bonus” column, which ends up as $55.299 million.

    The cap is $56.8 million this year. The $55.299 million in pre-bonus cap hit is under $56.8 million, so we are officially under the cap for this past year. If our bonuses put us over $56.8 million, then that’s OK to a certain extent, but we pay for it next year.

    The “certain extent” is the $4.26 million figure they list as “cap cushion”. That is how much our bonuses are allowed to put us over the cap. So in addition to our pre-bonus cap hit having to be under $56.8 million, our cap hit plus bonuses has to be under $56.8 million plus $4.26 million, or $61.06 million. The $60.724 million they list, assuming everyone makes all of their bonuses, is less than $61.06 million, so we’re OK after bonuses as well.

    (Why $4.26 million, I hear you ask? Because $4.26 million is 7.5% of the current cap. That’s just arbitrary CBA crap:
    http://www.nhlscap.com/cap_faq.htm )

    The cap is supposedly going up a couple of million next year, so our budget next year has to be in the $58-59 million range, with the caveats that (a) we may have to cover last year’s bonuses for Toews and Kane in addition to next year’s salaries, and (b) if Bowman can get clever with the bonuses again, he might be able to dump some of our 2010-2011 problems into 2011-2012.

    OK, I’m officially a big raging math dork. Hopefully my dorkiness is useful to some of you. Congratulations if you made it all the way through this post. Maybe I should be buying the donuts.

  23. Bellwether Meltdown says:

    Wow Brian, that is awesome

    It seems like things might not be nearly as bleak as some make them out to be

  24. Big Tony says:

    What the naysayers are conveniently forgetting is that our core is signed, there’s talent in the pipeline and our management, scouting and player development is not changing. We don’t need to rebuild…we only need to reload. I’m looking forward to a great decade.

  25. Lee says:

    Lou:

    Definetly more than tough enough for the playoffs but for the 2010/2011 season not so sure. Beach, if he makes the team, could fill the void the probability of Eager-Burish-Ladd leaving

  26. Patrick says:

    Okay, so based on this thread, I have two questions:

    1. Can Kyle Beach play on the first line with Toews and Kane? As John said, he has to play at least at third line or better to make his contract fit. If he’s not top line this year, how long until he gets there?
    2. This Swedish center that that the Hawks just signed, Niklas Persson – who does he replace, Frazer, Bolland or Sharp (and if it’s Sharp, does this mean he’s moved, or he just moves back to wing)?

    Inquiring minds want to know…

  27. Lou says:

    Patrick – if he is a good center he gives us options – Madden is gone. Fraser is likely gone. Maybe one of them. If some one is traded and you keep Fraser on the 4th line then he is the 3rd line center.

    Beach Lit it up in the WHL. That does not necessarily transfer to the same in the NHL but it is a good sign. If we are following Scotty’s model from Detroit. He is likely to stay in Rockford for a year. That means Bickell might be in the mix

    @Lee, Big Tony and I told you so. And no we aren’t going to sign Laraque or Booregard or Konopka and their 5 minutes a game. Beach is supposedly pretty tough as is our friend Shawn…

  28. Lee says:

    Lou: Actually there are two others in Rockford that are tough guys but I have no clue if they can play Brandon Bollig and Ryan Stanton. Both of them can fight but can they play?

  29. Dave Morris says:

    Brian>you get the lifetime supply of donuts for that one. Nice work.

  30. Dave Morris says:

    @Lee Rosenberg> The report on Bollig and Stanton is that they can play.

    Hawks could use an Al Secord type…Kyle Beach is seen by some as potentially being that kind of player. That viewpoint was shared by my colleague Al Cimaglia at Hockey Independent (who also does a great job covering the Hawks for The NHL on XM/Sirius Radio).

    Al’s columns are well worth reading, and his podcasts are excellent. He has a long association with the Blackhawks going back to the 60s and 70s.

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