The Blackhawks continued to get out from the cap crunch they find themselves in. Late on Wednesday night, the Hawks sent Kris Versteeg and the rights to 2007 2nd Round pick Billy Sweatt to Toronto for Viktor Stalberg, Phillipe Paradis, and Chris DiDomenico.
Stalberg saw action in 40 games for the Leafs last year scoring 9 goals and 5 assists. The 23-year old winger from Sweden split time between the big club and their AHL team, the Marlies. He was a 6th round pick of Toronto’s in 2006. I’m sure the Hawks will tell the masses they expect him to battle for a roster spot next season; we’ll see about that.
DiDomenico, a center, was a 6th round pick of Toronto’s in 2007. The 21-year old is a 5-year veteran of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He battled injuries the past two seasons but returned in time for the playoffs this year where he notched 21 points in 14 games. With his junior eligibility up, he’ll be expected to center a line in Rockford or Toledo.
This is already the second trade in young Phillipe Paradis’ career. The former 1st round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2009 was traded last December to Toronto for Jiri Tlusty. The 19-year old center also played in the QJMHL the last three years for the Shawingan Cataratctes. He saw limited action with the Marlies at the end of the season appearing in 4 games notching 2 assists.
For Toronto and Brian Burke, they essentially nabbed Kris Versteeg for Jiri Tlusty and two 6th round picks from another regime. Not bloody bad.
The asking price of Versteeg clearly came down after Stan Bowman was demanding a first round pick and a prospect at the draft. With free agency just around the corner and the Hawks’ restricted free agents in need of new paper, something had to be done quickly. So Bowman took what he could he get.
Just like the Dustin Byfuglien trade, the Hawks didn’t have much choice in the matter. They needed to clear out some cap space. So gone are the guys who are replaceable.
The uproar to come from this trade will likely be even worse than that of the Byfuglien trade, but anyone who didn’t have their head in the sand, knew this was coming. Billy Sweatt was told the Hawks would not negotiate with him and Kris Versteeg’s cap hit was simply too high for his role on the team.
Where does this leave the Hawks now?
Well, they have 8 forwards under contract, 3 defenseman, and 1 goalie with approximately $9 million in cap space. They can spend up to just over $65 million until the season starts so they essentially have about $14 million in cap room as Huet’s hit will not be on the books one way or another once the season starts.
Free agency opens up tomorrow afternoon and I refuse to say the Hawks will not be involved after last year’s Hossa signing. All signs pointed to the Hawks being quiet last year and then they brought the thunder. Though, I think it’s safe to assume there won’t be any big splashes this time around. Just don’t hold it against me when Ilya Kovalchuk agrees to terms with the Hawks tomorrow.
Assuming the numbers are close between Ladd, Ham Sandwich, and Niemi and the Hawks, it should only be a matter of time before they start agreeing to terms with the three restricted free agents. The clearing of Byfuglien and Versteeg should be more than enough to open the room to sign all three.
As per usual, we’ll be sure to update any major moves should they happen tomorrow.
And just after I posted this Guillame Latendresse agreed to a 2-year, $5 million deal with the Wild. That doesn’t bode well for the Hawks re-signing Andrew Ladd. Time will tell.