So after months of prognistication and dread, the Hawks salary cap problems have finally come to a head. Of course, a lot of the problems were completely unpredictable with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane’s bonuses coming in at approximately $4.1 million dollars. The bonuses have really come back to haunt the Hawks, almost more than any bad contract Dale Tallon handed out. While Byfuglien, Sopel, and Versteeg were predictable pieces to be dealt, it wasn’t the case with Ladd.
With word leaking out, however, that Ladd was seeking upwards of $3 million, his days were numbered on the West Side. Handing out contracts of that size to players like Ladd is what got the Hawks in this mess to begin with. Add in the $4 million penalty the Hawks are paying into next year’s cap and it was absolutely impossible to justify re-signing Ladd.
Just a quick side note on Ladd. It’s funny, of the three Hawk forwards that have been shipped out, Ladd is, by far, the most replaceable. He doesn’t have Versteeg’s playmaking or scoring ability. He’s not someone that an opposing coach will gameplan against like Byfuglien. He is who he is. A solid defensive forward that can be a plus contributor 50% of the time. Yet, people are sulking over losing him like he’s Pavel Datsyuk.
Did I also mention that he’s reportedly asking for $3 million+? At least Dustin Byfuglien was a legitimate Conn Smythe candidate while making that. Ladd will never be able to boast of something like that.
Another quick place to lay blame is at the door of Stan Bowman.
Stan Bowman is as much to blame for this mess as Diego Maradona. The only mistake Bowman made in all of this was publicly saying last week that the Hawks don’t need to make any moves. The naive among us took his word as gospel even though it was clearly posturing. The result was they were incredibly heartbroken when the word of Kris Versteeg and Andrew Ladd getting dealt were announced.
The top two lines of the Blackhawks is still untouched. They still have four centers. Once Ham Sandwich agrees to a new deal, they’ll have their top 4 defensemen set. With the Ladd trade, they acquired Ivan Vishnevskiy who will most definitely challenge for a spot in the Hawks defensvie rotation while (hopefully) letting Shawn Lalonde season himself in the “A”. Jake Dowell, Jack Skille, and Bryan Bickell are three guys who will have to step in on the bottom 6.
Granted, they won’t have a pair of third line wingers the likes of Versteeg and Ladd next year, but that was clearly a luxury the Hawks had that every other team couldn’t afford. Which is also probably a reason why they won the Cup as easily as they did.
So what now?
Late Thursday evening, the Hawks agreed to terms with 6’8″ behemoth John Scott who played in 51 games for the Minnesota Wild last year. I have high doubts he’ll be anything but a 7th or a 8th defenseman for the Hawks. They’re still in the market for a stay-at-home defenseman, at least one or two checking wingers, and a backup goalie. How many of those they fill from within remains to be seen. Good thing Thursday was only the first day of free agency. It should give them plenty of time.
All that is known is that the masses won’t stand for all this change.
Let’s just hope Lebron signs with the Bulls quickly.