The Honeymoon is OVAH!!!

And with one gutsy swoop from Doug Wilson on Friday afternoon, the Blackhawks off-season has been completely thrown on its head.  After an early cap-cleansing with the predictable names becoming ex-Hawks, the Hawks are now faced with the un-enviable position of having to make some real difficult decisions. 

Stan Bowman is facing the most important week of his general managing tenure to date.  A couple weeks after foolishly blabbing to the press that no one signs players to offer sheets, his words came back to bite him.  Oh, the irony.  (Whatever ends up happening in this whole thing, those quotes from Bowman will be what the majority of fans remember.  While it’s one thing for us to tell you no one signs anyone to offer sheets; it’s quite another when a general manager blabs about it to the press.  Stuff like that tends to bite you in the keyster.)

After three years of Dale Tallon’s nasty habit of overpaying his own restricted free agents in fear of an incoming offer sheet, the opposite reaction has almost turned out to be worse.  Now, the Hawks are faced with a near-impossible decision.

Either match the offer and deal with the consequences after or let Sandwich walk, collect two low picks, and likely avoid a cap-dance summer next off-season. 

While everyone will be quick to point out the Hawks gaining $4 million in cap space next off-season, they still only have 9 players currently signed.  If you factor in Ham Sandwich’s cap hit of 3.5, they’re operating with about $12 million of space with 11 players in need of a contract including Brent Seabrook.  And, essentially the Hawks will be in the same mess next summer as this one.

Unless, of course you bite the bullet on Sandwich’s contract, hope nothing happens to diminish his trade value and then unload his contract next summer after guys like Shawn Lalonde and Dylan Olsen become more seasoned for regular roles. 

All of this is without taking into account what’s going on in the Blackhawks net.  

If Bowman chooses Sandwich over Niemi, it opens up a whole other world of opportunities.  If there’s one thing that fans won’t ever forget, it’s letting that franchise goalie get away.  I’m not convinced Niemi is anything special, but goalies are wildly unpredictable and if he becomes the next Dominik Hasek, it will be the decision that will never be forgiven.

There’s been a lot of talk about the Hawks using the Detroit model for their goaltending, which is to build from the defense back.  What people seem to forget is the Wings only won the Cup with one goalie who fit that so-called model (Osgood).  Mike Vernon and Dominik Hasek weren’t exactly glorified shooter tutors. 

That model blew up in their face just as many times as it helped them win it all as Curtis Joseph, Bill Ranford, and Manny Legace all took turns continuously crapping on themselves in big games.

Basically, I have no idea what the right move is.  Whatever Bowman ultimately chooses, it’s going to piss off a ton of people.  

If he matches the offer sheet, Antti Niemi will very likely become an ex-Blackhawk and next summer, he’ll have to do the same kind of cap dance in late June as well as trying to find someone to play goalie.  The thing known as Hannu Toivonen is currently not a realistic option.

If Bowman declines the offer, then he’ll have more than enough room to re-sign Antti Niemi and there shouldn’t be as big of a crunch for next summer.  Of course, he’s also down a 3rd/4th defensemen with no one really waiting in the wings, organizationally-speaking, at least for this upcoming season.  So whatever money he ends up saving for Ham Sandwich, he’ll have to give out to someone who probably won’t be worth it.

Like I said, not really the easiest decision to make.

–While we’re discussing this Sandwich situation, now seems to be the perfect time to finally cut through the JWoww Kool-Aid crap.  Since he took over, the Hawks have made every effort to tell everyone how great their locker room is and how much everybody loves each other.  

Well, guess what, they may all like each other, but you know what they like more: Money.  If the Hawks were such a tremondous locker room and such a lovable place to be, why would anyone want to willingly leave and/or put his organization through the ringer? 

Because that’s exactly what Niklas Hjalmarsson did when he signed that offer sheet from San Jose.  

So next time you read a story about how Colin Fraser and Brent Sopel used to tickle fight each other while Adam Burish and Hjalmarsson played Mario Kart Wii, don’t read into it more than what it is. 

In the end, the mighty dollar controls us all.

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11 Responses to The Honeymoon is OVAH!!!

  1. ozzzie19 says:

    I think everyone is freaking out a bit too much. The Hawks should be able to avoid capaggedon this year by jettisoning Kopecky or Reasoner (or both). Next offseason we’ll have this year’s bonii penalty to dish out to Seabs and Brower’s RFA raises. This is what the 2011-2012 Hawks look like (via capgeek), which won’t be hugely different from the 2010-2011 Hawks.

    Forwards under contract

    Forwards RFA (estimated salaries)

    D under contract

    D RFA (estimated salaries)

    G (estimated salaries)

    Thats 59.8M (including Scott)

  2. John says:

    The numbers for Brouwer, Seabrook, and Niemi are all way too optimistic. I don’t think you’d be able to get all three locked in at those prices. If Ladd is going to make upwards of 2 million, Brouwer will surely expect something around that. Not to mention, if guys like Dowell, Skille, and Stalberg spend the entire season in the NHL, they’ll need to make at least 10 percent more than they did this year thus the 750k and 1 million will not be enough.

    This is a huge concern for the Hawks and anyone who is freaking out about it has justifiable reasons to.

  3. Lou says:

    The scary thing is we hve no clue as what the actual cap number is and what is actually available. We have an idea but a moving target, a guess, or a big old ASSUMption.

    I am not sold on Niemi being the real deal. 50 Games is not one to stake a career on let alone a big contract. He made some great saves but he had some other games where he let in some real, real soft stuff. Sopel is gone to give up his body to science fiction and help Niemi out. So how good is Niemi? Has he hit his peak? He is not a young goalie per se.

    Thinking about this if you let Hammer walk you hav the option to get some picks in return. Picks are picks and they give you options. But picks fail too, we all know the long and distinguished list of first round busts in the NHL lore.

    IMHO the smarter play though is to lock up another d-man. It will definitely be an interesting few days.

  4. Wade says:

    In the days since the Sharks signed Hammer to an offer sheet, there’s been a lot of discussion about what Stan Bowman said on the eve of the free agency period. Most have criticized him for “foolishly blabbing” (your words, not mine) about the prospects of Hammer or Niemi being signed to offer sheets.

    But let’s look at what he ACTUALLY said …

    “Offer sheets don’t concern me. These guys are going to remain with the Blackhawks. We have plenty of flexibility to make things work.”
    * June 30, 2010

    Bowman wasn’t daring other clubs to make offers or predicting that it wouldn’t happen, as some have falsely claimed. He was simply saying that the Hawks WOULD keep these two players, even IF some other club signed them to offers.

    Don’t you think Bowman felt it was in the realm of possibility that a team might sign one or both to an offer sheet? Indeed, the $3.5 million the Sharks are willing to pay Hammer is only about $1 million more than the Hawks would have wanted to pay. Do you honestly think that Bowman didn’t have a contingency plan for such a possibility. It’s not like the Sharks signed him at $20 million for 2 years.

    I’m going to assume that Bowman knew something like this was possible … anticipated it … and STILL felt comfortable saying that “we have plenty of flexibility to make things work.”

    Trading Kopecky and/or Reasoner (and filling out the roster with kids) could allow the Hawks to keep Hammer AND Niemi. Maybe this is what Bowman meant when he talked about having “plenty of flexibility to make things work.”

    Let’s wait and see how this plays out. I don’t think Bowman was playing poker or “foolishly blabbing” when he spoke on June 30th. I think he was simply saying that, no matter what, Hammer and Niemi would be playing for the Hawks in 2010-11.

    He is scheduled to meet with the media today, in his first public comments since Hammer signed the offer sheet. Let’s see what he has to say.

  5. ozzzie19 says:

    John, probably the appropriate comparison for Brower is something in between Ladd’s upcoming deal and Ladd’s last deal (2 years, 1.55M per year) at which was signed after Ladd had a 40 and a 50 point season under his belt, and a cup. 2M doesn’t seem conservative to me.

    Look at what the best UFA defensemen got this year. Martin got $5M, Hamhuis got 4.5M, Volchenkov got $4.25, Michalek got $4M. $4.75 doesn’t seem conservative to me.

    And as for Niemi, the $2.5 is probably the only way he can fit on the team this year. Halak is going to make 2.75M this upcoming season (albeit more down the road), theres the comparison. If not Niemi, then Theodore or Turco could most likely be signed for 2 years, 2.5M per year.

    As for the other role players, 1M and 750 actually would cover greater than 10% raises. If they don’t fit in,then they can be swapped out for FA role players or our prospects.

  6. John says:

    Wow, I didn’t realize it was such blasphemy to criticize Bowman. I seem to recall him also saying something along the lines of “If you look back at the history of restricted free agency, offer sheets are extremely rare”. Though I can’t find that quote in just a quick search for it.

    What if Brouwer pots 30 this year? Then you’re looking at far above the $2 million, plus you’ll have to worry about him getting poached. All I was pointing out is that whatever decision Bowman makes, there’s going to be more factors than simply choosing Sandwich or Niemi. I didn’t mean to turn this into breaking down the 2011-2012 roster. I barely know what’s going to happen tomorrow, let alone two years from now.

  7. Big Tony says:

    I think anywhere between 4 and 5 million a year for Seabrook is fair and reasonable. That would be between Keith and Hammer, which makes sense skill and value-wise.

  8. Patrick says:

    John – good article and you’re right on in that a player’s allegiance (and most notably his agent’s) is moreso beholden to the almighty dollar than the team. While it would be nice for us fans to have all of the “good guys” hold hands forever singing Khumbaya, it ain’t going to happen, especially with the limited window that some of these guys have to make money. An injury or a better player could take the money gravy train away at any minute.

    With that, I think I fall in between you and ozzie19 and that even with Hjammer’s signing of the offer sheet (which was wise on his part), I don’t think that we’ll see capocalypse part two nor will everyone be back next year, which is why we have to applaud the moves that the Hawks are making to build organizational depth. This is what I see in my crystal ball:

    – The cap will go up again, possibly by a mil or two
    – Seabrook will come back at a cap hit of $5MM, and probably for a very long time too
    – Based on performance this season, my prediction is that the Hawks will be forced to pick between Stalberg and Brouwer as both will have decent years and as RFA’s will want to get paid. However, since they are RFA’s the Hawks will be able to get some compensation for moving one of them.
    – Beach, Morin, Kruger or possibly someone else (or more than one) will step in for the departed Stalberg or Brouwer next year.
    – Bickell and/or Dowel will probably be serviceable in third/fourth line roles this year which means that one (or both) will probably price themselves off the Hawks like Ladd did this year. And this may happen with Reasoner too.

    When you win, every player has to position themselves to the key of that winning season in order for them to see green. If they don’t, they’re chumps, but they’re also probably gone, unless you’re a transcendent talent like T, K or K. The best thing about this team is that they’re good and they have good options.

    One more thing – the only way that Campbell ever gets traded is if he has a year where he totally “goes off”, and the Hawks would have to take a contract back to the cap savings wouldn’t be an instant $7MM. At that point, the mouth-breathers would kill the Hawks for trading him away.

    The Hawks are the champs, and until they go through the games of next season, there ain’t any better team right now.

  9. CT says:

    For no particular reason other than I think it’s hilarious, here’s a picture of Jonathan Toews riding a city bus with the Stanley Cup.

  10. CT says:

    Hawks will match the Sharks offer:

  11. dominator says:

    I think its probably the right call to match.

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