The 2017-18 season is basically in the books for the Chicago Blackhawks and it’s time that we start considering what lies ahead in the future, especially when it comes to what general manager Stan Bowman might want to do in the summer, now that his job is secure. However, he will need to make important adjustments to make sure this disappointing season does not repeat itself.
However, adjustments need money and, in the past season, the Hawks haven't had a whole lot of breathing room. According to the information provided by Cap Friendly, the Blackhawks already have $63.1 million committed to 14 players, including Marian Hossa, for the 2018-19 season. The salary cap is expected to rise as high as $80 million next season, which gives Chicago more breathing room than we’ve seen in past seasons, but not necessarily the flexibility to make big changes on every area the roster needs to see modifications.
Like this season, Hossa can go on long-term injured reserve on opening day to free up flexibility in-season, but the Blackhawks will still need to carry that $5.275 million cap hit all summer unless they want to deal with the complications of offseason LTIR.
However, in his latest 31 Thoughts column on Sportsnet, NHL insider Elliotte Friedman revealed that another team in need of figuring the cap space puzzle might be interesting in landing a hand to the Blackhawks. Friedman believes that the Vancouver Canucks might be more inclined to offer shorter contracts, and less lucrative ones in the coming season, and could have room to take on Hossa's deal if Chicago is willing to do something in return. Here is how Friedman explained it:
"[The Canucks could be an aggressive participant on the market] by leveraging their cap space like Vegas did last summer. We’ll help you, the Canucks can say, but you are going to help us. Two calls I’d be making would be to Chicago and Ottawa. Could the Canucks pitch taking some or all of Marian Hossa’s cap hit and/or Bobby Ryan’s contract, as long as the Blackhawks and Senators make it worth their while? (Ryan would have some control over his destination.)"
Could the Canucks and Hawks decide to agree on something? It will definitely be interesting to see what the Canucks intend to do with that extra cap room as they don’t have any expensive free agents to re-sign this time around. There are a few notable restricted free agents in Sven Baertschi, Jake Virtanen, Troy Stecher and Derick Pouliot, but the amount to keep all of them should not go over $10 million.
So there is still plenty of room to bring in a couple of good veteran players via trade or free agency - or even help a long-time rival for future considerations. Who knows?
The Hawks however have a lot of thinking to do as many areas of their game needs improvement. Maybe moving some money around would be the perfect solution to make the best adjustments possible for next season.