The 2017-18 campaign has been a strange season for Chicago Blackhawks fans. The perennial Stanley Cup contenders are all but finished when it comes to securing a playoff spot in the insanely competitive Central Division and, just a week ago, general manager Stan Bowman did something he’s never really done so far in his tenure with the team: he was a deadline day seller.
Now, that’s not to say that Bowman isn’t used to jettisoning assets via trade, it’s just that whenever Bowman has had to trade a players before, like say Artemi Panarin, Nicklas Hjalmarsson, Andrew Shaw, Bryan Bickell, Patrick Sharp, Andrew Ladd, David Bolland or Dustin Byfuglien, it was done for cap reasons. This time around the cap is still a concern, but the trading of forwards Ryan Hartman and Tommy Wingels, as well as the trading of defenseman Michal Kempny were done in an effort to stop the bleeding of a dreadful 2017-18 season and recoup some assets for 2018-19. In other words, this is not a fun spot for Bowman, the team or its fanbase.
But, with those moves and if Bowman can figure out how to manage semi-retired winger Marian Hossa’s cap situation, the Blackhaws could have a remarkable $16 million in cap space to spend this upcoming offseason.
In his latest article for The Athletic, Blackhawks insider Scott Powers crunches the cap numbers on the team’s roster and makes the case for a quick turnaround if the franchise spends wisely.
If the Blackhawks can figure out how to maximize Marian Hossa’s long-term injured reserve status effectively and the cap increases to the expected $80 million, they could have about $16 million in cap space to spend in July, and they’d only need to fill a handful of spots with that money.
Interesting. So, what can Bowman do with all that cap space? What sort of holes does he have to fill in on the team’s roster? Well, again, according to Powers, here’s how the lines could play out, assuming that Hossa does not attempt a comeback:
Brandon Saad ($6m) – Jonathan Toews ($10.5m) – Vinnie Hinostroza ($1.35m)
Anthony Duclair ($1.5m) – Nick Schmaltz ($925k) – Patrick Kane ($10.5)
Alex DeBrincat ($778,533) – Artem Anisimov ($4.55m) – Dylan Sikura ($925k)
Player X (?) – David Kampf ($925k) – John Hayden ($900k)
Depth forward (?)
Duncan Keith ($5,538,462) – Jordan Oesterle ($650k)
Connor Murphy ($3.85m) – Brent Seabrook ($6.875m)
Gustav Forsling ($750k) – Player Y (?)
Depth defenseman (?)
Corey Crawford ($6m)
Anton Forsberg (750k)
Ok, so the Hawks need at least four players and they’ll have approximately $16 million to spend. Conservatively it might be closer to $13 million, however. No problem, right? Now the question is, “who’s available?”
Again from Powers:
So, let’s say the Blackhawks have $13 million to play with in July after they fill a few depth positions. Their greatest need still appears to be defense. Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, it doesn’t look like a great UFA defenseman class. Capitals defenseman John Carlson, who is 28, would be by far the most attractive of the group. Among the upcoming UFA forwards, the most notable names are John Tavares, James van Riemsdyk, Evander Kane, Michael Grabner, James Neal and Rick Nash.
Bowman could also go the trade route, with the biggest offseason prize being Ottawa Senators superstar Erik Karlsson:
The Blackhawks could also acquire a top defenseman via trade. Erik Karlsson is the obvious name out there. Many insiders believe the Ottawa Senators will move Karlsson this offseason. The 27-year-old will carry a $6.5 million cap hit next season, but he can become an unrestricted free agent in 2019 and will likely be asking for more than $10 million.
Wow… Karlsson in Chicago. It may sound unlikely now, but we know that Bowman has a penchant for making big moves in the offseason. What bigger move than this? And if you’re hopeful that the Hawks can get back into the playoff race as early as next season, what better play to add than a two-time Norris Trophy winner?