Daily Egyptian

Blackhawks face new salary cap, cuts to come

By Brent Meske, @brentmeskeDE

Much the same as 2010, the Chicago Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup and amid the celebration, the team will have to make cuts to their championship roster.

On Tuesday, the National Hockey League announced the salary cap would be raised to $71.4 million next year with the floor at $52.8 million for the 23-man rosters.

Currently, the Blackhawks are spending just more than $64 million on 14 players and have seven unrestricted and four restricted free agents on the NHL roster.

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This leaves the Blackhawks with nine open roster spots and just less than $7.4 million to work with.

Where do the Blackhawks need bodies? Well, for once, everywhere but goalie. All three Blackhawks goaltenders have contracts through next season. Corey Crawford’s contract expires in 2020, Antti Raanta’s next year and the Hawks still have two more years of Scott Darling.

Either Raanta or Darling will be in Rockford next season. If it’s Raanta, that gives the Blackhawks $750,000 to work with. If it’s Darling, the Hawks will clear up $587,500.

The Blackhawks currently have eight forwards and three NHL defensemen under contract.

WHO THE HAWKS WILL DUMP

I can’t remember an offseason when Patrick Sharp was not a topic of trade discussion. However, this is the year he will be gone. Sharp was next to useless in the regular and postseasons. The 33-year old has two years left at $5.9 million a year.

Sharp makes the third-most money on the team behind Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

While I’m not sure if anyone will take his contact in whole, I would hope Stan Bowman gets the contract off the books, even if it means little-to-nothing in return.

Also on my list are fellow left wingers Bryan Bickell and Kris Versteeg.

Bickell was given a massive four-year, 4 million per, deal after an impressive playoffs in 2013. The plan failed and Bickell has not been the same since. It’s time for the Hawks to move on.

While some will argue he’s the only physical force on the team, I would say if you only have one guy checking, what’s the point? And if that’s really a concern, bring up a physical guy like Brandon Mashinter from Rockford, put him on the fourth line and let him eat up just more than $562,000 in cap space.

Versteeg played well before his hand injury this year and after getting another chance deep in the playoffs. However, I don’t think it was enough to bring him back. While the Hawks wont yield a huge return from him, dumping his $2.2 million could help in bringing back better pieces for the team.

FREE AGENT SITUATION

If I were Bowman, I would be seeking two obvious signatures: Brandon Saad and Johnny Oduya. Saad should be considered one of the core now after winning his second Stanley Cup last week. The same goes for Oduya, who was traded to the Hawks before the deadline in 2013.

Bowman has already made it clear that he plans to resign Saad. The 22-year old left winger was crucial to the Hawks’ Stanley Cup run this year registering career highs with 23 goals, 29 assists and 52 points in the regular season and was third on the team with 8 playoff goals, behind only Toews and Kane.

At 33 years old, Oduya still has another five solid years left in him. It’s unknown what the Swedish-born defenseman will ask both monetarily and in length, but he was one of the top-four defensemen who saved the Blackhawks this postseason.

RESIGNED: Restricted Free Agent Marcus Kruger and Unrestricted Free Agents Antoine Vermette and Andrew Desjardins

MAYBE: RFA Joakim Nordstrom and UFA Brad Richards 

GONE: UFA David Rundblad, Daniel Carcillo  and Michal Rozsival

If you notice, four of those names above are centers, a position the Blackhawks have longed for in the past and that’s why Kruger, Vermette and Desjardins will be resigned.

Kruger, a 25-year-old center, has proved his worth on the team in recent memory. What’s more, the Blackhawks could probably sign him for less than $2 million for another four years or so.

Vermette was new to the Blackhawks this season and might have been one of the better trade deadline moves of all-time for Bowman. Vermette was stellar in the faceoff dot and added crucial game winning goals through the playoffs.

While Richards has said he is willing to take a “hometown discount” I think it’s worth it to spend more on Vermette. He is younger than Richards, 32 and 35 respectively, and did his job better. I can’t imagine Vermette asking for a ton of money, it’s clear he came to Chicago to win a Cup. If he comes back, more would certainly be in the future.

Desardins is the last guy I’m certain will be back in an Indianhead sweater next year. Not only has Bowman mentioned his name, Desjardins is exactly what you want in a fourth-line center.

By resigning Vermette, Kruger and Desjardins, the Blackhawks would have solid center depth behind Toews. Add to the mix Andrew Shaw and Teuvo Teravainen, and the Blackhawks would have one of the best center groups in the league.

If the Hawks dump Sharp and one or the other of Bickell and Versteeg, it’s an obvious choice to bring back Nordstrom at a cheap price and fill in the left wing position.

On the d-line, losing Rozsival and Rundblad leaves two spots open which I think will go to Trevor van Riemsdyk and Ville Pokka to start. The Blackhawks could also use Michael Paliotta and Stephen Johns to fill the positions as well. It’s time to start developing young defensive help for the future.

While this is all just speculation, look for the pieces to start moving soon with the NHL Draft on Friday.

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