This is going to be a difficult summer for many teams thanks to a salary cap which has risen by less than expected early in the year. For a team like the Edmonton Oilers, there’s a chance to land talent from a team in cap trouble.
Taking Advantage of Cap Hell is dedicated to looking at clubs reportedly in cap trouble and figuring out who might shake loose. Today we turn to the team I had in mind when I started this series: the Chicago Blackhawks.
Previously in this series:
The Depth Chart
The Blackhawks are hooped.
A bunch of guys come off the books but even so this is going to be an ugly offseason for Stan Bowman and company, who will be forced to make some extremely difficult sacrifices which may even reach the team’s core players.
I’ve put together something pretty close to a best-case scenario to fill Chicago’s departed player slots, assigning relatively low dollar values to players needed on the third line and second pairing. I’ve assumed that Teuvo Teravainen and Andrew Shaw will be able to handle the No. 2 and No. 3 centre positions between them. Even so, this is going to be tough.
Here’s what next year’s team currently looks like, courtesy of NHL Numbers:
Total Cap Hit: $70.0 million
Total Cap Space Remaining: $1.0 million
So, a little under one million dollars to get Brandon Saad, Marcus Kruger, David Rundblad and Joakim Nordstrom (or potentially replacements, particularly in the case of the latter two) under contract. How fun.
Saad is the big question. The 22-year-old has pretty reliably scored in the 45-55 point range (126 points in 208 career games; 50 points/82 contests on average) over each of the last three seasons; he’s a potential star and even if he doesn’t make the leap he’s an awfully nice player to have.
It seems obvious to me that Chicago will go with a bridge deal given its cap issues. Ondrej Palat is a logical comparison (59 points as a rookie when he signed last year); he makes $3.33 million per year on a three-season deal. Pint-sized Brendan Gallagher is another possible point of comparison (average of 45 points/82 contests entering this year); his six(!)-year deal has a $3.75 million cap hit (score another big win for Marc Bergevin). We might also consider Reilly Smith, who with little leverage turned a 51-point season into a two-year, $3.425 million deal.
Chicago would be doing well to get him on the same deal as the less-proven (at the time of signing) Palat and there would be singing in the streets if Bowman could talk Saad into the Gallagher deal.
Kruger will also be tough, despite an off-year; the defensive specialist will be looking for a raise after completing a two-year deal with a $1.325 million cap hit.
At best, Chicago will probably be adding something north of $5.5 million to its roster when all is said and done with its RFA’s, and the bill could be higher. My assumptions on filler pieces are also awfully favourable (good luck finding a second-pair defenceman for $2.0 million, even if you are Chicago), making this even tougher.
Targets for Edmonton
Brent Seabrook is obviously the guy that the Oilers would covet off this roster, since there’s no chance of Duncan Keith or Niklas Hjalmarsson being moved. I know it, you know it, and there’s not much need to discuss it. But if I’m Stan Bowman, it’s a last resort and I’m trying other things first, and the simple fact is that Chicago has other things it can try.
If I’m Bowman, the name at the top of my list is Corey Crawford, and it’s a name that Edmonton might have some interest in. He’s not a bad goalie, but he’s a little overpaid and if Chicago runs Antti Raanta/Scott Darling next year (a gamble, but these are desperate times and both have looked capable) they’re all of a sudden ahead by $5.25 million and barely even need to make another move. As for the acquisition cost, if the Oilers called the day after Chicago’s last playoff game and offered Anton Lander straight across, the deal would be done before my Edmonton counterpart could finish the sentence.
(Update: I wasn’t clear originally here. In Chicago’s shoes I’d happily move Crawford. Given his contract, however, in Edmonton’s shoes I would have very little interest and would certainly demand to send money back. I also wouldn’t be at all eager to move Lander; he’s just a guy it makes sense for the Blackhawks to ask about given his salary.)
Finding a partner willing to take on Crawford’s deal without sending any real money back would (or at least should) be a dream come true for the Blackhawks, solving most of their problems and allowing them the possibility of keeping the rest of the team intact. But what if that doesn’t happen?
Bryan Bickell is another obvious place to save money. His contract is prohibitively expensive for a guy who was Chicago’s No. 9/10 forward this year in terms of even-strength ice time and who has virtually no special teams role. His scoring touch isn’t that impressive, and he has been consistently sheltered defensively by Joel Quenneville. Basically, he’s big (6’4”, 233 pounds) and if all goes well he can be a complementary player on a sheltered scoring line.
Given his contract, Bickell has negative value. Chicago probably has to take money back, or failing that pay for Bickell to go away. Depending on how urgently size up front is seen as a priority, Edmonton might well be a destination.
Finally, Patrick Sharp may well turn out to be a necessary sacrifice for the Blackhawks. He’s a very good player and he’s not even particularly overpriced; it’s just necessary for Chicago to shed money and it’s a cinch that the ‘Hawks would rather dump Sharp than Seabrook. He’s an awfully good forward, but I’m not at all sure he makes sense as a target for Edmonton.
The Blackhawks might also plausibly look at Kris Versteeg and Marcus Kruger as subtractions; I’m not sure either is really a great fit for Edmonton though Kruger could certainly slot in as a Boyd Gordon replacement.
Looking at the options, I’m not sold that Chicago will need to deal Seabrook. If they do, Edmonton’s collection of futures should appeal to Chicago, as should cheap roster players. Anton Lander, Martin Marincin and Rob Klinkhammer would probably all qualify as guys the Blackhawks would have varying degrees of interest in; it’s possible a guy like Tyler Pitlick might appeal too.
RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS
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