Taking Advantage of Cap Hell: Chicago Blackhawks Edition

Stan Bowman

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.

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Previously in this series:

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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.

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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:

Left Wing Centre Right Wing L. Defence / Goal R. Defence / Goal
Brandon Saad Jonathan Toews Patrick Kane Duncan Keith Brent Seabrook
RFA $10,500,000 $10,500,000 $5,551,000 $5,800,000
Patrick Sharp Teuvo Teravainen Marian Hossa Niklas Hjalmarsson Filler
$5,900,000 $1,344,000 $5,233,000 $4,100,000 $2,000,000
Bryan Bickell Andrew Shaw Kris Versteeg Filler T. van Riemsdyk
$4,000,000 $2,000,000 $2,200,000 $900,000 $925,000
Joakim Nordstrom Marcus Kruger Filler   David Rundblad
RFA RFA $900,000   RFA
Filler Filler   Corey Crawford Scott Darling
$800,000 $800,000   $6,000,000 $588,000

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.

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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.

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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.


  • 15w40

    I think the right thing to do is target Talbot from NYR & see if you can put Scrivens in part of the deal so that the Rangers save about 450K in salary on goal tending. This along with a pick that improves conditionally upon signing Talbot to a longer term deal.

    I don’t see Seabrook springing free from CHI – Sharp will go before that happens.

    Then turn attention East to WPG and target one of Meyers or Byfuglien and build a package around the Pens 1st round pick. They aren’t in cap hell but the Oilers and WPG have what the other needs.

    Edmonton has forwards – WPG has defensmen.

      • 15w40

        WPG is not going to give either one of those guys away but they need scoring.

        This would be one of those rare so-called “hockey-trades”. An exchange of assets that both teams are in need of where neither GM needs either a mask or doesn’t feel violated after the deal is done.

        More difficult in that they are in the same conference but worth going down the road at least IMHO.

  • billythebullet

    Cap hell. Great series so far. Maybe the targets from the three teams outlined so far are actually the players walking away to free agency. I realize PC will be competing against 29 other teams but perhaps it’s achievable. Carl Sodenberg from Boston, RFA Carl Hagelin from NYR, Johnny Oduya from Chicago could all possibly be had for reasonable contracts. If it’s a trade with the Hawks I like Shaw.

  • This series is terrific JW. Exactly what I want to read. We know Chiarelli and McLellan are reviewing our holes and brainstorming on how to fill them while staying within the cap going forward. these articles really help us to see what might be available for targeting. As far as Niemi is concerned, it is great that we have McLellan, who knows everything there is to know about him and could help persuade him to come if he and Chiarelli believe that is a good idea. The two or three weeks that kick off with D day, June 26th, are going to be crucial in determining the roster we will have next season and I am jumping-out-of-my-shoes excited about it. Rekindled hope is a wonderful thing.

  • McChickenpi

    The key word is “Need”. What we have as trade bait has to be focused on that which we need…. 2 top/2nd pairing D and a goalie that can make key saves. If Chicago doesn’t have it, not interested. Seabrook or Crawford (with appropriate provisions like salary cover etc). That’s it. Have a nice day. No more 3rd and 4th line players and Sh%tty defenders. Done. Move on.

  • O.C.

    While there is this big push for a goalie, I’m not sold on that being the focus.

    Good goalies look awful with bad D men and poor team D.

    Good goalies look great with fantastic D and team D ethic.

    Two words. Pronger. Lidstrom.

    Get that sorted out first… The rest comes naturally. A great keeper might fool you into thinking you don’t need improve your top four D and your team two way game.

  • I like these articles JW very interesting to see what these “cap hell’ teams are going to do.

    Do you keep Sharp or do you keep Hossa?

    Sharp is a little younger, both players have comparable cap numbers Hossa has better overall numbers.

    I know Oilers fans want Seabrook but Chicago would be getting rid of Bickell or Sharp/Hossa way before giving up Seabrook.

  • YFC Prez

    I’m really enjoying this series.

    I’m noticing a common theme with the teams so far presented in the articles in cap trouble. They’re all recent cup winners or finalists.

    I wanted to point this out to the few people who were worried about the hiring of Chiarelli because of the cap problems he left the Bruins in. Well the Bruins were in the finals twice while winning once. Rangers were finalists last year and the Hawks are always a threat to win the Stanley cup. All of them are in cap trouble right now.

    that puts Chiarelli in some pretty amazing company. Bowman in Chicago being advised by his father who in my opinion is the best hockey mind of all time, and Slats in NY. I dont think that the Bruins cap problems are that much of a black mark on Chiarellis resume as some would believe.

    And this series JW is writing isn’t even over yet.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see some more teams with high quality management make the cut.

  • billythebullet

    People need to understand that it’s going to cost us one of our top 3 players to land a legitimate top 2 Defenseman. You would be in dreamland to think a team wouldn’t demand it. One place i would start is in Nashville. They could use some skilled forwards and have the defence to acquire that. Seth Jones would be that player but it would cost us Eberle plus plus. At least Nashville would be listening at that point.

  • Thanks for the kind comments, everyone.

    I’m mostly doing this series because I’m selfishly interested in seeing what kind of place other teams are in and figuring out their cap problems; I’m glad I’m not the only one who finds this stuff fascinating.

  • YFC Prez

    if dum oilers wont to win the cup then trade Macdavid to leafs. he wont play good for edminton cause he hates it their. shanny want to build up for next cuople of years so he would do it.

  • Johnnydapunk

    I could be well wrong but I don’t see too much on Chicago that I think would benefit the Oil. I mean Seabrook would be great and if they can go after Oduya I would also be pleased as he is UFA and shouodnt break the bank.

    If the Oil were looking to swing for the Stars goalie wise and wanted to get that big money number one through trade, then I think Fleury would be the one to explore. He has a big contract, the Pens are up against the cap and I don’t know how well liked he is there. He also is pretty solid and consistent. If they didn’t want to go that route, then Rämö and Niemi would be the ones I go for, and see what Scrivens could be traded for.

    I think what Chicago will be willing to part with will be dependant on how far they go in the playoffs. But I really hope the Oil don’t go for Crawford as we saw with Dubnyk, it’s not always about the goaltending and defence is where it matters.

      • Johnnydapunk

        I believe another 4 years at 5.75 million, so good but not stupid money, don’t know of any NMC or NTC clauses, he is 30 years old so not too old or young, and 4 years is an adequate time to asses and reevaluate things.

        He is a proper number one and is just consistent with moments of greatness. Him with a semi respectable defence and the Oil would be right sorted.

        • YFC Prez

          Do you mean insane money on a mediocre to bad goalie. With term into his 30s (when goalies often fall off a cliff). He is a boat anchor while trying to sign the core. PASS

          • Johnnydapunk

            Ummm.. If a goalie with a consistent 0.915 save percentage over the last 5 years whilst getting an average of 30 shots a game, and managing 10 shutouts last season is “mediocre to bad”, then I cannot imagine which goalie would be a better option.

            Most goalies hit their stride at 30, Corey Crawford is 30, as is Niemi, Rämö is approaching 30, goalies are rarely at their peak in their early to mid-20s, those have all been goalies discussed here about potentials, others like Craig Anderson (34) and Ben Bishop (28) have also been mentioned. I would even think that 30 is a pretty good time to get a goalie at his peak.

            I would be curious who would get you 10 shutouts on the same number of shots the Oil gave up under 6 million? Do you think Niemi who would most likely cost 4 ish would be a better option despite being older and having worse stats whilst taking fewer shots?

            If the Oil could get a Fleury and not give up the bank, it would set their goaltending straight and allow a full focus on defence. Also on 4 years of term, that gives Broissoit time to develop if they want him as the future.

          • The Last Big Bear

            Tied for 15th in the league, and that was a good year for him. .915 IS mediocre. 23 goalies were better than .915 this year. He has cost the pens in several playoffs.

            Of the 53 goalies who played over 1000min this year, 15 were over 30. 4 were over 33. Miller, backstrom, anderson, and luongo. All were starters at 30,at least 3 were allstar calibre. 2 are garbage now. 32yr olds include fasth, emery, lundauist, hiller, smith and rinne. Some over 30s hang on, but for many it’s the beginning of the end.

            Neuvirth or enroth could both be better options. Talbot definitely is. Niemi probably isn’t. Dubnyk is likely less than 6mil, could be signed short term and was better than fleury every season save last. We thought he sucked, and was barely a No. 1.

            Ramo is gonna be one and done. BTO has about as good a shot as him.

            Brossoit is still just a pipe dream at this point despite a goo season. Goalies are just so unpredictable. Your better off trying to get talbot, and enroth, then hoping one of scrivens, enroth, talbot shines. Maybe brossoit appears at some point a year or two from now.

          • Johnnydapunk

            Looking at numbers, 1000 mins is 16-17 games ish and for potential number ones, that’s not a lot of games. I’m using the espn stats as they have a requirement of a minimum of 27 games which isn’t ideal for a number one, but I’m lazy and can’t be fussed to calculate goalies who have played a minimum of 40-50 games.

            Fleury played the 7th most minutes out of all NHL goalies (62 games) which is what a number one should play (min 50 games unless you want that 1-1a nonsense which rarely works) He was 8th in shots received & saved, kept a .920 SV% which was good enough for 15th (you mentioned that), but take into consideration the number of shots he received, only Rask, Holtby, Schneider, and Price had more shots and had a better save percentage. Neuvirth had nearly half as many shots and a far worse save percentage and Enroth had borderline Scrivens numbers with a save percentage at .904 and a goals against over 3. He also received about 300 fewer shots than Fleury. If you are looking at them, may as well see how Fasth is healing as they are on par.

            Thing is, would you want a goalie who has logged in heavy minutes season after season, who still maintains a pretty decent SV% despite receiving an average of 30 shots a game, has been a proven starter and had one of his best seasons to date in the last year, or a goalie with “potential” but hasn’t proven anything except they had maybe one good season or a few average seasons playing limited minutes?

            Neuvirth and Enroth would put the Oil in the same position they are currently in, they have not shown anything in their careers and they have not played nearly enough to be trusted with a number one position. Their numbers are not good at all, and it would be Fasth all over again. Talbot could be something, but again he isn’t proven, Anderson is 34 so maybe a bit old, has spent his career on teams that are solid defensively and until the Oil sort that out, he will also be a risk. The Oil have spent too much time trying to cut corners in net, and it shows. Maybe I’m the only one, but I’m tired of “potential” in goalies and a lot of goalies mentioned have that tag on them. They can play around with potentials when they start winning or get Defencemen that are Pronger-esque, I’m fine with that option and prefer that actually.

            It’s all about where they will put their priorities, if it’s defence, then who they have in net isn’t such a huge deal, but if they don’t then unless they go for a proper number one with a proven track record, and has played heavy minutes, they are going to have the same problem they have had every season. Someone’s gonna get lit up and if/when they are traded will do fine somewhere else where defence is not an afterthought. Dubnyk played well because the Wild defence was stifling, he found a place to play where the system works for him. If he came back here it would be a car crash all over again.

            As this isn’t a Playstation game and potentially crazy trades aren’t always possible, I don’t know if the Pens would give him up, but he seems to be a polarising figure in the Pens media, but I don’t think he would be costing too much trade wise as they are in the cap pooper and have Greiss (who could be resigned on the cheap for them), Zatkoff who put up ok numbers when called in, and potentially Scrivens if he was to go the other way.

            I would also add Holtby on the list of goalies that would be a dream acquisition. He was insanely good for the amount he made, like shocking good, but he is RFA, and unless his rights were traded (not sure how that would work) he would cost too much draft pick wise.

            Chia hasn’t made a bad move yet, and it seems like the Oil finally mean business and want to improve, so once the playoffs are done, it will be a bit more clear as to what direction the Oil wish to go.

    • YFC Prez

      After seeing Pittsburgh get fleeced in the Lovejoy for Despre deal, a few GM’s may be trying to deal with them. Fleurys contractsy be a little rich and too much term though.

  • Johnnydapunk

    Just going to throwing this out there to see what the masses think but wouldn’t it be nice to see what Paajaarvi could do under a new coaching system? I’m sure we could get for real cheap and with the rise in Landers play it would be a good combination. Seems to be a low risk gamble. He doesn’t seem to be a good fit for the Blues.

  • Kevwan

    No way Seabrook gets moved. The Hawks are cup contenders now and moving forward. Sharp (34) or Hossa (36) and Crawford get moved.

    The advantage that Bowman has is that vets might sign for a discount (Richards @ 2 mil) for a shot at a cup.

    • Kevwan

      Doesn’t Hossa’s contract have value for a cap floor team? After 15/16 he’s signed for 5 more years at only 8.5 mil total with a cap hit of 5.233/ yr.

      Unless I’m missing something (not the first time) wouldn’t that have a lot of value to say, Arizona?

      By the way this series of “cap hell” teams is great.

      • Yeah, it would have a lot of value to Arizona.

        The problem is that a 38-year-old Hossa might not have much incentive to hang around to make $1.0 million in salary and play for a terrible Coyotes team. Such a trade might encourage him to retire early, since he’d be playing for (to him) chump change and on a lousy team to-boot.

        And if he retires, all manner of horrifying cap recapture penalties land on Chicago’s doorstep.

        As I see it, that’s an unacceptable amount of risk.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Put Sharp on the market for a 1st rounder and a prospect. Best offer takes him.

    Crawford on waivers. He’d be the single best goalie available this summer, I think it’s pretty unlikely he’d clear.

    That’s $12m in cap space cleared up before lunch.

    And without a contending team trading away a top pairing defenceman playing the best hockey of his life.