Expect a Chicago cap crisis this summer

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In my mind, the Chicago Blackhawks mortgaged a considerable amount of their future when they added Marian Hossa last off-season. Last March I wondered aloud how they’d squeeze their terrific trio of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith under the cap even before they added the gifted bridesmaid.

Well, it seems like the team will retain the services of those three players (and Hossa) after all. Of course, those moves will come at a cost. Without even filling a 20-man roster, the Hawks would be over the cap if the 2010-11 season started today. Before I break down their sticky situation, here’s a quick breakdown based on numbers from CapGeek.com.

Chicago’s 2010-11 cap commitments (some cap hits rounded up for simplicity):

Forwards (9 of 12 spots covered): Toews (6.3); Kane (6.3); Hossa (5.28); Sharp (3.9); Bolland (3.38); Versteeg (3.08); Byfuglien (3); Kopecky (1.2); Brouwer (1.03)

Defense (4 of 6): Campbell (7.14); Keith (5.54); Seabrook (3.5); Sopel (2.33)

Goalies (1 of 2): Huet (5.63)

With three forwards, 2 defensemen and 1 goalie needed, the Hawks would still be about $800,000 over next year’s cap … and the cap could go down next season.


Now, the ‘Hawks are (obviously) going to need to make some moves. It might be best to break the team down into five categories, then.

Not going anywhere

Hossa, Kane, Toews and Keith = about $23.4 million

Most GMs won’t want these two

Last year, I couldn’t imagine a scenario in which a GM would trade for Brian Campbell (unless someone kidnapped a GM’s daughter or something). Yet considering the fact that Glen Sather found a way to trade Scott Gomez, I have to admit that just about anything is possible.

Campbell, Huet = a little under $12.8 million

Overpaid, but not as much as Campbell

Kudos to Stan Bowman for exchanging Cam Barker for Kim Johnsson, a decent player who most importantly will see his $4.8 million+ deal expire once this season is over.

Bolland, Byfuglien, Sopel = $8.71 million

Ouch, the fans aren’t going to be happy

The Hawks might have to get rid of some good players to make this work.

Sharp, Versteeg, Seabrook = about $10.5 million

Valuable Free agents

Let’s not forget that there are some valuable guys who would have to take unbelievable discounts to return. Antii Niemi, John Madden and Niklas Hjalmarsson would all be sorely missed.

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There are plenty of variables at play here. Teams can stash NHL-quality players in the minors, for instance. Still, if there is any truth to the rumor that Chicago had an opportunity to get rid of Huet, they better win a Cup or that move will haunt them. For such a promising young group, it’s a real shame that Blackhawks management seemingly went the “now or never” route. Considering all the problems with fax machines and ill-advised free agent contracts, it’s hard for me to give Chicago’s management the benefit of the doubt. Anyone can draft Kane or Toews, but it takes someone with vision to surround them with talent (for more than a couple years).

Stars give Lindell two-year extension

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More news out of Dallas, where the Stars have signed defenseman Esa Lindell to a two-year, $4.4-million contract extension.

From the release:

Lindell, 23, posted 18 points (6-12=18) in 73 games played for Dallas during the 2016-17 regular season, his first full season in the NHL. He finished second on the team by averaging 21:52 of time on ice per game and his +8 plus/minus rating finished third. Additionally, he finished second on the team with 119 blocked shots and tied for fifth with 93 hits.

The Stars still have a couple of restricted free agents on the back end. Both Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak are arbitration-eligible. Lindell was not.

Earlier today, it was reported that the Stars were buying out goalie Antti Niemi.

Dallas also signed forward Mark McNeill to a one-year, two-way contract extension. The 24-year-old was acquired from Chicago in the Johnny Oduya trade on Feb. 28.

Lightning extend Gourde — two years, $2 million

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Yanni Gourde has cashed in on an impressive 20-game cameo with Tampa Bay this season.

Gourde signed a two-year, $2 million extension on Monday, the Bolts announced. The deal came after the 25-year-old scored six goals and eight points in 20 games, while averaging 15:22 TOI per night.

Undrafted out of the Quebec League, Gourde has been a terrific AHL player since catching on with the Tampa Bay organization a few years ago.

He was instrumental in Syracuse’s run to the Calder Cup final this year — scoring 27 points in 22 games — and, given his new deal is of the one-way variety, seems primed to spend next year with the Lightning.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to sign that kind of a deal knowing where I’ve come from,” Gourde said, per NHL.com. “It’s the organization that trusted me very early in my career, and I thank them for that.”

Carolina’s strategy of flipping picks for players ‘just didn’t pan out’

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In late May, the ‘Canes looked like a team primed to trade some draft picks.

GM Ron Francis kicked off proceedings by sending one of his 11 picks — a third-rounder — to Chicago for goalie Scott Darling. Shortly thereafter, Francis said his club had “the open for business sign out there,”suggesting he was ready to wheel and deal.

But said wheeling and dealing never occurred.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping to take a few less picks,” Francis said after he selected nine players at the draft, per ‘Canes Country. “We’d had a lot of discussions about trying to move picks for players, but it just didn’t pan out the way we had hoped.”

Prior to landing in Chicago, it was obvious the goal for Francis and head coach Bill Peters was to add pieces that’d help get the ‘Canes back into the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The team has shown steady improvement over the last three years — going from 30 to 35 to 36 wins — and had a nice late push before ultimately falling short this season.

“I think we have specific needs, very specific needs,” Peters said at Carolina’s end-of-year media availability. “So as a coach I’m going to give very specific names.”

As many clubs experienced at the draft, trades weren’t easy to orchestrate. It was a stark contrast to the flurry of action that proceeded the event — Jonathan Drouin to Montreal, Jordan Eberle to the Islanders, huge shakeups in both Arizona and Chicago.

The perceived weakness of said draft could’ve played a role in the lack of movement. It’s also worth noting that Francis did use one of his picks, a fifth-rounder, for Vegas to select Connor Brickley at the expansion draft.

And, to be clear, this doesn’t mean Carolina still can’t add players. Free agency opens on Saturday. But draft weekend certainly feels like an opportunity missed, given this year’s UFA market doesn’t project to be very strong.

Report: Stars to buy out Antti Niemi

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The Antti Niemi era in Dallas is mercifully over.

Per Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News, the Stars will place Niemi on waivers for the purposes of buying out the final year of his contract. The buyout will result in a $1.5 million cap hit in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Niemi, 33, joined the Stars in 2015 with the hope he’d form an effective tandem with Kari Lehtonen.

But the experiment was a dismal failure. In 85 games over two seasons, Niemi registered a .900 save percentage, and the Stars responded last month by signing Ben Bishop to a six-year contract worth almost $30 million.

GM Jim Nill had hoped that one of Niemi or Lehtonen could be traded in the wake of the Bishop signing.

Lehtonen, 33, is still under contract for another year at a cap hit of $5.9 million. He had a .902 save percentage last season, higher than Niemi’s .892.