Plenty of salary cap headaches remain for the Blackhawks

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Thumbnail image for hjalinaction.jpgDespite moving players such as Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Brent Sopel and Andrew Ladd, the Chicago Blackhawks are still in a salary cap mess right now. Matching the San Jose Sharks’ offer sheet for Niklas Hjalmarsson won’t help things, either, even if it was a good move for their on-ice product.

One thing to take into account, though, is that it seems rather clear that the Blackhawks are going to bite the bullet and send Cristobal Huet’s $5.6 million cap hit to the minors, KHL or … some frozen outpost? Ryan Classic did a nice job when he took a look at what Chicago’s roster would like if they took their current players (minus Huet) and filled the rest of the mandatory spots with minimum wage contracts.

In Ryan’s study, the team would have three minimum wage forwards, one minimum wage defenseman (plus near-minimum wage guy John Scott) and two minimum wage goalies. Most NHL teams carry at least 22 players, though, so one would assume that Classic’s estimated $2.738 million in cap space would be closer to $1.7 million.

The biggest question remains: what will happen with Antti Niemi? It’s unclear how much the Blackhawks can stomach (or how much they value Niemi compared to an average NHL goalie).

Joe is going to break down some of the team’s options, trade-wise, but it’s actually not … impossible for them to go with a top-heavy design. I’m not saying I’d recommend it, but then again, the Blackhawks haven’t done many things I’d recommend (cap-wise, at least).

Kane9.jpgIn the top-heavy current setup, Chicago would be pretty threadbare once you got past its top two offensive and defensive lines. Can Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Dave Bolland and Troy Brouwer carry their offense? Will Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell and Niklas Hjalmarsson be so good that the team could camouflage a weak bottom third on the blueline? Would the high-end make up for those deficiencies and possibly a middle-of-the-road netminder who may or may not be Niemi?

There are a lot of questions for the team in its current state. Perhaps it’s still too early to panic, but at some point, the Blackhawks are going to have to accept reality. I thought they’d do that by letting Hjalmarsson go, but apparently the team isn’t ready to make more tough decisions just yet.

What would you do if you were GM Stan Bowman? Are the Blackhawks hopeless? Will someone save the day by taking in Brian Campbell’s horrendous contract? It should be interesting to see how different Chicago’s roster will look in October compared to today. It won’t be easy; it won’t be pretty. But at some point, the Blackhawks will have to put 20 players on the ice under the cap for next season. We’ll keep you informed as that deadline rapidly approaches.

Calgary mayor: ‘Errors of omission’ in Flames arena proposal

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On Thursday, the Calgary Flames released a report claiming they were prepared to contribute $275 million for a new arena, with additional funding — in the ball park of $225 million — from a Community Revitalization Levy.

On Friday, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi responded to the proposal and the events of yesterday.

“I wouldn’t say dishonesty. I would, however, say that there are perhaps some errors of omission,” Nenshi told reporters, according to Global Calgary, when asked if there had been a level of dishonesty from the Flames with their proposal.

The Flames not only released a report with financial details to their website, but they also took out ads in local newspapers. Nenshi took issue with the details the Flames released yesterday.

“What was in that ad was not actually what the last deal on the table with the city was,” he said.

“For example, yesterday you saw that the Flames’ owners are claiming that they’re putting $275 million up front. Makes it sound like a (check) is being put on the table. Certainly that has not been discussed. That would’ve really changed things had that been the discussion.

“The discussion, the last I saw, was the Flames were putting $100 million in and the rest would be a ticket tax, which they wanted the city to take out, to get for and to front. I’m not quite sure how that equals the Flames putting in money up front.”

Yesterday, the Flames added in their report that, after two years of discussions with the city about a new arena, they will no longer pursue a new arena in Calgary.

The Flames currently play at the Saddledome, which is now 34 years old.

Report: Skinner among leading candidates for Hurricanes captaincy

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The Carolina Hurricanes went last season without a captain. That will change once training camp is over, and, according to a recent report, Jeff Skinner is one of the prime candidates to possibly wear the ‘C’ for this season.

The Hurricanes selected Skinner seventh overall in 2010. He made an instant impact on the NHL club, scoring 31 goals and 63 points in his rookie season as a teenager. He’s been a valuable offensive weapon for Carolina ever since.

This past season, he scored 37 goals — a career best. Although the consideration to potentially make him the next captain goes beyond his skills around the opposing net.

From NHL.com:

“He’s a passionate guy and he’s a passionate player,” Peters said. “He’s a real good pro in the fact that he looks after himself, he trains properly and the guys have unreal respect for the way he looks after his body. The maturity shows. I know guys bring it up quite a bit.”

To that end, Peters said he was at a staff golf outing prior to the start of training camp with about 16 people, including members of the Hurricanes’ medical and strength training staffs, and he polled as many people about the captaincy candidates as he could.

“[Skinner’s] name came up in the conversation quite a bit, and they bring up that type of stuff, the way he looks after himself and the way he prepares,” Peters said. “He’s passionate about it and he’s hungry to win.”

The Hurricanes have, over the past few years, done a nice job of building a talented young roster that has shown signs of being able to compete in the Eastern Conference. They do, however, play in a difficult Metropolitan Division, which features the Blue Jackets, Penguins, Capitals and Rangers.

The biggest change in Carolina this offseason was in net, with the addition of Scott Darling, who was the capable back-up in Chicago but is now taking over the No. 1 role with the Hurricanes.

Another change is still upcoming. Eric Staal was the captain in Carolina for six years, but the team is expected to soon name a replacement. There are other candidates for the Hurricanes captaincy, as well, like Justin Faulk and Jordan Staal.

“Someone is going to wear one, for sure,” said Peters earlier this month, per TSN. “Our leadership group is fine and we’ve got real good candidates. They’ll all provide leadership whether they wear a letter or not.”

Islanders sign 2016 first-round pick Bellows to entry-level deal

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The New York Islanders made a few roster moves Friday. That included sending 2016 first-round pick Kieffer Bellows back to the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League.

Shortly after that, it was announced that Bellows and the Islanders agreed to terms on a three-year entry-level contract.

The Islanders originally selected Bellows with the 19th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

The 19-year-old left winger played one year at Boston University, tallying seven goals and 14 points before deciding to leave school to play this season in the WHL, which has a completely different schedule from college.

“Play more games,” Bellows told NHL.com in July. “I think just the 72 games in the [WHL] regular season is the biggest thing. I can’t thank [Boston University coach David] Quinn enough and all the guys on the team. I had an unbelievable first year at Boston University, but I just felt it was best for me to go and play more games.”

Stamkos to make preseason debut tonight vs. Predators

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For the first time since Nov. 15, 2016, Steven Stamkos will be in the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup.

Per Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, the prolific scorer will play tonight for the Bolts, as they continue the preseason against the Nashville Predators.

Stamkos suffered a knee injury last November. He underwent surgery but didn’t make it back to the lineup for the remainder of the year, marking the second time in four years his regular season was derailed by a significant injury.

“Listen, I snapped my leg in half and came back and was playing the best hockey of my career,” Stamkos told the Tampa Bay Times, referring to his broken leg suffered during the 2013-14 season.

“So this is another hurdle. I’m confident that when you put in the work, you’re going to find ways. It may be different ways. You may have to adjust certain parts of your game. But we’ll handle that when I see how it feels in a game situation. We’ll know more tonight.”

Given such a lengthy time away from game action, it might be wise — at least early on — to temper expectations of Stamkos.

He is one of the league’s most dangerous scorers. But he also hasn’t played a game in 10 months. In a conversation with the Tampa Bay Times, Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise, who had the same surgery in 2010, said it “took probably a year and a half to get back to feeling back to normal.”

It appears Stamkos will center a line tonight with Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov, who should certainly be pleased to be playing alongside No. 91.