Checking out the Blackhawks top candidates to be traded for cap space

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Yesterday, James got into the salary cap woes facing the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Yes, their issues are many and their answers to solving those problems all point towards further disbanding the team that just won the franchise’s first Cup since 1961.

If something is going to be done and players are going to be moved out of town, who will it end up being? Let’s take a look at the players that could, potentially, be on the block.

Huet3.jpgCristobal Huet – (contract: 2 years with $5.625 million cap hit)

I’d be doing you all a disservice if I didn’t just get Huet out of the way first and foremost. Huet’s contract is the main reason to want to get him out of town by any means necessary. Huet’s cap hit is $5.625 million for the next two seasons and he managed to get relegated to the bench by current restricted free agent Antti Niemi. Niemi is still trying to get his contract squared away and it’s safe to say he’s not going to be making the same $800,000 he did last year. Being the starting goalie on a Stanley Cup winner will almost guarantee that.

Huet’s contract makes it nearly impossible to deal him, but moving him to the AHL sits as a distinct possibility. Putting him on waivers virtually guarantees he won’t get picked up by someone else, and only a catastrophic number of injuries to goalies in Chicago would put the Blackhawks at risk for bringing Huet back up through re-entry waivers. If the Hawks can make that $5.625 million go away, they can save themselves the trouble of having to move more offensive quality depth players than they’d want to. Others are virtually assuming that Huet is as good as gone to AHL Rockford, but until that happens he’s the elephant in the room so to speak. His salary is almost necessary to move in any way possible to give the Hawks the maneuverability they’ll need to ice a complete team worth a damn.

Chances of being demoted/traded: Very likely

Patrick Sharp – (contract: 2 years, $3.9 million cap hit)

He’s almost always the subject of trade rumors and why not? He’s productive and does it all seemingly while in the shadow of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. It’s not a bad gig to have because the pressure is really off. The last four years, Sharp has been a consistent scorer netting in the range of 65 points per year and scoring 20+ goals in each season, including 36 goals back in 2007-2008. He’s an ideal complimentary piece for a team with bigger names but could it be possible he’d break out in a big way if he went somewhere lacking a big scoring wing? Ahh, there’s the rub. He’d make a great second line scorer for teams eager to add one, but bringing him aboard to be a first liner could make life difficult. His salary by itself would allow Chicago to get a little breathing room provided that the Hawks are OK with fielding a team with guys making the league minimum. That might get sketchy.

Chances of being traded: Possible

Brian Campbell – (contract: 6 years, $7,142,875 cap hit)

Campbell only needs to be mentioned here because if the Blackhawks were able to pawn him off on someone else it would be general manager Stan Bowman’s version of a great jewel heist and someone else’s version of Seward’s Folly. His contract is toxic and overbearing. This has nothing to do with the player. He’s a solid defenseman and runs a good power play and he’d be an asset to any team he played for. The problem is his contract is a payroll punishing iceberg, a fact the Blackhawks know all too well. Even for teams looking to reach the salary floor, taking on that much money for that long of a time just does not make any business sense… Unless they’re getting a huge gift basket from the Blackhawks to go with Campbell.

Chances of being traded: Nearly impossible

hossawiththecup.jpgMarian Hossa – (contract: 11 years, $5.275 million cap hit)

Sounds crazy, right? This one is more of a theoretical suggestion so bear with me. He went to Chicago to make another run at a Stanley Cup. He accomplished that goal in his first season. He doesn’t have a long history with the Blackhawks even though he’ll go down in Hawks lore as being on a slump-busting Cup winner. He wasn’t drafted by Chicago and essentially committed to the Hawks to latch on to a team with a bright immediate future. In essence, the Hawks have gotten what they wanted from Hossa so why not dangle him out there to free up a huge chunk of cap space on a deal that, while long, isn’t exactly a cap destroyer. The catch with Hossa is that he’s 31 years-old and having him around until he’s 42 might feel pretty daunting. Losing Hossa’s money in conjunction with making Huet’s money disappear would be a God-send for Chicago’s cap if it came down to that.

Chances of being traded: Not likely, but intriguing

Dave Bolland – (contract: 4 years, $3.375 million cap hit)

He was the unknown hero that always jumps out during the NHL playoffs. He was as dangerous shorthanded as he was during even strength situations and he showed that the seemingly crazy contract extension the Blackhawks gave him may have been worth it. He’s the Blackhawks number two center and there are some teams that could use one of those (Los Angeles, Washington). He’s also 24 years-old and starting to come into his own as an NHL starter. His salary isn’t exactly bad, but Chicago might be reticent to be rid of his usefulness in all situations. That said, if Chicago gets desperate and no one is biting elsewhere, a savvy proposal could get Chicago to move him.

Chances of being traded: Pretty slim

We’re not meant to feel bad for the Blackhawks here, this is their mess and they’ve got to deal with things as well as they possibly can. They’ve already drastically changed the outlook of their team as it is and there will be more changes to come. What they do, however, will have a profound effect on what the Blackhawks do the next few years as to whether they’ll continue to be contenders or if they’ll tread water being known as the NHLs version of the Florida Marlins.

Five backup goalies that aren’t getting it done

St. Louis Blues goalie Carter Hutton reacts as Winnipeg Jets' Bryan Little (18) celebrates with teammates Patrik Laine, (29) of Finland, and Dustin Byfuglien (33) after scoring the winning goal of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Billy Hurst)
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We did this same list about a year ago, when the likes of Alex Stalock and Anders Lindback were called out.

Stalock and Lindback are no longer in the league, and with today’s news that Jhonas Enroth has been waived by the Maple Leafs, here are five more backups that need to pull their games together:

Carter Hutton — Hutton is the Blues’ backup to Jake Allen, and it hasn’t been going well with his new team. The 30-year-old is 2-4-1 with an .888 save percentage, putting all the more pressure on Allen to win games, now that Brian Elliott isn’t there anymore. The Blues’ goaltending rarely fails to be interesting, and that’s the case again this season. Allen hasn’t been great either (.907), but at least he’s been winning (12-3-3).

James Reimer — He was supposed to be a reliable No. 2 behind Roberto Luongo, and perhaps even take over the No. 1 duties down the road. But Reimer has struggled since signing a five-year, $17 million contract with the Panthers on July 1. The 28-year-old is 3-4-1 with an .896 save percentage, which does not compare well to Luongo, the oldest goalie in the NHL, who’s 9-7-1 with a .929 save rate.

Darcy Kuemper — Typically, a bubble team like the Minnesota Wild can’t afford to have below-average backup goaltending. But that’s exactly what Kuemper has provided, going 2-2-1 with an .897 save percentage. His last start, he gave up five goals to the offensively challenged Vancouver Canucks in a 5-4 loss. Kuemper has only had one solid start this season, a 35-save victory over the Senators. Fortunately for the Wild, Devan Dubnyk (10-6-3, .946) has been beyond good, and that’s why they’re in a playoff spot for now.

Michael Hutchinson — Yes, goaltending remains a vulnerability in Winnipeg, even after Ondrej Pavelec was removed from the equation. Hutchinson is 3-4-2 with an .898 save percentage — not great numbers behind Connor Hellebuyck, who hasn’t been a whole lot better (10-9-0, .911). Hutchinson did play well Saturday in St. Louis, stopping 20 shots in a 3-2 overtime win. He’ll need a few more of those efforts the rest of the way if the Jets are going to make the playoffs.

Anton Khudobin — Right off the bat, we must mention that Khudobin’s last start for the Boston Bruins was a very encouraging one. But his overall numbers, 1-3-0 with a .902 save percentage, put him on the list. Khudobin recently spent time in the AHL on a conditioning stint. He’s been good since his return from Providence, and he’ll need to keep being good behind Tuukka Rask, because the Bruins don’t want to miss the playoffs for a third straight year.

Another kid gets the call in Arizona, as Perlini will make NHL debut

Brendan Perlini
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Brendan Perlini, the forward Arizona took 12th overall at the 2014 draft, will make his NHL debut tonight when the Coyotes take on the Blue Jackets in Columbus.

Perlini, 20, has been solid this year in AHL Tucson — his first full American League campaign — with 11 goals and 16 points through 16 games. He’s tied atop the league’s goalscoring leaderboard with three other players (including Toronto prospect Kasperi Kapanen), but Perlini has done it in the fewest amount of contests.

A former OHL standout with Niagara, Perlini is the latest example of the youth movement that’s taken over Arizona this season.

Some of the kids that have suited up include:

Jakob Chychrun, the 18-year-old defenseman taken 16th overall in June.

— 19-year-old Dylan Strome, who has since been returned to his junior club in OHL Erie.

Lawson Crouse, the 19-year-old power forward acquired from Florida this offseason.

— 20-year-old Christian Dvorak, the 58th overall pick in ’14.

Anthony DeAngelo, the 21-year-old d-man acquired from Tampa Bay at this year’s draft.

In addition to those guys, the club has also had “veterans” in the mix, like 21-year-old forwards Max Domi, Anthony Duclair and Laurent Dauphin.

As you might expect from such a young team, the Coyotes have struggled this season. They’re 8-11-4 heading into tonight’s action, but have done a decent job of getting points recently — they’re 3-2-2 over the last seven games, though they needed a career-high 58 saves from Mike Smith on Saturday to steal a point against the Jackets.

Flyers’ Mason named NHL’s first star of the week

Philadelphia Flyers left wing Michael Raffl (12), of Austria, congratulates goalie Steve Mason (35) following the team's win against the Nashville Predators in an NHL hockey game Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. The Flyers won 4-2. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
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Steve Mason is the NHL’s first star of the week, and his save percentage is still just .904.

That number tells you how poorly he started the season. Because the Flyers’ goalie has been brilliant of late, going 4-0-0 with a .945 save percentage in his last four outings.

Mason’s strong run of play started not long after Michal Neuvirth went on the injured list.

“This is the situation I want to be in,” Mason told philly.com. “It’s a workload that all summer long you prepare for.”

The Flyers’ five straight wins (Anthony Stolarz was in goal for the first one) have propelled them into the first wild-card spot in the East, two points up on the Washington Capitals, who are suddenly feeling some urgency in the playoff race.

Vladimir Tarasenko and Martin Jones were the second and third stars of the week, respectively.

After disappointing start, Enroth waived by Toronto

CALGARY, AB - NOVEMBER 30: Kris Versteeg #10 of the Calgary Flames shoots the puck past Jhonas Enroth #35 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on November 30, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Last week, Brough wrote about the struggles Jhonas Enroth’s had in his brief time as a Maple Leaf.

Today, the Leafs responded to those struggles.

Enroth has been placed on waivers, just four days after a 3-0 loss to the Calgary Flames, in which he was beaten twice in the first minute of the game.

“The first goal I didn’t get to my position and that’s on me,” Enroth said afterwards. “Maybe I was a little bit slow on the pass out. On the second goal it was just a bang-bang play. Not much to do there I think.”

The loss dropped him to 0-3-1 on the year, with a 3.94 GAA and .872 save percentage.

“Obviously, wasn’t going good enough,” head coach Mike Babcock said, per TSN. “We’re just in a situation where we’re making a change.”

It’s a stark contract to last season, when Enroth performed very well — albeit in a limited capacity — as Jonathan Quick‘s backup in Los Angeles. The diminutive Swede went 7-5-1 with a .922 save percentage, and was disappointed he didn’t get more opportunities to play.

“Just being a bigger part of the team is what I would like to do in the summer,” Enroth told the Los Angeles Times back in April. “I really thought they were going to play me more.

“If you sign a guy for $1.2 million, you’re not going to play him 13 games, in my opinion.”

Toronto signed Enroth in late August to serve as Frederik Andersen‘s backup. It’s worth noting that Enroth only received four starts for Toronto before getting waived, so hardly a huge body of work.

As for the Leafs’ plan moving forward, it’s possible they could sign veteran Finn Karri Ramo. Ramo suffered a season-ending ACL tear with Calgary in February, and has been practicing with the Leafs for the last month.

If Ramo’s not the option, the club does have Garret Sparks, Jeff Glass and Antoine Bibeau in the system, and available for recall.