Pittsburgh Penguins v Chicago Blackhawks

Report: Blackhawks, Brent Seabrook close to signing 5-year extension worth almost $30M

While the deal is still far from official, Jeremy Lynn of CSN Chicago passes along a report that the Chicago Blackhawks and Brent Seabrook are close to signing a five-year deal worth a bit under $30 million. For you non-math majors out there, that’s almost $6 million per year, although it’s likely that the year-to-year salary and cap hit might be quite different at times. This would allow Chicago to avoid dealing with Seabrook’s status as a restricted free agent this summer.

Assuming that this deal happens (it’s supposedly going to be announced in “a few days”), this would keep the young nucleus of Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane together for the mid-term future.

Of course, merely glancing at some of the assets the ‘Hawks split with over the years shows that keeping that elite group together comes at a cost. They should have around $11 million of projected cap space after the Seabrook deal.* That sounds great until you consider the fact that the $11 million or so in cap space would need to cover 9-13 roster spots.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the issues that the eternally cap-challenged Chicago Blackhawks could face – at least as they are currently composed – in easy-to-digest bullet form.

  • Both of their goalies – Marty Turco (unrestricted) and Corey Crawford (restricted) – will be free agents this summer. That’s great because things with Turco haven’t worked out, but will Crawford be “The Next Antti Niemi” in a bad way (by skipping town after one nice season at the NHL level)?
  • With Duncan Keith’s cap-friendly contract, Niklas Hjalmarsson’s reasonable but far from cheap $3.5 million annual hit, Seabrook’s expected $6 million and Brian Campbell’s hilarious $7.1 million fee, the Hawks might invest $22.1 million in just four defensemen. Yikes.
  • Just to reiterate an important point, Chicago will only have $11 million to fill 9-13 roster spots, which means their chances of improving upon the team’s declining depth are slim at best.

So GM Stan Bowman once again faces an uncertain cap future. The Blackhawks front office clearly must be hoping that the salary cap ceiling goes up a few million, but even so, they’ll be like a fat guy in a little coat this summer.

That being said, it’s still pretty hard to argue with keeping Seabrook around. He’s a hard-hitting blueliner who plays rock-solid defense but can still contribute on the offensive end (four goals and 29 assists for 33 points so far this season). It’s just going to force another domino effect on the team’s depleted roster.

Such a deal makes one wonder if Bowman has some tricks up his sleeve. Will Campbell become a force in the AHL so the team can bury his ridiculous salary? Is someone else on the way out? Of course, first we need to make sure that this signing actually happens. If it does, then the Blackhawks will once again be one of the most fascinating teams to watch come free agent summer time.

* – I calculated this by taking the Hawks’ 11-12 projected cap space (a bit more than $17 million) before the Seabrook deal minus the approximate $6 million cap hit from this rumored contract extension.

Report: Kings, Richards nearing settlement

Mike Richards
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The Los Angeles Kings and Mike Richards may be nearing a settlement in their dispute over Richards’ terminated contract, TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting.

You can read the report for all the details, but we’re sure curious about this part:

If a settlement is reached, there’s no word yet on what salary cap penalties the Kings would still face. There’s bound to be something, but not likely as onerous as the full value of Richards’ contract, which carries with it a cap hit of $5.75 million. If there’s a settlement, Richards would undoubtedly become a free agent though there’s no telling at this point what monies he would be entitled to from the Kings in a settlement.

The issue here is precedent, and what this case could set. The NHL and NHLPA can’t allow teams to escape onerous contracts through a back door, and many are adamant that that’s what the Kings were attempting to do in Richards’ case.

Bettman to players: Don’t screw up ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ with drugs

Gary Bettman
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The NHL wants to take an educational approach — not a punitive one — to deter its players from using illicit drugs like cocaine.

“My interest is not to go around punishing people,” Bettman told Sportsnet today.

“My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”

While some players have expressed surprise at hearing that cocaine use is growing, the anecdotal evidence of substance abuse has been very much in the news, from Jarret Stoll‘s arrest to Mike Richards’ arrest to, more recently, Zack Kassian‘s placement in the NHL/NHLPA’s treatment program.

“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.”

Related: Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?