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.

Clutter-bucks: Isles sign energy guy to five-year, $17.5 million extension

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 03:  Cal Clutterbuck #15 of the New York Islanders scores his second goal of the game at 9:53 of the third period against the Dallas Stars at the Barclays Center on January 3, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  The Islanders defeated the Stars 6-5. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The New York Islanders made a splash on Friday, signing veteran forward Cal Clutterbuck to a five-year, $17.5 million extension — one that carries a $3.5 million average annual cap hit through 2023.

Clutterbuck, 29, has two goals and nine points through 25 games this year, while averaging 15:26 TOI per night (his highest average since joining the Isles four years ago). As per usual, he leads the club in hits — one of the staples of his game — and serves as one of the club’s alternate captains.

This new contract represents a nice raise for the former Minnesota Wild man. His last contract, set to expire in July, was of the four-year, $11 million variety, and carried a $2.75 million cap hit.

This contract also resembles the one GM Garth Snow gave another of the club’s role forwards. This summer, Casey Cizikas signed a five-year, $16.75 million extension — one with a $3.35 million hit — despite the fact he’d never scored more than 30 points in a season, or averaged more than 14 minutes of ice time.

This style of spending — along with splashes made for free agent disappointments Jason Chimera and Andrew Ladd — is sure to raise some questions. The Isles opted not to spend that money on retaining two of their key players from a season ago, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo, and the club has struggled to find its form through the first quarter of this year.

Bettman: Salary cap could stay the same for next season

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 27:  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman unveils the League's Centennial celebration plans for 2017 during a press conference at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 at Air Canada Centre on September 27, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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Don’t expect a big jump in next season’s salary cap.

“We’re not going to give out any numbers now,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said yesterday, per Yahoo Sports. “The cap could range from where it is now to a couple or so million up, but we’re all going to have to focus on what makes the most sense moving forward.”

The salary cap only went up slightly for the current season, from $71.4 million to $73 million. The only slight increase was due to the lower Canadian dollar, which negatively impacted last season’s league revenues by “$100 or 200 million,” Bettman said earlier this year.

The loonie has been holding relatively steady for around half a year. It’s currently worth $0.76 USD and has been helped by the recent oil rally.

A flat salary cap would be bad news for big spenders like the Chicago Blackhawks, who still need to get Artemi Panarin signed to an extension. The Los Angeles Kings could also be forced to make some tough decisions, as they’ve got Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson in need of new deals. Ditto for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have key RFAs in Brian Dumoulin, Justin Schultz, and Conor Sheary.

Related: Trades galore? McPhee expecting ‘a massive player redistribution before the expansion draft’

A few ‘bad decisions’ have been costing Lundqvist

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) reacts after giving up a goal to Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016, in New York. The Penguins won 6-1. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
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Henrik Lundqvist has set such a high bar that his 12-8-1 record with a .912 save percentage is cause for great concern these days in New York.

That his backup, Antti Raanta, is 6-1-0 with a .932 save percentage only contributes to that concern, because if Raanta can manage those numbers, what’s Lundqvist’s excuse?

“I feel like I’m tracking the puck well, moving well,” Lundqvist told the Daily News. “It just comes down to some bad decisions at times that cost me.”

Indeed, December has not started well for The King. He’s allowed 10 goals in three starts for a save percentage of .894. In Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to the Islanders, his decision to poke check a loose puck led to the winning goal by Andrew Ladd.

But while this month has been a struggle, it should be noted that Lundqvist was mostly excellent in November. He finished with a .925 save percentage, including that 40-save victory on Black Friday in Philadelphia.

Which is to say, he has more than earned the benefit of the doubt. Since 2008-09, Lundqvist has not finished a season with a save percentage below .920, and that is a remarkable achievement.

Raanta was solid again last night in Winnipeg, where the Rangers beat the Jets, 2-1. A starting goalie for tonight’s game in Chicago has not yet been announced, but Lundqvist is a good bet.

Top 10 career save percentages among goalies with at least 300 NHL starts

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Jets send talented rookie Connor to AHL

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 23:  Goalie Cam Talbot #33 of the Edmonton Oilers pushes Kyle Connor #81 of the Winnipeg Jets  during the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic hockey game on October 23, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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Kyle Connor is on his way to the minors.

On Friday, Winnipeg announced that Connor — the former Michigan Wolverines star taken 17th overall in 2015 — has been assigned to the club’s AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose.

Connor, 19, had just one goal and four points through 19 games this year, struggling to adjust to life at the professional level.

He’d been a healthy scratch for each of the Jets’ last six games and, prior to that, missed five games with an upper-body injury after getting nailed into the boards by L.A. forward Kyle Clifford.

The Jets are getting healthy up front, which further explains why Connor is on his way to the Moose. Bryan Little and Mathieu Perreault both recently returned from injury.