If any team could seamlessly move on from Marian Hossa, it would be the Chicago Blackhawks.
That’s not to say that GM Stan Bowman and head coach Joel Quenneville lack appreciation for perhaps the best two-way winger of this era. Quenneville likely said it best to NHL.com: “I don’t think you replace [Hossa], because he’s a special player.”
MORE: Skin condition will sideline Hossa for 2017-18
Instead, it’s a testament to how the Blackhawks continue to contend, year after year: a willingness to make the tough choices that allow your team to compete. So, Chicago can merely “rebuild and reload” by taking that $5.275 million cap hit from Hossa’s seemingly inevitable trip to the LTIR, right?
Not exactly. At least not yet, as CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers discusses:
Here are two basics about the cap: a team can be 10 percent over it during the summer, and a team must be at or below it the day the regular season begins. If the Blackhawks place Hossa on LTIR, it wouldn’t take effect until the second day of the regular season. So on Day 1 of the season, the Blackhawks would still be carrying Hossa’s $5.275 cap hit.
Once the LTIR would take effect, though, the Blackhawks would have wiggle room. If they spent to the $75 million cap, they could utilize Hossa’s entire $5.275 million cap hit on other players.
Myers notes that Bowman said he wishes it was as simple as merely replacing Hossa’s cap hit – if not his impact – during the summer. Instead, things could be a bit more complicated.
Things could get even messier if the NHL decides to impede Chicago’s progress.
If the Blackhawks get to send Hossa to the LTIR, it won’t be the easiest situation. Before you get too gloomy about it, there still could be some creative options.
Brainstorming a few ideas
For one thing, what if the Vegas Golden Knights decide to keep James Neal around for a little while?
Now, Neal and Hossa are very different players, yet both are wingers that can help your team win. Neal’s $5 million cap hit matches up remarkably well with that Hossa $5.275 million hit once it would go to LTIR, and the former Predators winger is in the last year of his contract.
As Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee is wont to do, Neal would cost more than just money. Still, that’s just one example, and it’s plausible that other teams might want to sell off a piece but find summer offerings undesirable.
In other words, a rental could be a good way to make lemonade from all of this.
There’s also the possibility that the Blackhawks could look into players who didn’t get signed during the summer, including guys who just missed on PTOs.
This isn’t to say that these are ideal scenarios, but the point is that the Blackhawks could still navigate this difficult situation, particularly if they show the flexibility and creativity they’ve displayed in avoiding salary cap challenges before.
Even if it doesn’t mean another Hossa’s walking through that door.
As a reminder, the Blackhawks may still have some moves in mind even before getting that delayed cap relief. We still need to find out if they are ridding themselves of Marcus Kruger‘s cap hit, something that Bowman wouldn’t address.
None of this is necessarily easy, yet this franchise frequently aces tests like these.