Check PHT every day until June 30 for a new pending unrestricted free agent of the day. Today’s UFA of the Day is…
One of the four workhorse defensemen for the Blackhawks, Oduya was a huge part of Chicago’s 2015 Stanley Cup run. The 33-year-old was on the ice more than Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and every other ‘Hawk forward. Besides goalie Corey Crawford, only Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson played more than Oduya did.
But Oduya also understands the situation. The Blackhawks are facing a cap crunch. There will be changes to the roster.
It’s certainly not out of the question that GM Stan Bowman will try to shed salary in an attempt to re-sign Oduya. After all, we saw this past season how the loss of a top-four defenseman can impact a good team. The Bruins badly missed Johnny Boychuk. Ditto for the Kings with Slava Voynov.
And while it’s true the Blackhawks have some good, young defensemen in the organization, is there one they feel comfortable slotting into a top-four role? Currently, only Keith, Seabrook, and Hjalmarsson are under contract for next season.
Perhaps Mike Reilly’s decision will impact what the Blackhawks do with Oduya. Reilly, like Oduya, shoots left. But again, Reilly has never played in the NHL. Stephen Johns and Ville Pokka haven’t either. Trevor van Riemsdyk is still inexperienced.
To be sure, if the Blackhawks decide they can’t keep Oduya, there will be interest from other teams. The Colorado Avalanche, to name just one potential suitor, are looking for a left-shot D.
“It’s just one of those things where you really don’t know the answers, you don’t know the outcomes,” said Oduya.
As good as the Blackhawks have been, with Patrick Kane just 26 years old and Jonathan Toews only two months removed from his 27th birthday, is it really a stretch to say that Chicago’s run has plenty of strong years left in it? Maybe not, but it’s far from a foregone conclusion.
The single biggest roadblock at this point is the Blackhawks’ cap situation. In the short-term, Chicago is likely going to have to make some sacrifices as it has about $64 million committed to 14 players, per General Fanager.
That’s not including 22-year-old Brandon Saad, who has now completed his entry-level contract and is in line for a considerable raise. Chicago also has to prepare for the fact that Brent Seabrook, who only has one year left on his contract, will likely demand more than his current $5.8 million annual cap hit.
Perhaps Patrick Sharp will be moved to give the Blackhawks the flexibility that they need. Maybe Chicago will find a way to keep him, although doing so would likely come at the expense of the Blackhawks’ depth.
Which brings us to the other part of their cap situation. While Kane and Toews just demonstrated once again — as if further proof was required — why Chicago had to re-sign them at any cost, in the salary cap era it’s the team that gets the best value that has the edge. Having Kane and Toews at $6.5 million cap hits each was a big part of the Blackhawks’ strength as it allowed them to support a rather large core, making the burden on the supporting cast somewhat less. The duo will continue to be enviable players, but their days of being under market value are over.
Now Chicago might find itself in a similar situation to Pittsburgh, which has struggled to build around Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby since they starting making what they’re worth (when the Penguins won the Cup, Malkin was still on his entry-level contract).
Then there’s the matter of Marian Hossa, who has had a tremendous career, but will be 37 in January. He nevertheless comes with a roughly $5.3 million annual cap hit through 2020-21. If Sharp gets traded away and Hossa declines, then suddenly Chicago starts to look a little thin offensively after Kane and Toews.
That’s not to suggest that Chicago’s decline is inevitable. Just because Pittsburgh hasn’t been able to make its cap situation work doesn’t mean that Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman can’t. After all, he’s been dealing with ceiling issues since he took over and they’ve stayed competitive. In part that’s because they’ve been able to draft and develop talent like Saad to help fill the gaps while keeping costs down. It’s also possible that Hossa has several good years left in him.
The salary cap by its nature pushes great teams down. Chicago has been remarkable in its ability to work around it. Time will tell if the Blackhawks will eventually succumb.
As Chicago wakes up from last night’s celebration and we enter a period of reflection following the Blackhawks’ third Stanley Cup championship in six years, let’s take a look at some of the interesting numbers associated with that feat:
2002: The last time a team won the Stanley Cup for the third time within the span of six years. The Detroit Red Wings won it all in 1997, 1998, and 2002.
45: The number of playoff games Corey Crawford has won. He’s tied for the Blackhawks’ franchise record with Tony Esposito.
114: How many points Patrick Kane has recorded in his 116 career playoff games. He’s just 26 years old, but is already tied for 64th place on the all-time leaderboard.
7: How many active Blackhawks’ players have been around for all three of Chicago’s recent Stanley Cup championships (Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, and Jonathan Toews). Justin Williams is the only active non-Blackhawks player with three Stanley Cup championships.
11: The size of the club Joel Quenneville joined by winning his third Stanley Cup as a head coach.
3: The number of Conn Smythe Trophy winners that got a point on Chicago’s Stanley Cup-winning goal (Duncan Keith, 2015; Patrick Kane, 2013; Brad Richards, 2004).
33-0-0: Chicago’s record (regular season and playoffs) when entering the third period with the lead. The Blackhawks were also 33-3-0 when leading after 20 minutes.
4: Where Duncan Keith’s 2015 playoff run ranked when it came to total ice time recorded during a single postseason since 1998. Keith logged 715:37 minutes, which put him behind just Nicklas Lidstrom (2002, 717:01), Chris Pronger (2006, 742:55), and Drew Doughty (2014, 747:33).
1,213: The number of games (regular season and playoffs) Kimmo Timonen participated in during his NHL career. Last night he lifted the Stanley Cup for the first time.
14: The number of Stanley Cup championships Scotty Bowman has won.
Scotty Bowman has 14 Stanley Cups. “Stan’s got three,” he said of his son with a smile. “He’s gonna catch up.”
CHICAGO — It’s hard to believe now, but in 2007, when John McDonough was named president of the Blackhawks, the franchise had devolved into an afterthought in the Windy City.
Monday at the United Center, right before Jonathan Toews hoisted the Stanley Cup for the third time in the last six years, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman proclaimed to the fans, “I’d say you have a dynasty.”
Funny what assembling a core of four future Hall of Famers — Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Marian Hossa — can do for a franchise’s fortunes.
Add secondary stars like Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson, get a good coach, a smart general manager, draft well, develop well, throw in a little luck, and the result is the first team worthy of the “dynasty” label in the salary-cap era.
“We’ve had to fight through some things, but it was worth every second of it,” said McDonough, speaking to reporters at center ice while the players and their young families celebrated around him.
“To see these guys mature into young adults, into grown men. Most of our guys when I started here were single. Now there’s babies all over the place.”
There will be those who question whether these Blackhawks are truly a dynasty. They haven’t won four straight Cups, like the Montreal Canadiens did from 1975-79, or the New York Islanders from 1980-83. They haven’t won five in seven years like the 1980s Oilers. Twice in the past six years Chicago has been eliminated in the first round.
When asked to weigh in on the dynasty debate, Kane replied, “I don’t know what that means. We’ve got three in six years. I know that’s pretty good.”
Similarly, general manager Stan Bowman deferred to others.
“I don’t think that’s really for me to say,” he said. “That’s really for other people to make those proclamations. All I know is that we’ve got an amazing group here, they’ve accomplished a lot together, and I’m really proud of the effort they’ve given year after year. It doesn’t always go your way, but they’ve accomplished quite a bit and we’re not finished.”
Bowman has another tough summer ahead. The Blackhawks won’t be back in their entirety next season. Some will be forced out due to the salary cap. That’s the “reality” of the situation, as Johnny Oduya put it. That reality is why the likes of Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Brian Campbell, Dave Bolland, Troy Brouwer, and Antti Niemi are playing elsewhere now.
“I think we’re going to enjoy this one for a bit,” said Bowman. “I’ve been thinking of that stuff for a long time. It’s not like it’s going to surprise me. We’ll make it work. We’ve got a plan in place. That’s really for another day. Right now we’re pretty thrilled with this whole scene in here.”
A decade ago, the Blackhawks were playing games before a half-empty arena, an Original Six franchise ignored.
Monday, they kicked off one of the great sports celebrations in this city’s history.