Patrick Kane

Bettman projects 2015-16 cap will be $71.5 million


Throughout the regular season, the salary cap for 2015-16 has been a subject of speculation due to the decline in the Canadian dollar. We’ve become used to dramatic annual jumps in the ceiling, with the obvious exception of the new CBA resulting in a rollback. From 2013-14 to 2014-15 for example, the cap went from $64.3 million to $69 million.

Those climbs have been important for teams that spend to the ceiling as it gives them critical maneuvering room. For those squads, the good news is it is expected to go up again — but not by as much as originally hoped.

With the season and most of the first round done, Gary Bettman is projecting that the salary cap will end up being around $71.5 million, per Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. That’s in contrast to the December estimate of about $73 million.

The modest increase is particularly problematic for the Chicago Blackhawks as Patrick Kane’s and Jonathan Toews’ matching eight-year, $84 million contracts are set to kick in next season. Although they aren’t the only squad that will have some difficulty finding a way to stay under the ceiling.

This could lead to more trades like the New York Islanders’ acquisition of defensemen Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk from Chicago and Boston respectively prior to the start of the campaign. Those trades gave the Islanders a significant boost and likely only happened because the Bruins and Blackhawks were in a tough cap position.

Keith conquers: Blackhawks come back, eliminate Predators


The Nashville Predators aren’t a common playoff threat for the Chicago Blackhawks, so in some ways, this blistering first-round series feels different. Even so, the usual suspects keep coming up big for the Blackhawks, so the script ended up being familiar enough.

Brent Seabrook scored the game-winner in that epic triple-OT contest in Game 4. Duncan Keith was the difference-maker not once, but twice. Patrick Kane was shockingly productive in this series even short of 100 percent; Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa were their usual dominant selves.

It almost felt inevitable when Keith scored the last game-winner, as close as this series was:

With plenty of overtime action in this series, Predators – Blackhawks felt like a seven-game classic. Chicago was able to make enough plays to end it in six, however, beating Nashville in another thriller by a score of 4-3.

Things were wild and woolly in the opening frame. James Neal scored two early goals, and after the teams traded tallies for a 3-1 Nashville lead, Joel Quenneville gave Scott Darling the hook in favor of Corey Crawford.

It wasn’t advantage: Predators for very long, however. Jonathan Toews scored on the power play and Patrick Kane fired a laser beam home late in the first to tie it up 3-3.

There was plenty of action after that, but Chicago was unable to take advantage of a significant advantage in play in the second period, including a 12-7 shot advantage. In general, it seemed like the Blackhawks were locking in to try to put away the Predators, yet both Crawford and Pekka Rinne held strong through much of the action, making for more tight proceedings.

Ultimately, Rinne was unable to turn aside an unrelenting Blackhawks attack culminating with Keith’s game-winner.

With that, the Blackhawks advance to the next round while the Predators’ surprisingly excellent season ends in heartbreak.

Time will tell if Nashville can bounce back and turn this one-off series into a budding rivalry. Whatever happens in 2015-16 and beyond, this was one of those rare gems that may very well convert new fans to the sport.

… Even if the ultimate outcome might seem predictable to some.

Video: Patrick Kane ties it with a ridiculous shot


When you have Patrick Kane – even in a possibly hampered form – deficits aren’t quite as scary.

The Chicago Blackhawks faced down a 3-1 gap when the Nashville Predators chased Scott Darling, but they enter the first intermission tied 3-3. The bigger-picture answer to “How?” is that it’s been a wild, wide-open game … but sometimes there’s only so much use in explaining things when you have Kane on your team.

A player with a recently injured shoulder/clavicle shouldn’t be able to shoot a laser like this one. Actually, few forwards could unleash a shot like this, period:


Blackhawks make line changes ahead of Game 6


The Chicago Blackhawks have another chance to close out their first round series with the Nashville Predators tonight at the United Center.

Head coach Joel Quenneville shuffled his lines slightly at the team’s morning skate.

Kris Versteeg will move up to the Hawks’ second line alongside Brad Richards and Patrick Kane. Bryan Bickell moves down to play with Antoine Vermette and Patrick Sharp.

“They’re both useful options with that [second] line,” said Quenneville.

Versteeg has a goal in the first five games of the series while Bickell has two assists and eight penalty minutes in the five games.

Preds, Forsberg finally solve Darling, push series to Game 6


The Nashville Predators’ backs are against the ropes, but they’re still swinging. After spending the better part of the contest tied, Nashville broke out early in the third period to earn a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.

On the same day that he was officially left off the list of Calder Trophy finalists, 20-year-old forward Filip Forsberg led the charge for the Predators with a hat trick. He scored their first goal at 14:42 of the first period to swiftly end Chicago’s early one-goal edge. He chipped in again in the third period to round out Nashville’s remarkable run of three goals in under three minutes:

Patrick Kane and Kris Versteeg combined for a beautiful goal with just over five minutes remaining in the contest, but at that point it wasn’t enough to change the course of this game. Chicago went into tonight with an opportunity to eliminate the Predators and they couldn’t get the job done.

With the net empty, Forsberg was able to collect his final marker of the contest with 11 seconds to spare.

Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling had a commanding .969 save percentage in his first three playoff contests, but the 26-year-old rookie netminder had a rough game tonight, stopping just 24 of 28 shots. Meanwhile Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews were each limited to a pair of shots on goal.

The silver lining for the Blackhawks is that they have another chance to advance in Game 6 on Saturday and this time the Blackhawks will be playing at home.