Patrick Sharp

Next season’s salary cap to be revealed this week

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Not sure exactly when the NHL will announce next season’s cap number, but the general managers will reportedly learn it tomorrow when they meet in Las Vegas.

The GMs have a media availability tomorrow, tentatively scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET. Perhaps they’ll share the details then. At some point, the league will make it official with a press release. They did it last year at the draft.

The 2015-16 cap has been the subject of intense speculation this season. A plunging Canadian dollar combined with ongoing player dissatisfaction related to escrow had many wondering if it could be significantly lower than the $73 million figure that commissioner Gary Bettman pegged in December.

In April, Bettman trimmed his prediction to $71.5 million. Considering the cap was $69 million this past season, we’re not talking about a big bump at all.

Related: A holdover from the ‘dark days,’ does Patrick Sharp have a future in Chicago?

What noteworthy players might get moved at the draft?

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June 26th is the day that Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel will finally be drafted, but that’s not all that will happen. Each year there are typically some major trades made just before or during the draft. In that spirit, here are some of the popular candidates to be moved this time around:

Phil Kessel — Toronto is looking to go in a new direction and it seems likely that will involve Kessel finding a new home. The big question though is if Toronto can get what it would consider fair value for him. Toronto is reportedly willing to take on a contract to make his $8 million cap hit through 2021-22 more palatable, but it would still be difficult for many contending teams to take him on. At the same time, Kessel has five 30-plus goal seasons under his belt and has reached the 80-point mark on two occasions. He doesn’t have much playoff experience, but he has scored 13 goals and 21 points in 23 postseason games.

Patrick Sharp — Chicago has had to part ways with a lot of talented players over the last several years in order to stay under the cap. The Blackhawks once again have cap issues after winning its third Stanley Cup in six years. They might be able to address it without moving Sharp, but he’ll be 34 years old in December and he has two more years with a $5.9 million cap hit, so now might be the time to move him from a value perspective. Speaking of which:

It would be surprising to see Chicago get that, but this might also be a case of the Blackhawks starting the bidding high so they have something to work down from.

Cam Talbot — In two seasons with the Rangers, Talbot has a 2.00 GAA and .931 save percentage in 51 games. That’s made him the ideal understudy, but it also means that the Rangers aren’t likely to retain his services when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2016. With that in mind, it would make sense for New York to move him now, especially seeing as there’s reportedly considerable interest in him. As Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman noted, Talbot isn’t eligible to sign an extension until Jan. 1, 2016, which means any team acquiring him will have an increased risk of watching him walk as a free agent. That might hurt the Rangers’ return a bit.

Kyle Okposo — He is a recent addition to the rumor mill as Newsday’s sources said that he could be on the trading block. Okposo only has a year left on his contract and while he currently comes with an affordable $2.8 million cap hit, he’s due for a big raise after recording 120 points in 131 games over the last two seasons. Still the Islanders have cap space to spare and they’re only now emerging as serious contenders, so it would be surprising to see them turn around and trade Okposo this summer. He certainly wouldn’t be the first player moved to catch people off guard though.

Craig Anderson/Robin Lehner — When the Ottawa Senators decided to sign Andrew Hammond to a three-year extension, it all-but guaranteed that they would move a goaltender this summer. The only question is which one. Lehner is just 23 years old (24 in July) and is locked in for two more years at roughly $2.2 million. That would be a pretty good deal if he lived up to his potential, but he’s had a rough couple of years. Anderson was the better netminder in 2014-15, but the fact that he’s 34 years old and still has three years left on his contract at $4.2 million per might give other general managers pause.

This shouldn’t be taken as a complete list, just a sampling of some of the more interesting cases.

Bowman vows to keep Saad in Chicago ‘for years to come’

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Don’t bother putting an offer sheet in front of Brandon Saad.

That’s the message Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has been sending, with a little help from the media, to his counterparts around the league.

Moments after the ‘Hawks won the Stanley Cup on Monday, Bowman told reporters: “I just talked to [Saad] right after we won. We gave a hug and I said, ‘This is the first of many; we’re going to win a lot together.’ He gave me a big hug and said, ‘Let’s go.’ So, no, he’s going to be here. I don’t think he would want to leave after this scene here.”

Today, Bowman reiterated that message, all but guaranteeing he’d re-sign the 22-year-old pending restricted free agent who scored so many big goals for the ‘Hawks during these past playoffs:

While Saad wasn’t quite as certain as his GM, he clearly does want to be back:

In 2010, the ‘Hawks matched the four-year, $14 million offer sheet that defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson signed with San Jose. Chicago had the option to receive the Sharks’ first- and third-round draft picks in the 2011 draft as compensation. The decision to match ultimately led to the departure of free-agent goalie Antti Niemi (to San Jose, interestingly).

If the Blackhawks do end up signing Saad, they’ll likely need to trade at least one of their veteran forwards. Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell have each had their names come up in speculation.

It’s also not clear which, if any, pending unrestricted free agents will be back. Johnny Oduya, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards, Andrew Desjardins and Michal Rozsival are all without contracts for next season.

Related: Let’s all remember why offer sheets are rarely signed

Have we seen the Blackhawks at their highest point?

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The Chicago Blackhawks have already been named as an early favorite to win the 2016 championship. That would be their fourth in seven years.

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.

source: AP
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane

Ten interesting numbers from the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup run

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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.