Plenty of salary cap headaches remain for the Blackhawks

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Thumbnail image for hjalinaction.jpgDespite moving players such as Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Brent Sopel and Andrew Ladd, the Chicago Blackhawks are still in a salary cap mess right now. Matching the San Jose Sharks’ offer sheet for Niklas Hjalmarsson won’t help things, either, even if it was a good move for their on-ice product.

One thing to take into account, though, is that it seems rather clear that the Blackhawks are going to bite the bullet and send Cristobal Huet’s $5.6 million cap hit to the minors, KHL or … some frozen outpost? Ryan Classic did a nice job when he took a look at what Chicago’s roster would like if they took their current players (minus Huet) and filled the rest of the mandatory spots with minimum wage contracts.

In Ryan’s study, the team would have three minimum wage forwards, one minimum wage defenseman (plus near-minimum wage guy John Scott) and two minimum wage goalies. Most NHL teams carry at least 22 players, though, so one would assume that Classic’s estimated $2.738 million in cap space would be closer to $1.7 million.

The biggest question remains: what will happen with Antti Niemi? It’s unclear how much the Blackhawks can stomach (or how much they value Niemi compared to an average NHL goalie).

Joe is going to break down some of the team’s options, trade-wise, but it’s actually not … impossible for them to go with a top-heavy design. I’m not saying I’d recommend it, but then again, the Blackhawks haven’t done many things I’d recommend (cap-wise, at least).

Kane9.jpgIn the top-heavy current setup, Chicago would be pretty threadbare once you got past its top two offensive and defensive lines. Can Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Dave Bolland and Troy Brouwer carry their offense? Will Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell and Niklas Hjalmarsson be so good that the team could camouflage a weak bottom third on the blueline? Would the high-end make up for those deficiencies and possibly a middle-of-the-road netminder who may or may not be Niemi?

There are a lot of questions for the team in its current state. Perhaps it’s still too early to panic, but at some point, the Blackhawks are going to have to accept reality. I thought they’d do that by letting Hjalmarsson go, but apparently the team isn’t ready to make more tough decisions just yet.

What would you do if you were GM Stan Bowman? Are the Blackhawks hopeless? Will someone save the day by taking in Brian Campbell’s horrendous contract? It should be interesting to see how different Chicago’s roster will look in October compared to today. It won’t be easy; it won’t be pretty. But at some point, the Blackhawks will have to put 20 players on the ice under the cap for next season. We’ll keep you informed as that deadline rapidly approaches.