Yesterday, James got into the salary cap woes facing the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Yes, their issues are many and their answers to solving those problems all point towards further disbanding the team that just won the franchise’s first Cup since 1961.
If something is going to be done and players are going to be moved out of town, who will it end up being? Let’s take a look at the players that could, potentially, be on the block.
Cristobal Huet – (contract: 2 years with $5.625 million cap hit)
I’d be doing you all a disservice if I didn’t just get Huet out of the way first and foremost. Huet’s contract is the main reason to want to get him out of town by any means necessary. Huet’s cap hit is $5.625 million for the next two seasons and he managed to get relegated to the bench by current restricted free agent Antti Niemi. Niemi is still trying to get his contract squared away and it’s safe to say he’s not going to be making the same $800,000 he did last year. Being the starting goalie on a Stanley Cup winner will almost guarantee that.
Huet’s contract makes it nearly impossible to deal him, but moving him to the AHL sits as a distinct possibility. Putting him on waivers virtually guarantees he won’t get picked up by someone else, and only a catastrophic number of injuries to goalies in Chicago would put the Blackhawks at risk for bringing Huet back up through re-entry waivers. If the Hawks can make that $5.625 million go away, they can save themselves the trouble of having to move more offensive quality depth players than they’d want to. Others are virtually assuming that Huet is as good as gone to AHL Rockford, but until that happens he’s the elephant in the room so to speak. His salary is almost necessary to move in any way possible to give the Hawks the maneuverability they’ll need to ice a complete team worth a damn.
Chances of being demoted/traded: Very likely
Patrick Sharp – (contract: 2 years, $3.9 million cap hit)
He’s almost always the subject of trade rumors and why not? He’s productive and does it all seemingly while in the shadow of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. It’s not a bad gig to have because the pressure is really off. The last four years, Sharp has been a consistent scorer netting in the range of 65 points per year and scoring 20+ goals in each season, including 36 goals back in 2007-2008. He’s an ideal complimentary piece for a team with bigger names but could it be possible he’d break out in a big way if he went somewhere lacking a big scoring wing? Ahh, there’s the rub. He’d make a great second line scorer for teams eager to add one, but bringing him aboard to be a first liner could make life difficult. His salary by itself would allow Chicago to get a little breathing room provided that the Hawks are OK with fielding a team with guys making the league minimum. That might get sketchy.
Chances of being traded: Possible
Brian Campbell – (contract: 6 years, $7,142,875 cap hit)
Campbell only needs to be mentioned here because if the Blackhawks were able to pawn him off on someone else it would be general manager Stan Bowman’s version of a great jewel heist and someone else’s version of Seward’s Folly. His contract is toxic and overbearing. This has nothing to do with the player. He’s a solid defenseman and runs a good power play and he’d be an asset to any team he played for. The problem is his contract is a payroll punishing iceberg, a fact the Blackhawks know all too well. Even for teams looking to reach the salary floor, taking on that much money for that long of a time just does not make any business sense… Unless they’re getting a huge gift basket from the Blackhawks to go with Campbell.
Chances of being traded: Nearly impossible
Marian Hossa – (contract: 11 years, $5.275 million cap hit)
Sounds crazy, right? This one is more of a theoretical suggestion so bear with me. He went to Chicago to make another run at a Stanley Cup. He accomplished that goal in his first season. He doesn’t have a long history with the Blackhawks even though he’ll go down in Hawks lore as being on a slump-busting Cup winner. He wasn’t drafted by Chicago and essentially committed to the Hawks to latch on to a team with a bright immediate future. In essence, the Hawks have gotten what they wanted from Hossa so why not dangle him out there to free up a huge chunk of cap space on a deal that, while long, isn’t exactly a cap destroyer. The catch with Hossa is that he’s 31 years-old and having him around until he’s 42 might feel pretty daunting. Losing Hossa’s money in conjunction with making Huet’s money disappear would be a God-send for Chicago’s cap if it came down to that.
Chances of being traded: Not likely, but intriguing
Dave Bolland – (contract: 4 years, $3.375 million cap hit)
He was the unknown hero that always jumps out during the NHL playoffs. He was as dangerous shorthanded as he was during even strength situations and he showed that the seemingly crazy contract extension the Blackhawks gave him may have been worth it. He’s the Blackhawks number two center and there are some teams that could use one of those (Los Angeles, Washington). He’s also 24 years-old and starting to come into his own as an NHL starter. His salary isn’t exactly bad, but Chicago might be reticent to be rid of his usefulness in all situations. That said, if Chicago gets desperate and no one is biting elsewhere, a savvy proposal could get Chicago to move him.
Chances of being traded: Pretty slim
We’re not meant to feel bad for the Blackhawks here, this is their mess and they’ve got to deal with things as well as they possibly can. They’ve already drastically changed the outlook of their team as it is and there will be more changes to come. What they do, however, will have a profound effect on what the Blackhawks do the next few years as to whether they’ll continue to be contenders or if they’ll tread water being known as the NHLs version of the Florida Marlins.