Just over two years ago, Bryan Bickell signed a four-year, $16 million contract extension.
Today, the Chicago Blackhawks placed him on waivers, paving the way for a potential AHL demotion for the 29-year-old winger.
True, the ‘Hawks can only save around a million bucks in cap space by sending Bickell to Rockford, but every penny counts these days. The numerous veteran free agents forced to accept professional tryouts are proof of that.
“There is a recent trend in the NHL now to go younger,” agent Allan Walsh told TSN 690 in Montreal.
“And there’s a reason why. Younger players are taking up less cap space. You have a lot of teams that two years ago were projecting a $75-76 million cap right now that did not materialize because of the fall of the Canadian dollar.”
The salary cap for 2015-16 came in at $71.4 million.
“It’s a cap squeeze,” Walsh said. “It’s a function of all these years in the salary cap, the money in the cap system going to the elite guys.”
Elite guys like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, each now with a cap hit of $10.5 million.
“You see teams now doing everything they can to get their 19-, 20-, 21-year-old players into the lineup,” said Walsh.
Or, they’re signing veterans for peanuts. Like the ‘Hawks did with Michal Rozsivial.
What will be interesting to see over the next few days is how teams finalize their 23-man rosters. If there’s an open spot, do they sign a veteran on a pro tryout, or do they give it to a kid?
“I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that the coaches are pushing for the veteran guy, because coaches always prefer experience,” said Walsh.
“(But) there are GMs who are managing caps where they need to get that young guy in the lineup and get him going, vis-à-vis his CBA rights.”
Related: Why NHL fans — no matter where they live — should care about the plunging Canadian dollar