Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman won’t commit to anything before he has all the facts, and the one thing he doesn’t know right now is what the NHL’s salary cap will be for 2016-17.
Currently, all Bowman has to work with is an estimate — $74 million, up slightly from this season’s $71.4 million limit.
But that estimate assumes the NHLPA will sign off on the standard five percent escalator. And considering how the players feel about escrow — long story short: they hate it! — GMs like Bowman can’t afford to assume anything.
And, so, for the time being, Bowman can’t say if the Blackhawks will be able to re-sign restricted free agent Andrew Shaw.
Nor can he say if Bryan Bickell will be bought out. Bickell has one year left on his contract, with a cap hit of $4 million.
Bowman didn’t deny that the Blackhawks are facing some cap challenges. For that reason, he emphasized the importance of the youngsters currently in Rockford graduating to the NHL level next season.
But then, he added, there’s a pretty good reason the ‘Hawks will be up against the cap again this summer:
Last year, the NHL revealed the 2015-16 salary cap on June 23.
Expect a similarly timed announcement this year, i.e. before the draft, before the buyout window closes, and before the bidding for free agents begins.