Limited cap space shouldn’t affect Chicago’s ability to compete for the cup

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This post is part of Blackhawks Day on PHT…

It’s no secret that the Chicago Blackhawks have been tight against the cap in the last few years. Given the term on some of their current contracts, they’ll likely have limited cap space in the coming seasons as well.

When Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane combine to take up $21 million in cap space, it makes building a team a little more difficult. Teams with two-or-more high priced players, like Chicago, need to get creative when putting together their roster. But to GM Stan Bowman, that’s a good problem to have.

“The one thing that gets lost in the shuffle sometimes is what this group has accomplished,” Bowman said of his expensive core, per the Chicago Tribune. “These guys have earned these contracts from their performance, and it’s really unmatched around the league. … I don’t look at it as a negative that we have these guys.

“The teams that have a lot of cap flexibility really haven’t accomplished anything. So if your goal is to just have cap flexibility, there are certainly ways to do that.”

Other notable cap hits include: Marian Hossa ($5.275 million), Artem Anisimov ($4.55 million), Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million), Duncan Keith ($5.5 million), Niklas Hjalmarsson ($4.1 million), Corey Crawford ($6 million).

Bowman has been forced to make some tough decisions over the last few off-seasons. He had to trade scoring winger Brandon Saad to Columbus last year because they couldn’t afford him anymore. This summer, Chicago’s general manager unloaded Teuvo Teravainen to Carolina so that he could get rid of Bryan Bickell’s inflated cap hit.

Not many teams could survive after trading players like Saad and Teravainen, but the ‘Hawks always seem to manage. Now, the challenge is to get better while outside options become even more limited.

If anything, the 2016 playoffs should give the ‘Hawks more hope. The Penguins, who took home Lord Stanley in 2016, are built similarly to the Blackhawks.

Pittsburgh has a number of high-priced core players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury, but they still managed to go all the way.

The ‘Hawks shouldn’t be in any danger when it comes to missing the playoffs, so the key becomes finding those low-cost players that can be productive in the post-season.

Pittsburgh got great production from Crosby, Phil Kessel and other big names, but the contributions from Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust and Tom Kuhnhackl were important too.

So who knows, maybe next year we’ll be talking about a long playoff run from the ‘Hawks with Vincent Hinostroza, Dennis Rasmussen and Nick Schmaltz being key contributors.

One thing is certain, more tough decisions are coming. Next summer, Artemi Panarin will become a restricted free agent and he’ll be in line for a significant raise if he builds on his strong rookie season. Bringing him back means that someone else will need to go.