How Blackhawks could utilize cap space ahead of 2020-21 NHL trade deadline

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Charlie Roumeliotis
·3 min read
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How Blackhawks could utilize cap space ahead of deadline originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The NHL trade deadline is roughly one month away, but the chatter is slowly starting to pick up around the league because of the condensed schedule and potential quarantine time for Canadian clubs looking to acquire players from U.S. markets. 

The Blackhawks are past the halfway mark of the 2020-21 campaign and sit in the No. 4 spot of the Central Division despite losing four of their past five games in regulation. Nobody expected them to be in this position at this point in the season.

So how might that affect the Blackhawks' plans at the April 12 trade deadline? Well, don't expect them to be aggressive buyers, as they remain focused on the bigger picture. But that doesn't mean they won't look to add to their roster in a different way.

According to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, the Blackhawks are a team that could consider taking money "to absorb a contract or two if the assets are good enough." That means the Blackhawks could help out a cap-strapped contender free up space to make a bigger splash or financially-struggling market from unloading an expiring contract or two ahead of the deadline in exchange for sweeteners in the form of draft capital or prospects.

An example would be the Carolina Hurricanes acquiring Patrick Marleau and the final year of his $6.25 million cap hit from the Toronto Maple Leafs, who also included a conditional first-round pick and seventh-round selection in the 2020 NHL Draft. The Hurricanes bought out Marleau's contract five days later but ended up picking center Seth Jarvis with the No. 13 overall pick.

That trade occurred over the 2019 offseason, but the principle remains the same: Toronto desperately needed to shed salary to re-sign Mitch Marner and parted ways with a first-round pick to do it. It's unlikely we'll see a deal of that magnitude in-season, but you can bet in this financial climate, teams will be looking for ways to get dead money off the books.

The Blackhawks have more than $21 million in cap space because of their long-term injured reserve relief, which most notably includes Brent Seabrook, Andrew Shaw, Zack Smith and Jonathan Toews on the list. No team has more cap space available than Chicago, which almost certainly wouldn't be interested in taking on a contract beyond this season.

Executing a trade like the one shared above — albeit on a lesser scale — would allow the Blackhawks to keep their roster intact for a playoff push in the short term while also acquiring future assets to assist in their long-term vision of growing the farm system and getting younger. It's a win-win.

There's still time between now and the trade deadline, but it's something to monitor as we get closer to April 12 and the dominoes start to fall.

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