As the champagne finally dries up and the last pieces of confetti are vacuumed, attention turns to what, exactly, the Chicago Blackhawks might look like in 2015-16.
The Blackhawks have $64.05 million committed to the cap next season. That’s a lot.
They have 11 skaters under contract. That’s … not a lot.
"It kind of reminds me going into that summer of 2010," coach Joel Quenneville told the Chicago Tribune, in a comment that could send shivers down the spines of Blackhawks fans. "We knew we were going to have to lose a significant amount of our team, (but) losing almost half of it that summer, I didn't know we were going to lose that many. This year, I don't anticipate that amount. We'll see what happens, but certainly the nature of the game, this era, change is all part of it."
Chris Kuc of the Tribune explains how deep the cuts could go, as one player told him "all hell is going to break loose soon":
Fingers will be pointed at Bowman when the shedding of salaries costs the Hawks some key components. Along with the likely trade of alternate captain Patrick Sharp and his $5.9 million cap hit — a difficult move considering his talent and 10-year tenure on the team — players such as Bryan Bickell and Kris Versteeg, among others, could be shown the door. And then there are the unrestricted free agents who likely won't be back, including Brad Richards, Antoine Vermette, Johnny Oduya, Michal Rozsival and Daniel Carcillo.
So how do the Blackhawks restock the cupboard? Three ways:
1. The return on salary dumps.
The rumored asking price for Patrick Sharp – 1st-round pick, A-level prospect and top six forward on entry-level contract – is crazy pants, but so is any starting offer in a negotiation. What it does tell us is that GM Stan Bowman isn’t just going to shuffle off assets that are under contract for peanuts just to get them off the cap. Or at least he won’t with Sharp.
2. There are reinforcements on the way.
Unlike in 2010, the Blackhawks have several young players that could set up and fill-in the holes left by jettisoned vets.
With young players such as [Brandon] Saad, Teuvo Teravainen and Andrew Shaw, that should be enough to make them a postseason contender for seasons to come. But around these parts, reaching the playoffs is setting the bar way too low. That is why Bowman has been stockpiling prospects not only through the draft but via free-agent signings. The core's supporting cast next season could include the likes of dazzling forward Artemi Panarin out of Russia, left-handed-shooting defenseman Erik Gustafsson from Sweden and college prospects Kyle Baun and Michael Paliotta. "Fortunately, we were able to get some guys that we're very excited to get," Bowman said. "We'll see where they all fit come training camp. I like the options that we will have."
So help could be on the way within the organization. And the outside?
3. Players want to play for the Hawks.
“One of the things that we talk about is consistency. When you’ve got the best captain in the NHL, a really young core … I think this is now a destination. Free agents want to come here,” said Blackhawks president John McDonough during the Hawks' celebration.
Sure, it helps when players like Brad Richards are flush with buyout money and can take a contract for peanuts from the Blackhawks for a season. But as their president said: Don’t discount how many free-agent derbies the Blackhawks might win by virtue of being a place where veterans want to play – and potentially win, as Richards did.
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