Even after trading Patrick Sharp to the Dallas Stars, the Chicago Blackhawks remain a kitten whisker away from the salary cap ceiling: Just $231,540 in cap space, according to General Fanager, with Marcus Kruger still floating out there as a restricted free agent.
Forward Bryan Bickell, 29, is scheduled to eat up $4 million of cap space in each of the next two seasons. Trading him would seem to be a surefire way to create salary cap breathing room, and Bickell’s departure has been predicted perhaps even more than Sharp’s was.
Yet the winger said at the Blackhawks Fan Convention on Friday that he expects to be with Chicago next season.
“I feel like I’m staying. I don’t feel like I’m leaving. I feel comfortable and I’m sure they feel comfortable with what I bring to this team and what I need,” he said. “I don’t want to say I’m replaceable but hopefully I can stay. I’m looking to come here for training camp as a Blackhawk, and hopefully I can stay that way.”
… “It’s out of my control. It is what it is,” Bickell said. “You meet a lot of good people good friends that come and go. We’ve seen [Patrick] Sharp and [Brandon] Saad go like they did, now Johnny Oduya. It’s part of the business. We’ve built some good stories together, good history on winning teams. Hopefully I’m here to stay.”
"It's a business thing where upstairs is going to make the moves to help out the team," Bickell said. "I hope it's not me. I love this city, I love winning, really. It's a great feeling and I want to be here for my career."
The career Blackhawk, who has a limited no-trade clause, had 14 goals in 80 games last season before suffering through a disastrous postseason: zero goals in 18 games, with a bout of vertigo affecting his play. That bucked a trend for Bickell, as he was consistently one of the Blackhawks’ better postseason players during their various runs.
There’s an undercurrent of melancholy in discussing the future of both Bickell and of Kris Versteeg, the winger who will make $2.2 million against the cap next season and is probably also on his way out. Both of them have been a part of multiple Stanley Cup in Chicago. Bickell has a 10-month-old daughter, and Versteeg has a newborn son; clearly, they'd rather put roots down than pack up and leave.
The Blackhawks like them both, and in a perfect world would love to keep them on the roster. But $6.2 million in cap space gets you Kruger and cap flexibility; in Bickell’s case, for the next two seasons. (Keep in mind Brent Seabrook goes UFA next summer.)
Good soldiers, great guys, but it’s hard to imagine both being on the Blackhawks’ roster come October.
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