Monday, March 4, 2013

Dirty Black Summer

The Blackhawks have been on a cinderella run that none of us have seen in this city, well, EVER. As far as the Blackhawks go, that is. Regardless of what the Hawks do to finish the season, Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks are going to need to do work on some creative accounting to fill some holes, thanks to the salary cap rollback in the new CBA.

As the roster sits today, Bryan Bickell and Viktor Stalberg will be unrestricted free agents. Marcus Kruger and Nick Leddy will be restricted free agents. With the deals they are getting in Stalberg ($875K) and Bickell ($541K), even if they re-sign, it'll be for a raise. Lets say, for the sake of sanity, that each of them double their salaries. Stalberg would be at $1.75 Million and Bickell would be at just about $1.1 Million. Both are palatable cap hits, in today's market, but that brings the Hawks cap room to just under $1.2 million, with Kruger and Leddy still unsigned and no backup goalie. You can see where I'm going with this. Even if they are ok with humping the cap ceiling, they are going to need to shed some payroll. My gut feeling is that one, or both of them will be playing elsewhere. Jeremy Morin and Jimmy Hayes should be able to fill the Bickell/Stalberg slots pretty well. Ben Smith is also another candidate to fill some of that ice time. I wouldn't be heartbroken with any of these moves, but Stalberg's speed is an x-factor.

On the other hand, Leddy is in for a payday and Kruger isn't far behind. Even if both of THEM double their salaries, Kruger is at roughly $1.8 Million and Leddy is at $2.233 Million. Again, both decent cap hits, but if the Hawks keep all 4 at double their current salaries, the Hawks would be nearly $3 Million over the cap. That number drops to about $1.4 million over, if they play the kids in Bickell and Stalberg's spots. Either way, the Hawks need to make adjustments.

There are some easy solutions, with a buyout of Rostislav Olesz and maybe Steve Montador. These two moves, alone, free up almost $6 million dollars, make the most sense, and leave the Hawks some room to either sign or bring up a backup netminder, with some slight wiggle room. It's doubtful that they are going to pay Ray Emery the raise he is going to be looking for, come season's end, but I've been wrong before. Hutton and Karlsson are both unrestricted free agents and if one is re-signed, my guess would be Karlsson, based on his NHL experience. I wouldn't be terribly surprised to see both left to test the market.

All of these moves and all of this speculation is based on one thing, the Hawks don't test the free agent market. At all.

This brings me to my next point, and I brought this up on Twitter and in my game recap last night. David Bolland. Has the success of the young centers made him and his $3.375 Million cap hit expendable? I would say yes, and here is why.

-With Bolland out of the lineup, Kruger and Shaw have filled his spot pretty admirably.
-Shaw has taken over Bolland's beloved third line shutdown spot, and some would say he's not missed a beat.
-Those in love with his playoff performance forget that he's no longer playing against the other team's top lines. Shaw's line has been.
-While Kruger has a tough time winning faceoffs, Bolland has has almost identical issues at the dot. If they want to have a #3 playing in the #2 spot, Kruger can do it at less than half the price, and much younger.
-Kruger and Frolik could center the 2nd and 4th lines respectively, at the same cap hit as Bolland.
-$3.375 Million is a nice chunk of change to have in your pocket.
-His growth hasn't been what you'd like for a 2nd line center, and he's been at a plateau for about 3 years.

With the moves above, the Hawks could go into the free agent signing period with almost $8 Million in their pocket. Of course, Stan doesn't like to dive deep into the free agent market, but a Bolland trade may alos bring back something of value, as well.

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