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Expect a Chicago cap crisis this summer

Mar 12, 2010, 10:05 PM EDT

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In my mind, the Chicago Blackhawks mortgaged a considerable amount of their future when they added Marian Hossa last off-season. Last March I wondered aloud how they’d squeeze their terrific trio of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith under the cap even before they added the gifted bridesmaid.

Well, it seems like the team will retain the services of those three players (and Hossa) after all. Of course, those moves will come at a cost. Without even filling a 20-man roster, the Hawks would be over the cap if the 2010-11 season started today. Before I break down their sticky situation, here’s a quick breakdown based on numbers from CapGeek.com.

Chicago’s 2010-11 cap commitments (some cap hits rounded up for simplicity):

Forwards (9 of 12 spots covered): Toews (6.3); Kane (6.3); Hossa (5.28); Sharp (3.9); Bolland (3.38); Versteeg (3.08); Byfuglien (3); Kopecky (1.2); Brouwer (1.03)

Defense (4 of 6): Campbell (7.14); Keith (5.54); Seabrook (3.5); Sopel (2.33)

Goalies (1 of 2): Huet (5.63)

With three forwards, 2 defensemen and 1 goalie needed, the Hawks would still be about $800,000 over next year’s cap … and the cap could go down next season.


Now, the ‘Hawks are (obviously) going to need to make some moves. It might be best to break the team down into five categories, then.

Not going anywhere

Hossa, Kane, Toews and Keith = about $23.4 million

Most GMs won’t want these two

Last year, I couldn’t imagine a scenario in which a GM would trade for Brian Campbell (unless someone kidnapped a GM’s daughter or something). Yet considering the fact that Glen Sather found a way to trade Scott Gomez, I have to admit that just about anything is possible.

Campbell, Huet = a little under $12.8 million

Overpaid, but not as much as Campbell

Kudos to Stan Bowman for exchanging Cam Barker for Kim Johnsson, a decent player who most importantly will see his $4.8 million+ deal expire once this season is over.

Bolland, Byfuglien, Sopel = $8.71 million

Ouch, the fans aren’t going to be happy

The Hawks might have to get rid of some good players to make this work.

Sharp, Versteeg, Seabrook = about $10.5 million

Valuable Free agents

Let’s not forget that there are some valuable guys who would have to take unbelievable discounts to return. Antii Niemi, John Madden and Niklas Hjalmarsson would all be sorely missed.

***

There are plenty of variables at play here. Teams can stash NHL-quality players in the minors, for instance. Still, if there is any truth to the rumor that Chicago had an opportunity to get rid of Huet, they better win a Cup or that move will haunt them. For such a promising young group, it’s a real shame that Blackhawks management seemingly went the “now or never” route. Considering all the problems with fax machines and ill-advised free agent contracts, it’s hard for me to give Chicago’s management the benefit of the doubt. Anyone can draft Kane or Toews, but it takes someone with vision to surround them with talent (for more than a couple years).

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