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Checking out the Blackhawks top candidates to be traded for cap space

Jul 14, 2010, 10:35 PM EDT

Yesterday, James got into the salary cap woes facing the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Yes, their issues are many and their answers to solving those problems all point towards further disbanding the team that just won the franchise’s first Cup since 1961.

If something is going to be done and players are going to be moved out of town, who will it end up being? Let’s take a look at the players that could, potentially, be on the block.

Huet3.jpgCristobal Huet – (contract: 2 years with $5.625 million cap hit)

I’d be doing you all a disservice if I didn’t just get Huet out of the way first and foremost. Huet’s contract is the main reason to want to get him out of town by any means necessary. Huet’s cap hit is $5.625 million for the next two seasons and he managed to get relegated to the bench by current restricted free agent Antti Niemi. Niemi is still trying to get his contract squared away and it’s safe to say he’s not going to be making the same $800,000 he did last year. Being the starting goalie on a Stanley Cup winner will almost guarantee that.

Huet’s contract makes it nearly impossible to deal him, but moving him to the AHL sits as a distinct possibility. Putting him on waivers virtually guarantees he won’t get picked up by someone else, and only a catastrophic number of injuries to goalies in Chicago would put the Blackhawks at risk for bringing Huet back up through re-entry waivers. If the Hawks can make that $5.625 million go away, they can save themselves the trouble of having to move more offensive quality depth players than they’d want to. Others are virtually assuming that Huet is as good as gone to AHL Rockford, but until that happens he’s the elephant in the room so to speak. His salary is almost necessary to move in any way possible to give the Hawks the maneuverability they’ll need to ice a complete team worth a damn.

Chances of being demoted/traded: Very likely

Patrick Sharp – (contract: 2 years, $3.9 million cap hit)

He’s almost always the subject of trade rumors and why not? He’s productive and does it all seemingly while in the shadow of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. It’s not a bad gig to have because the pressure is really off. The last four years, Sharp has been a consistent scorer netting in the range of 65 points per year and scoring 20+ goals in each season, including 36 goals back in 2007-2008. He’s an ideal complimentary piece for a team with bigger names but could it be possible he’d break out in a big way if he went somewhere lacking a big scoring wing? Ahh, there’s the rub. He’d make a great second line scorer for teams eager to add one, but bringing him aboard to be a first liner could make life difficult. His salary by itself would allow Chicago to get a little breathing room provided that the Hawks are OK with fielding a team with guys making the league minimum. That might get sketchy.

Chances of being traded: Possible

Brian Campbell – (contract: 6 years, $7,142,875 cap hit)

Campbell only needs to be mentioned here because if the Blackhawks were able to pawn him off on someone else it would be general manager Stan Bowman’s version of a great jewel heist and someone else’s version of Seward’s Folly. His contract is toxic and overbearing. This has nothing to do with the player. He’s a solid defenseman and runs a good power play and he’d be an asset to any team he played for. The problem is his contract is a payroll punishing iceberg, a fact the Blackhawks know all too well. Even for teams looking to reach the salary floor, taking on that much money for that long of a time just does not make any business sense… Unless they’re getting a huge gift basket from the Blackhawks to go with Campbell.

Chances of being traded: Nearly impossible

hossawiththecup.jpgMarian Hossa – (contract: 11 years, $5.275 million cap hit)

Sounds crazy, right? This one is more of a theoretical suggestion so bear with me. He went to Chicago to make another run at a Stanley Cup. He accomplished that goal in his first season. He doesn’t have a long history with the Blackhawks even though he’ll go down in Hawks lore as being on a slump-busting Cup winner. He wasn’t drafted by Chicago and essentially committed to the Hawks to latch on to a team with a bright immediate future. In essence, the Hawks have gotten what they wanted from Hossa so why not dangle him out there to free up a huge chunk of cap space on a deal that, while long, isn’t exactly a cap destroyer. The catch with Hossa is that he’s 31 years-old and having him around until he’s 42 might feel pretty daunting. Losing Hossa’s money in conjunction with making Huet’s money disappear would be a God-send for Chicago’s cap if it came down to that.

Chances of being traded: Not likely, but intriguing

Dave Bolland – (contract: 4 years, $3.375 million cap hit)

He was the unknown hero that always jumps out during the NHL playoffs. He was as dangerous shorthanded as he was during even strength situations and he showed that the seemingly crazy contract extension the Blackhawks gave him may have been worth it. He’s the Blackhawks number two center and there are some teams that could use one of those (Los Angeles, Washington). He’s also 24 years-old and starting to come into his own as an NHL starter. His salary isn’t exactly bad, but Chicago might be reticent to be rid of his usefulness in all situations. That said, if Chicago gets desperate and no one is biting elsewhere, a savvy proposal could get Chicago to move him.

Chances of being traded: Pretty slim

We’re not meant to feel bad for the Blackhawks here, this is their mess and they’ve got to deal with things as well as they possibly can. They’ve already drastically changed the outlook of their team as it is and there will be more changes to come. What they do, however, will have a profound effect on what the Blackhawks do the next few years as to whether they’ll continue to be contenders or if they’ll tread water being known as the NHLs version of the Florida Marlins.

  1. moustache - Jul 14, 2010 at 11:58 PM

    How about none of the above! Huet and Campbell are untradeable. I’m assuming the point is that the Hawks still need to move a player to keep Niemi. On what planet would the Hawks do that? Sharp’s been about as productive as Kane and Toews and at a fraction of the cost. Why would a team that has cap problems trade a player with that cap friendly a contract? Ditto Marian Hossa and his front loaded contract. The idea that the Hawks would trade away their top talent for 4th liners and 3rd pair blueliners is as much whishfull thinking for haters, as the idea that Campbell or Huet will be dealt is for Hawks fans. It ain’t gonna happen.

  2. brei - Jul 15, 2010 at 2:08 AM

    thats great and all that you think that Chicago is going to do none of those things. . . but you are living in a fantasy world. . . Chicago can not take the ice w/ the roster they have (not enough players) and they do not have enough money to sign one player at league min of 500k(since they resigned Hjalmarsson). The team is looking to free up around $5m. . . only 6 players make more than $4m; Toews, Kane, Keith, Campbell, Hossa and Huet.
    SO if they want to play this season, they have to trade/demote. . . and I do not see many teams (maybe the islanders) picking up the contracts of Keith, Campbell, Hossa, or Huet . . . So the logical thought is to demote Huet to the AHL (taking him off of the Cap books)and trade a guy like Bolland or Sharp . . . freeing up enough money that you are not stuck w/ 8 players of $500k cap/talent.

  3. moustache - Jul 15, 2010 at 10:10 AM

    They absolutely do not need to make any other move than demoting Huet. I’ll admit, I was surprised when they matched Hammer’s offer sheet, but that pretty much certifies Huet’s demotion. The Hawks have a few guys in their system at about the league minimum that they trust with a roster spot like Bickell, Hendry, Dowell and recently acquired John Scott. If they add Beach, Vishnevskiy, Crawford and Toivonen, they’re left with a full roster and $1.7M of cap space. It’s no fantasy. They don’t need any sympathy. Those are the facts.

  4. David - Jul 15, 2010 at 10:14 AM

    Huet is as good as gone. You are right moustache, Huet won’t be traded, but he definitely won’t be on the Hawks’ roster. Rockford or Europe for him. If they were to keep him, they’d have to drop about 2 big players, AND sign about 7 more guys for cheap.
    Brei: They are NOT getting rid of Keith, there is a reason he’s not on this list. He’s a Norris Trophy winner with a cap-friendly number. IMO, that’s why Bowman keeps talking about his “core”: cap-friendly, valuable pieces (Toews, Kane, Keith, Hossa). That’s why I don’t think Hossa is being shopped. Everyone in Chicago appreciated and recognized his outstanding 2-way play all year.

  5. Great Scott - Jul 15, 2010 at 10:16 AM

    Answer me this: why all the rumors about Sharp? Why not Bolland? I understand the return won’t be the same, but these trades aren’t about return, it’s about cap space, and those two players have very similar cap hits.

  6. moustache - Jul 15, 2010 at 11:35 AM

    It’s wishful thinking from haters or fans that want Sharp. If the Hawks want Niemi they’ll find a way to unload Kopecky or Reasoner. If not:
    Kyle Beach ($1.171m) / Jonathan Toews ($6.300m) / Patrick Kane ($6.300m)
    Patrick Sharp ($3.900m) / Dave Bolland ($3.375m) / Marian Hossa ($5.275m)
    Troy Brouwer ($1.025m) / Marty Reasoner ($1.150m) / Viktor Stalberg ($0.850m)
    Tomas Kopecky ($1.200m) / Jake Dowell ($0.525m) / * Bryan Bickell ($0.500m)
    Brian Campbell ($7.143m) / Duncan Keith ($5.538m)
    Brent Seabrook ($3.500m) / Niklas Hjalmarsson ($3.500m)
    Ivan Vishnevskiy ($0.822m) / John Scott ($0.512m)
    Corey Crawford ($0.800m) / Hannu Toivonen ($0.550m)
    (these totals are compiled using the bonus cushion)
    ROSTER: 20; CAP:$59.4m; CARRY-OVER PENALTY: $4.158m;
    PAYROLL: $58.094m; CAP ROOM: $1.696m; BONUSES: $0.390m

  7. Soul Spartan - Jul 15, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    Great info, moustache. But what about Byfuglian? Isn’t he on the Blackhawks roster for next season? What is his salary?

  8. moustache - Jul 15, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    Buff was dealt to Atlanta along with Andrew Ladd, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager. Also gone are Chris Versteeg (Toronto), Adam Burish (Dallas) and John Madden (UFA).

  9. John Coctostan - Jul 15, 2010 at 2:20 PM

    Moustache has a great point. Great info. That looks EXACTLY like a team I’d be happy to bring to the ice. Perfect model of the Red Wings which is what the Hawks are going for. Corey Crawford is not awful, and that team has a good shot to compete again next year.

  10. David - Jul 15, 2010 at 2:47 PM

    What kind of deals does it look like Sharp and Seabrook will get after this year? That could be why they trade Sharp – Bolland is signed longer. Maybe front office thinks signing Niemi to a deal around $3.5 million and the return of a Sharp trade is worth more than a more-expensive Sharp next year, plus no Niemi. What do you think those extensions will look like? Will we be in even more trouble next year?

  11. Cam - Jul 15, 2010 at 3:12 PM

    The Hawks are working on bringing back Niemi, and if they don’t they aren’t going to be contenders. If they get him re-signed, someone else likely has to go, a Kopecky or Reasoner perhaps. And John Scott isn’t a top 6 defensemen. You can probably add Jordan Hendry and or Shawn Lalonde to the D-corp. Remove Beach and replace him with Jack Skille or Igor Makarov, and you probably have your team.
    This all assumes they can re-sign Niemi to a workable deal.

  12. Ross - Jul 15, 2010 at 4:11 PM

    Like all great teams, the NHL is set up for teams to have a core group of players and the rest low salary players. if you draft well your team stays good. That’s the way it should be. Build your team and fill in with viable FA. The hawks should be fine is they dump Huet’s cap $. Some of the guys the Hawks got rid of benefited from playing with Keith, Towes, Kane, Seabrook, ect. The Hawks are still the team to beat!

  13. moustache - Jul 15, 2010 at 4:22 PM

    Sharpe is signed through 2011-12. Seabrook already earns $3.5M so his raise should be in the ballpark of $1.5M and the Hawks have over $4M of cap penalties removed after this year. Sharp will be expensive, but it’s tough to project that far.
    I tend to agree on all points except the need for Niemi to contend. He narrowly beat Crawford for the backup spot last year and some feel that Toivonen is better than Crawford. If he’s let loose, the team will probably find a cheap 3rd option. If we learned anything from last season, be it Leighton, Halak or Niemi, all a team needs is a player to get hot come postseason to be a contender.
    I think the signing of Scott is useful to the Hawks as a 21st man, because he could put minutes in as a forward or blueliner if needed who they’re probably not interested in developing. As a center with a similar cap figure to Beach, Reasoner gives the team options moving up players from Rockford and playing Sharp at center or wing. Skille and Makarov will definitely figure in. Other than the pairing of Toews-Kane and Sharpe-Hossa, I think the roster will be pretty fluid throughout the season. The team has quite a few near minimum options at forward and should see production pairing them with their top talent. Beach may end up better than any salary the team was forced to shed.

  14. Hawky - Jul 15, 2010 at 5:13 PM

    I wonder if the term ‘re-structuring’ a contract has come up for Campbell? If he were willing to re-do the deal, might save a few bucks. The loss of players so far were to be expected and I love who they have kept. The kids coming up should do well with all these guys around them… that sense I’m not worried. Just that damn cap number! I say give Tallon half of a Championship ring for the mess the Hawks are in.

  15. moustache - Jul 15, 2010 at 5:55 PM

    Restructuring is not allowed under the CBA.

  16. Whomp - Jul 19, 2010 at 7:36 AM

    Might be able to dump Huet and or Campbell by sweetening the pot – draft picks and or prospects. Risky business – either way.

  17. David - Jul 19, 2010 at 1:58 PM

    Thanks moustache, just wondering if the Sharp rumors are due to more long term plans to keep Niemi and Seabrook. Just not sure how the roster/cap situation will shape up the next few years.

  18. Cam - Jul 19, 2010 at 8:57 PM

    Bowman came out today and explicitly said Sharp will not be going anywhere.

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