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Chicago GM Stan Bowman planned all along for post-season fire sale

Aug 7, 2010, 11:32 PM EDT

Thumbnail image for stanbowman1.jpgIf you haven’t noticed, this summer has been pretty tough on Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman. After the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in June, it wasn’t long after that that the dismantling of a championship team began. Their moves have been high profile and roundly criticized by many people, questioning Bowman’s ability to keep a team together in the salary cap era. What fans and critics alike don’t realize is that Bowman knew all along the situation Chicago was in and that, as the Chicago Tribune’s David Haugh tells us, the Blackhawks’ plan was to do it this way all along.

Turns out the 2010 Stanley Cup champions’ tricky winning equation depended on spending slightly more than $60 million when last year’s cap was set at $56.8 million. The roughly $4 million overage came in the performance bonuses paid to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, money the Hawks chose to count against next season’s cap, as league rules permit, instead of affecting the go-for-it-all 2010 season.

Had Bowman decided to apply the anticipated $4 million hit to last season, the Hawks likely would have attempted to win the Cup without, say, Andrew Ladd and Ben Eager.

“Perceptions are, ‘Geez, the Blackhawks mismanaged the salary cap,’ but I’d say we did the opposite — we managed the hell out of it,” Bowman said. “We exploited it in a way.”

While so much of this summer’s other news has involved finding ways to make the salary cap work for a team instead of against it (Ilya Kovalchuk’s disputed contract with New Jersey for example), the way the Blackhawks managed to do it was completely within the confines of the rules, as the salary cap punishment to the Blackhawks this year proves. After all, if you’re going to go for broke, doing it while winning the Stanley Cup is the most fun way to do it.

Had the Blackhawks lost in the finals to the Flyers, the same thing would’ve happened this summer anyhow. Picture the heartache and anger that would’ve resonated around the Blackhawks had they failed to win it all last year. Imagine how well dealing Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager and losing Antti Niemi would’ve gone over. Well, getting rid of a Cup-losing goalie might’ve gone over a little easier but it’s safe to say that disaster was completely avoided in Chicago through Bowman’s gutsy (and risky) move to go push all in, salary cap be damned.

Will this be a model for other teams desperate to win the Cup to follow? Possibly. Some teams might find themselves trapped against the cap thanks to bad contracts, but having the ability to bring in a big name to be the missing piece like Marian Hossa while having younger talent blossom and come together all at once is the kind of chemistry experiment that is hard to make work when your window for success is so short like it was for Chicago. Whether this sort of thing pan out for teams like Vancouver or Boston that are in similar cap positions remains to be seen, but the Blackhawks have at least provided a very high-risk blueprint for success in the meantime.

  1. vancitydan - Aug 8, 2010 at 1:50 AM

    The Canucks are NOT in the same position as the Hawks.
    They didn’t overpay a couple guys like the Hawks, and are not in salary cap hell. They are far better managed than the Hawks. How many players have they “given” away?
    They are a few players and dollars over the Cap in the offseason, as they are allowed to be.
    As a matter of fact, they could go to camp with the roster right now, sign Mitchell, and be under the Cap.
    Easy…but hey…why let the facts get in the way. Salo on LTIR to start the season. Hordy and Alberts gone.
    Bang…under the Cap.
    See? Easy.

  2. Cam - Aug 8, 2010 at 3:36 AM

    “They didn’t overpay a couple guys like the Hawks”
    Just Luongo.
    ” Salo on LTIR to start the season. Hordy and Alberts gone.
    Bang…under the Cap.”
    And when Salo returns, they’re back over the cap. With the same roster that hasn’t been able to get past Chicago for two years running.

  3. Jordan - Aug 8, 2010 at 12:56 PM

    If Gary Bettman had it his way, we would spend the next 30-years watching every team in the NHL take its turn winning the Stanley Cup. Thats the type of parity that he envisioned when the last CBA was negotiated, and it’s this very mentaility that has team GM’s debating whether they want to be a one-and-done type team, or a team that wants to remain competetive, but might not ever get it done. The Blackhawks went for broke, and it paid off. But why should their fans have to debate whether or not they’ll even make the playoffs next year after winning it all AND have to pay an additional 20 percent to go and watch half of last years team.

  4. Hoog - Aug 8, 2010 at 2:37 PM

    Given? They did get back a boatload of propects and picks.
    But, let’s go over who they gave away…
    Buff…sure, he had a great post season, but he’s already getting 3 m a year, and he’s a FA after next season. Hawks sold high. He was an underachiever until he was put on a line with two All Stars.
    Sopel…overpaid as a third line dman. Played well in playoffs this past season though. They picked him off the scrap heap when he was released by Detroit a few years ago.
    Fraser…next. Just a body.
    Eager…see above. Goon who doesn’t good.
    Versteeg…third liner who loses the puck in his own end all too often. Sure he finds the net once in awhile, but very replaceable as a third liner.
    Ladd…3/4 liner who was seeking 3 mil a year as a 38 pts a year. Yeah, I don’t think so. I like Ladd, but because he’s been on two Cup winning teams, he’s looking to cash in like he’s a better player than he is.
    Niemi…sure he was a Cup winning goalie. But the Hawks also gave up the least amount of shots in the NHL. Is it possible he gets better, doubtful. Can he maintain the same level, maybe. But let’s face it, they’re not getting rid of Belfour or Roy. If you saw every game, like I did, he does experience lots of mental lapses. If Niemi wanted to stay here, he would have come to an agreement long ago.
    While they did lose some bodies, there is no one that is irreplaceable. They have plenty of promising players in the minors to take their place in the next two years. The only position where they don’t have a top youngster about to come up is in goal.
    Replacing the third and fourth lines, no problem. Knocking Vanouver out of the playoffs for the third straight year, see? Easy.

  5. Firm Believer - Aug 10, 2010 at 6:48 AM

    I think chicago did very well in all the deals they made if they can get rid of b.campbell / c.huet they will be well under the cap and likely contend for titles for many years.
    Go Hawks

  6. jt - Aug 10, 2010 at 8:20 AM

    “They didn’t overpay a couple guys like the Hawks, and are not in salary cap hell. They are far better managed than the Hawks.”
    what good is it to be “better managed” but not be able to beat them?

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