So, Who Is It Gonna Be?
Prepare yourselves for some rampant speculation: we’re into August, the Cruellest Month for Hockey fans (with apologies to TS Eliot) and there is very little happening. However, what we do know for sure is that,somewhere between now and the puck drop in Dallas on the 2nd of October, there is going to have to be a change to the Hawks roster.
As of this writing, Chicago are $2,216,795 over the Salary cap (all figures from Capgeek). This count includes Teuvo Teravainen’s $894,167 but even if he starts in Rockford and someone like MANSHITTER or Nordstrom comes up instead, the Hawks will still be over the cap by nearly $2 million. So, clearly, something is going to have to happen and by far the most likely (but not the only, as we shall see) outcome is that a player gets moved to free up the neccesary cap room.
Which leads us to the question, of course: who is it gonna be?
Let’s have some wild guesses that will doubtless be proved utterly wrong, shall we?
We can assume that certain players (Toews, Kane, Keith, Hossa, Hjammer) are going nowhere. Equally there are guys like Smith, Shaw, Kruger and Morin who make too little to have their trade get the Hawks under the cap. Therefore, we’ll look at a pool of six players who have been the main focus of trade speculation this off season and assess the pros, cons and likelihood of their departure. I have also ignored the NTCs that most of these guys have.. I think history has shown us that if a club really wants a player to go, that’s generally not much of an obstacle.
1) Patrick Sharp
AAV: $5.9M till ’16-’17
Why Trade Him: Well, clearing that $5.9 million would not only get the Hawks right under the cap, they could also get a player back, or have room to make an addition at the deadline. Maybe Stan could also look to organise a new deal for Saad or Kruger or Leddy, which is currently restricted by tagging. And of course, if the scuttlebut is to believed (spolier: no, it isn’t), he’s a womanising alcoholic whose team mates hate him.
Why Not: Let’s see.. just had a career year in terms of points, his 34 goals were his joint second-highest since he scored 36 in 07-08, he lead the team in Goals and Points last year, he’s only 32 and is signed to a reasonable contract. In addition, because the Hawks can’t take on much in the way of salary, it would be extremely hard to get full value for one of the League’s elite players.
Likelihood: I guess it could happen, but I don’t believe it, myself. That handsome face will still be gracing magazine covers and Blackhawks TV for years to come.
2) Nick Leddy
AAV: $2.7M for one more season (RFA thereafter)
Why Trade Him: Leddy took a slight step back in terms of his points production this year, although he did score an NHL career-high 7 goals. Lots of the skittishness that characterised his early years also popped up at times. There’s also the possibility that the Hawks believe that they have, in David Rundblad, Leddy MkII, at a much lower cost.
Why Not: I’m sure that Stan realises that a lot of Leddy’s problems were down to the revolving door being operated alongside him. It’s tough to argue with the two-man rotation at 6D between Brookbank & Roszival, but it certainly didn’t help with Mike Kostka and Rundblad also thrown into the mix. His pay-rise when he goes RFA is unlikely to be spectacular, so he’s still good value.
Likelihood: Leddy would be a hotly-sought-after commodity but, like Sharp, he couldn’t possibly command value in return. I also have a feeling that if they were going to move him, they’d have done so by now, rather than when most rosters are pretty much set. So, no.
3) Bryan Bickell
AAV: $4M till 16-17
Why Trade Him: With the meatballs cursing his new contract, Bickell did himself no favours by posting a mere 11 points in the reg season, including just 4 assists. Power forwards are always popular, so he’d get a decent return.
Why Not: Like Leddy, Bickell has some good excuses for his lacklustre season: he was quite badly injured, requiring knee braces and he was bounced around the lineup, including being a healthy scratch on several occasions. His Goal count of 11 was on track for his usual output, it was the collapse of his Assists (just 4) that hurt the points column. And then came the Playoffs and he scored 7 goals. This is why they keep him around.
Likelihood: Not a chance.
4) Kris Versteeg
AAV: $2.2M till 15-16 ($2.2M also retained by FLA)
Why Trade Him: Versteeg was not a success this year. He looked completely off the pace a lot of the time and, of course, gave us plenty of “DAMMIT, VERSTEEG!” moments.
Why Not: Plenty of evidence that he wasn’t fully healthy, which mitigates his poor form a little. But the main reason he’ll be staying is that Uncle Dale retained half his salary and that subtracting his $2.2M hit leaves the Hawks just barely below the Cap, with no room to manouevre.
Likelihood: He’s just too cheap to move, simple as that.
5) Michal Roszival
AAV: $2.2M for one more season (UFA thereafter)
Why Trade Him: OK, we’re now looking at one of the more likely candidates to go.. Roszie is still doing a decent job, but he’s not getting any younger and there’s little doubt that he could be replaced with relative ease from the Hawks prospect pool, especially if Stephen Johns is deemed ready to go.
Why Not: I guess the only real reason “why not” is that, like Versteeg, Roszival’s cap hit only just gets the Hawks under. There won’t be any room for anything else. There’s also a certain leap of faith regarding Rundblad, Johns, Clendenning etc involved.
Likelihood: I suspect that Roszie’s time as a Hawk draws rapidly to an end. I’d be surprised if Bowman wasn’t on the phone to the Flyers after hearing about Kimmo Timonen. But, come Training Camp, some veteran d-man somewhere is bound to get hurt, and that’s when I’d expect to see him go.
6) Johnny Oduya
AAV: $3.75M for one more season (UFA thereafter)
Why Trade Him: In several ways, Oduya is the ideal candidate: subtracting his hit gets the Hawks under the Cap with some breathing space, he’s in the final year of a deal that we can assume won’t be renewed, he’s good enough to get a decent return, but not so good that you’d feel fleeced with picks or prospects and the FA D-Man market is putrid this year.
Why Not: Much like Roszival, Oduya can be replaced within the system, but that requires an even larger leap of faith, as Oduya was taking the toughest minutes along with Hjalmarsson. A reshuffle of defensive lines would be required and a lot of pressure would come on a young blueliner’s shoulders.
Likelihood: It’s between this or Roszival, and I guess it really depends on how Stan and Q feel about their Defense prospects and the makeup of the team this year. This scenario seems to tick all the right boxes, but trying to second-guess Bowman is a pretty fruitless hobby.
Of course, there’s another possibility, that doesn’t involve any trades. In a way it’s the worst-case scenario and I hesitate to mention it. I’d like to add that this isn’t based on any rumours and I think it very unlikely, but it should still be put out there: no-one leaves but someone goes on LTIR.
Knowing how notoriously tight-lipped the Hawks are about injuries, it’s not impossible that they have Marian Hossa scheduled for back surgery or that Brent Seabrook is feeling dizzy when he wakes up. Bowman could well be waiting on a doctors diagnosis before he pulls the trigger on a trade. That sounds pretty paranoid, even to me, but stranger things have happened.
October may seem a long way off yet, but we’re guaranteed to have something to talk about before then.
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