Stupid salary cap.
The Chicago Blackhawks have very little to complain about, when you look at the big picture. However, this is the salary cap world, and even the most spoiled teams in the NHL have to make tough decisions every now and then, and the Hawks are no different.
The Hawks need to get under the salary cap, that they are currently $2,216,795 OVER the cap limit. They will need to shed at least that much salary before the season starts.
With defensemen in the farm system arguably ready to produce now, that makes a defenseman expendable. Let’s rule out Duncan Keith, because that’s just ridiculous. Let’s rule out Brent Seabrook, but while that’s a reasonable idea, let’s save it for another article. Let’s rule out Niklas Hjalmarsson, because that’s also ridiculous. Let’s shift our focus to Nick Leddy and Johnny Oduya.
Both defenseman have are the most mistake prone(with the exception to what hopefully goes down as an off-year, for Seabrook in 2013-2014). Neither defenseman is truly considered indispensable. With Leddy’s cap hit at $2.7 million and Oduya’s at $3.375 million, moving either will have the Hawks under the salary cap.
But who should be the one to be dealt?
Easy. It’s Oduya.
Nothing against Johnny, who is a quality defenseman, but Leddy offers more value and more upside. Oduya’s larger cap hit makes him more ideal to ship out, but so does his more advanced age of 32 years old compared to Leddy’s age of 23.
Not only does Leddy have the more affordable contract and age on his side, he also has a more unique skill-set and upside. Oduya has been used as a more steadying force on the shutdown d-pairing, alongside Hjalmarsson. Leddy, on the other hand, has been used as a more offensive-minded defenseman. Although Leddy isn’t totally refined, yet, he has far greater upside, given his patience with the puck, which is a very unique skill. The fact that he still has room to go is a scar thought, for Hawks’ opponents, in the future, as long as Leddy remains in Chicago.
Leddy has the skill-set and the ability to “quarterback” a Power Play unit, which is an area that the Hawks sorely need help on. Oduya has a good shot, but is not nearly the level of puck-mover that Leddy is. The fact that Oduya is 32 means he will not be learning this skill. Oduya is a solid defenseman, but he is also getting closer to the twilight of his career and has more than likely reached his peak. With all things considered, Oduya’s $3.375 million cap hit would be considered a little higher than what it should be.
It’s not that Oduya is a poor defenseman, it’s that Leddy is more of a bargain, with more long-term and unique value, moving forward.
We’ll see what happens, soon. And while it may be that neither of these players gets moved, it is highly likely that one of them will be playing for a different team, during the 2014-2015 NHL regular season.