There’s no doubt in my mind that our beloved Chicago Blackhawks will remain Stanley Cup contenders for many years to come, but given certain “business” restrictions the Hawks will be enduring in the not so distant future, I do wonder if this upcoming season is the best chance the Blackhawks have at bringing the Cup back to Chi-Town before mandatory roster decisions will have to be made.
I find the Blackhawks’ position entering the 2014-2015 season eerily similar to the one they found themselves going into the 2009-2010 campaign. If you’ll recall, since roughly 2007, the Blackhawks had been accumulating numerous players via trades, the free agency, and their farm system (the apex acquisition being Marian Hossa) to amass one of, if not the deepest teams in the NHL.
Now I’m no contract/salary cap guru, but even with my novice sports management acumen, I knew that regardless of the 2009-2010 season’s outcome, the Blackhawks roster wasn’t going to last as it was. There simply were too many contracts and too many up-and-coming players that would be commanding more dollars to juggle. Luckily for the Blackhawks, and Chicago, the inevitable roster overhaul happened after the end of a near 50-year Stanley Cup drought, making the 2010 Roster Purge a bit easier to stomach.
Nevertheless, the Hawks would need the next couple seasons to rebuild their team; filling holes and reestablishing roles. Fortunately however, the Blackhawks had established a solid core of players to build around, and thus it only took a few tweaks to return the team to Cup-winning specifications once again by 2013.
Thus, it’s good the Blackhawks have gone through such a process before, because a year from now they’ll be in a similar situation. It’s during the 2015-2016 season that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews’ recently-signed gigantic contracts kick in, and it’s during the 2015-2016 season that they’ll put their biggest squeeze on the Hawks’ payroll.
Again, I’m not a salary-cap/payroll expert, and who knows what could happen between then and now, but if 2010 serves as any kind of lesson, the Blackhawks will have another round of tough decisions to make, and a new/modified group of core players will have to be established. Let me put it this way: with the exception of Corey Crawford, Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, and Niklas Hjalmarsson, every player currently on the Blackhawk’s roster will either have only one year left on their contract or be a restricted/unrestricted free agent going into the 2015-2016 season.
Not since 2010 will the Blackhawks’ roster have been so fluid, and like the end of the 2009-2010 season, Hawks GM Stan Bowman will have to determine which players will comprise the franchise’s core by the end of the 2013-2014 season, and with which players the organization can afford to part ways.
This time around however, Bowman will have to hang his hat on the Blackhawks’ youth more than established veterans. Ever-improving young Hawks like Brandon Saad, Nick Leddy, and even Teuvo Teravainen will likely have to assume more central roles on the team whether they are ready or not, as there will be enormous talent gaps to fill should certain Hawks veterans like Patrick Sharp or Brent Seabrook have their tenure end in Chicago after the 2013-2014 season.
Once again though, the silver lining here is that the Blackhawks have gone through this process before and have returned to championship caliber with resounding speed, and there’s no reason why they can’t do it again.
FOR THE DAGGER!