Can The Cup Cure Cap Crunch?

By Joe Kremel

The hawks celebrate a team victory, and every player deserves the credit for the victories. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

In a season that has given Hawks fans a lot to talk about, one thing that has been downplayed a bit is next season’s contract situation.  While there has been some talk of the Bickell/Stalberg situation, there is a total of eight contracts that need to be looked at.  Some of these players are lower down on the totem pole, but we still have some front and center names popping up.  Next season the predicted cap is 64.3 million, and if the Hawks were to resign everyone without any due raises, we would be about three million over the cap. Here is a list of the players whose contracts expire at the end of this season.

 Michal Handzus – $2,500,000 UFA,   Marcus Kruger – $900,000 RFA

Viktor Stalberg – $875,000 UFA ,   Jamal Mayers – $650,000 UFA

Bryan Bickell – $541,667 UFA,    Michal Rozsival – $2,000,000 UFA

Nick Leddy – $1,116,666 RFA,     Ray Emery – $1,150,000 UFA

And less importantly, but still notable, recent acquisition Drew Leblanc –  $925,000 RFA

This doesn’t leave much room for the Hawks to resign some of our key role players, so Bickell and or Stalberg will most likely be gone.  The Hawks brass has been fairly fond of both Kruger and Leddy, so we can probably guess they will find a spot on the roster.  I would love for Emery to stay, but I have a feeling Hutton might be getting his chance with the club next year.  The rest of the contracts are smaller role players or just minor pieces.  Mayers will probably be gone despite his 600k contract and replaced by a younger player at a budget price, as will Handzus.  Rozsival has been a solid third pairing defenseman, but there just isn’t room in the budget next season. Pretty much everyone on that list has earned the respect of the fans, even if their role is a small one.  It’s always sad to see your favorite spare parts or role player leave.

Now it is possible that the Hawks could trade a piece while their value is high to make a little more space for a few possible 1 year extensions just to keep some depth.  The first person I look at for a trade to free up space is Bolland.  I love his rat hockey style that he has brought in the past, but overall this season he has been a disappointment.  His 3.375 million dollar contract will be a liability for the Hawks, and could prevent the resigning of one, possibly two, of our other depth forwards.  While I think trading Hjalmarsson (3.5 million) or Oduya (3.375 million) is less likely, it’s still within the realm of possibility.  Hjalmarsson has played extremely well all season long and has been a major reason why we have been so great defensively, but that translates to an extremely high trade value.  On the other hand, Johnny Oduya has been fairly solid all season, but he does make one or two plays a game that make you cringe.  If Oduya gets traded I would guess that Leddy would move up to the second line and we would get a third pairing defenseman in return.

This summer has the potential to bring in a handful of new faces.  If not, we get to see Bowman work some contractual magic to keep the majority of the current team intact. This team has broken records, and it has given us some amazing hockey up and down the ice.  In a season that seemed to be on track to doom hockey with a lengthy lockout, we instead have received a season that has broken all expectations.  While this year has had our biggest stars shining, every player has given their all to the team and in essence, to the fans of Chicago.  If we end up with a number of players leaving Chicago, let’s hope it’s after they’ve gotten their names engraved on the cup.