Although the euphoria of Chicago’s third Stanley Cup in six years will linger around the team and the city throughout a celebratory summer, the offseason is right around the corner.
There’s sure to be plenty of turnover once again for the Hawks, as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane enter their identical eight-year deals next season that will come at a $10.5 million cap hit for the 2015-16 season.
According to Spotrac, the Blackhawks are about $6.7 million under the projected salary cap for the upcoming season, with only 14 players signed on the professional club. This means general manager Stan Bowman will face a steep challenge of replenishing the roster, while trying to keep some precious free agents.
But, first things first, the Blackhawks must find the future studs via the NHL Draft, which takes place June 26-27 in Florida. The Hawks have a total of seven picks, but do not have a first-round selection, as it was sent over to the Arizona Coyotes for Antoine Vermette. Chicago also dealt a second-round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers for Kimmo Timonen, but got a second-rounder back in compensation for Kevin Hayes, who signed with the New York Rangers this season.
Bowman will have picks in the latter five rounds of the draft, including a bonus sixth-round pick from Los Angeles due to the Daniel Carcillo trade in 2013.
The Chicago Blackhawks could recoup some picks with cap-clearing trades. Patrick Sharp, Bryan Bickell, Kris Versteeg and Brent Seabrook are all trade possibilities to shed some cap space. The Hawks could also get some picks in the higher rounds as compensation.
The Hawks have drafted five players over the last six years who were contributors to the 2015 Stanley Cup team. They also have an exciting group of former draft picks who will fight for roster spots in training camp.
The real action will begin July 1, as free agency opens up. The Blackhawks have a couple of important restricted free agents in Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger.
Saad is emerging as one of the top young forwards in the league and netted 23 goals with 29 assists in his breakout campaign. Saad was a crucial part of the Cup run, as he scored eight goals with three assists in the postseason. Saad mentioned he would take less money to stay in Chicago and Bowman said he expects to get a deal done with the winger.
Kruger may seem like an expendable player on the stat sheet, but he affects the game in plenty of ways. Kruger is Chicago’s best penalty killer and is a key player in the faceoff dot. Kruger shouldn’t come at a steep cost and both he and Bowman have said they want to get something done.
Other Blackhawks’ free agents include: Joakim Nordstrom and David Rundblad (both restricted), Daniel Carcillo, Andrew Desjardins, Brad Richards, Antoine Vermette, Johnny Oduya, Michal Rozsival and Kyle Cumiskey (all unrestricted).
The Chicago Blackhawks will have a busy offseason ahead in hopes of preserving a team capable of repeating as champions. The celebration might be short-lived, as the Hawks could part ways with many players from the 2015 championship team.