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Chicago Blackhawks’ Hossa Implications, Kruger Future, Home Opener

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Mar 10, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa (81) takes the puck up ice during the third period as Detroit Red Wings left wing Tomas Tatar (21) defends at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 10, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa (81) takes the puck up ice during the third period as Detroit Red Wings left wing Tomas Tatar (21) defends at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /
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While he may not be retiring at this time, Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa being set to miss the 2017-18 season due to a severe allergy has an immediate impact on his team

What a strange week this is going to be for the Chicago Blackhawks. Like 30 other NHL teams, they were already going to have to watch one player go to the Vegas Golden Knights in today’s expansion draft, not to mention any additional players who may move in trades.

That was sandwiched between the reveal of the new Adidas jerseys on Tuesday and the announcement of the 2017-18 regular-season schedules Thursday. But the Blackhawks managed to get an extra major piece of news into the mix.

It started circulating late Tuesday that Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa could have to retire due to a severe allergic reaction to his hockey equipment. Today, the player and team clarified the situation, and Hossa is officially set to miss the 2017-18 season due to the side effects from the medication used to treat this allergy.

This is what Hossa had to say today about his medical condition, courtesy the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus:

"“Over the course of the last few years, under the supervision of the Blackhawks medical staff, I have been privately undergoing treatment for a progressive skin disorder and the side effects of the medications involved to treat the disorder. Due to the severe side effects associated with those medications, playing hockey is not possible for me during the upcoming 2017-18 season. While I am disappointed that I will not be able to play, I have to consider the severity of my condition and how the treatments have impacted my life both on and off the ice.”"

Blackhawks team doctor Michael Terry had this to add in the same Sun-Times story:

"“Marian has been dealing with the effects of a progressive skin disorder that is becoming more and more difficult to treat and control with conventional medications while he plays hockey. Because of the dramatic nature of the medications required and their decreasing effectiveness, we strongly support his decision not to play during the 2017-18 season. We feel in the most certain terms this is the appropriate approach for Marian in order to keep him functional and healthy in the short term and throughout his life.”"

So while this seems to be a pretty serious issue, Hossa is not ready to hang up the skates for good just yet. The 38-year-old is leaving the door open for a return to the ice should his skin condition, and the necessary medication, allow it.

Former Blackhawks defenseman Tom Reid spoke with Lazerus today about his own perilous skin condition as a player in the 1970s. Called “The Gunk,” it was a disorder that forced Reid to retire from hockey. While we don’t know if Hossa is going through a similar suffering, it would be entirely understandable why he couldn’t play should he be.

For any Blackhawks fans feeling like taking up “the fight” in Hossa’s name on Twitter — there are some who feel this situation is a sham the Blackhawks have made up to get some salary cap relief — don’t bother. You’ll be talking to a wall. Hossa’s and the team’s statements indicate the winger has been dealing with this medical issue for more than just the last couple months, and it’d be quite the elaborate ruse to get some cap space.

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Let’s just hope for Hossa to recover and possibly be able to return to the ice in the future for a proper sendoff.

Immediate implications of Hossa’s missing season

While concern should first and foremost be with Hossa, there are obviously a lot of questions that come up for the Blackhawks with Hossa sidelined.

The first has to come in the form of his cap hit, which is set for $5.275 million next season. The Blackhawks will no doubt try to get Hossa on long-term injured reserve, especially since he isn’t officially retiring. That would push his cap hit off the books for 2017-18.

This would be huge news for the Blackhawks, who would’ve faced a cap-recapture penalty in excess of $4 million this season (and a few more beyond) should Hossa have retired now. Instead, they face some really interesting questions regarding their roster construction next season.

Now, things aren’t all rosy just because Hossa’s $5.275 million cap hit could be off the books. For one, it isn’t guaranteed yet. The Blackhawks wouldn’t move him to that list until fall, as teams are allowed to be 10 percent above the salary cap ($75 million for next season) during the offseason. A lot could happen between now and then.

Additionally, the Blackhawks’ roster still will not be totally intact regardless of what the Blackhawks do with Hossa. It seems likely the Blackhawks had a deal in place with the Golden Knights for one of Marcus Kruger or Trevor van Riemsdyk to be taken in tonight’s expansion draft, with the other being traded to the team shortly after.

But things could be taking a turn, according to The Athletic’s Scott Powers, as a result of Hossa’s absence. Powers reports a source has said Kruger will likely still be a Blackhawk after tonight’s expansion draft.

It sounds like TVR is more likely leaving the team tonight. While the Blackhawks could arrange a deal with the Golden Knights that would send draft picks to the new club in exchange for it not taking a Blackhawk in the draft, it seems unlikely Chicago would do that in a year in which it’s hosting the NHL Draft.

But let’s say the Blackhawks do wind up losing both Kruger and TVR before putting Hossa on LTIR as well. As a result, they’d suddenly have about $6.8 million in cap space. Should Kruger stick around, that number is cut by about $3.1 million.

Working with actual cap space

This last bit is noteworthy for the Blackhawks, who were likely going to have to move another core piece (Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov) to stay under the cap next season. Now, they may not have to do that.

Still, there’s difficulties ahead for the Blackhawks. With Hossa out and Kruger possibly departing, the Blackhawks have either 11 or 12 forwards on the main roster under contract for 2017-18, per Cap Friendly.

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  • The team has three free agent forwards to look at signing as well. One will be Tomas Jurco, who was protected from the expansion draft and thus will be re-signed at some point. Another is Dennis Rasmussen, who the Blackhawks reportedly already tried to sign once this offseason.

    The third is Andrew Desjardins, who the Blackhawks may let walk. After the expansion draft, they could also try to do away with the contract of Jordin Tootoo, who is simply filling the role of helping the Blackhawks protect more valuable players from the draft. That means the Blackhawks could chase after a forward or two this offseason.

    If TVR is gone, the Blackhawks would also have six defensemen on the main roster under contract for 2017-18, with Johnny Oduya and Brian Campbell free agents. Oduya could actually be given a longer look now to stick around, but after his sluggish performance as a trade-deadline add last season, it’s unlikely he returns. Campbell easily could, though, and free-agent signee Jan Rutta will also be in the mix. So the Blackhawks may not be in the market for a defenseman.

    However, the Blackhawks could use a legitimate backup goaltender to Corey Crawford. Jeff Glass, Lars Johansson and Mac Carruth are all “the backup” right now, and none has real NHL experience. With more salary cap space, you can almost guarantee general manager Stan Bowman’s first move will be to add an NHL-caliber backup netminder.

    Replacing Hossa’s production

    This is all just speculation about dealing with a Hossa-less salary cap, though. It does nothing to address that the Blackhawks will need to replace a power forward who posted 26 goals and 45 points last season.

    While the Blackhawks will likely look at some free-agent forwards this offseason, you can also expect them to take hard looks at guys like Alex DeBrincat, John Hayden, Tyler Motte, Alexandre Fortin, David Kampf and the like during the summer camps. Building from within can be difficult, but it’s almost always less expensive than going outside the organization to fill a need.

    It’s not even worth speculating what the Blackhawks’ forward lines might look like for next season at this point. With Hossa out and Kruger’s future uncertain, we’ll need to wait until the camps are completed to even begin speculating.

    As of right now, the Blackhawks will be in a mini rebuild on the fly for 2017-18. Assuming they won’t move another core piece beyond Kruger with the idea of putting Hossa on LTIR, it becomes an easier process than it would have been. With Kruger around, it’s easier still. But it’s still a dicey proposition for a team that’s losing time for said core pieces to still be impact players.

    Additional Blackhawks news

    As a side note, it was announced this morning that the Blackhawks’ 2017-18 home opener will take place Oct. 5 against the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

    This is quite the tough draw for a Blackhawks team that could be in a state of major flux when the season starts. It could be the Blackhawks’ opener for the entire season as well, though, while the Penguins are guaranteed to open the day before at home against the St. Louis Blues.

    It was also announced by the Montreal Canadiens that their home opener is set for Oct. 10 against the Blackhawks. This is a cool opportunity for a hometown guy like Crawford to play in what should be a more-raucous-than-normal Bell Centre.

    Next: Reaction To Hossa Not Playing In 2017-18

    The complete regular-season schedule for 2017-18 will be released tomorrow at noon. Until then, Blackhawks fans have plenty to keep them occupied.

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