When Marian Hossa officially announced he would not be returning to play for the Blackhawks 2017-18 season, it was a bit of a shock for fans everywhere. Hossa has been a staple in the ‘Hawks lineup for 8 seasons, signing in the summer of 2009 and giving the team everything he had to help them win three Stanley Cups.
Seeing the medical condition the forward was dealing with, it is even more evident now what Hossa was sacrificing just so he could suit up night after night; a true testament to the competitor and teammate Hossa is and how much passion he has for the game of hockey.
Now, Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks front office is tasked with figuring out how to create the most competitive roster they can with the hand they have been dealt. The additions in free agency this summer come in as a mix of fourth liners and an aging forward battling injuries. The Brandon Saad trade seems to be a move to try and help aid the loss of Hossa with Saad’s two-way play, but if Saad is your replacement for Hossa, who is replacing Panarin?
Eventually, money will start to free up after the season starts when the ‘Hawks move Hossa to the long-term injured reserve (LTIR). There is a whole angry conversation to have about the possibility of the league telling Chicago they cannot put Hossa on the LTIR (a league that staffed Chris Pronger while he was still under contract), but let’s assume that everything goes as it should for the purposes of this article.
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Stan Bowman has stated that the Blackhawks plan to put Hossa on the LTIR after the season begins, allowing the team to have a little more freedom in moving and acquiring players and contracts as the season moves along. This leaves the ‘Hawks in two positions for using the extra cap space.
Option one is the ‘Hawks look to use the space to sign a free agent that can help the team out. This could be part of a small move the team makes early in the season, but is unlikely to be anything major considering what the list of NHL free agents looks like now, let alone what it will look like after the season has already started.
The second (and more likely option) is Bowman makes a trade for a player early in the year or near the trade deadline next season. This gives the GM time to see what the ‘Hawks that he has pieced together look like in action, diagnose any weak spots on the roster, and fill in for any possible injuries they have during the early part of the season. Of course, this will always come with having to trade away draft picks or prospects to make a deal happen, but that has clearly not stopped Bowman from making a move before. For the purpose of this article, let’s assume Bowman is looking for just a few months rental from a player as he will not want to take on long-term contracts. Let’s also assume the Blackhawks are playing good enough to be buyers during the season, which is in no way a guarantee.
What player or players could the Blackhawks look to bring in with the salary cap relief? Well, let’s take a look at three positions the ‘Hawks could be having trouble at come next season and what players may be able to help.