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Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks’ Brent Seabrook Deal Exemplifies Roster And Negotiation Issues

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SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 31: Brent Seabrook
SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 31: Brent Seabrook /
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CHICAGO, IL – NOVEMBER 01: Brent Seabrook
CHICAGO, IL – NOVEMBER 01: Brent Seabrook /

Summary

Think about this for a minute. Let’s say Bowman does not give Seabrook an eight-year, $6.875 million contract in September 2015. Let’s say he put his focus that offseason solely on signing Saad.

Bowman could then have traded Sharp as merely a salary dump, instead of bringing back $4.2 million in cap hits from Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt. While Seabrook’s expiring contract would be hanging over the ‘Hawks the following season, they would have had both Saad and Panarin slotted in on the first and second lines.

With these strengths at forward, the team likely would not have needed to trade for Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann during the season and would have kept Phillip Danault (who busted out for 40 points, a 51.7 faceoff percentage and a 55.6 Corsi-for last year with the Canadiens).

Seeing Seabrook’s subpar 48.2 Corsi-for, negative 4.2 relative Corsi and 89 giveaways in the 2015-16 campaign, Bowman would have had extra negotiating power with Seabrook in the summer of 2016 when trying to sign him. Maybe Seabrook would have even offered to give them a hometown discount, wanting to stay in Chicago but knowing how tight the ‘Hawks were to the cap.

And if Seabrook wouldn’t lower his price, they could have let him walk and would still have had both Keith and Hjalmarsson on the blue line in 2016-17 and could try to find more affordable pieces to fill in.

I know, I know. If ifs and buts were candy and nuts and all that stuff. But there is a major domino effect seen in just this one move. It is also really odd as the Blackhawks seem to be a team that has players signing discounted deals to play with them (Richards, Campbell and Sharp all took huge pay cuts to play in Chicago recently).

Even though players seem to want to play in Chicago, Bowman has been seemingly overpaying for many of them to stay (or at least not getting any type of bargain) and giving out no-movement clauses to boot. The issue isn’t in free agent signings, but in extending current-player contracts.

He has clearly had a huge role in the formation of several Cup-winning teams, but some of the contracts he has given out in recent memory have him shooting himself in the foot.

The albatross of the Seabrook deal is only going to get harder and harder to move as the years go on. I would guess that the front office has had to at least held some discussions about the possibility of moving Seabrook and what it would take to do so.

If the conclusion was it is going to be too difficult to move him now, things only look worse down the road when that $6.875 million cap hit is attached to a declining defenseman over the age of 35. The team has over $32 million tied up with five other players besides Seabrook already. It can’t afford to carry almost $7 million more with him if he doesn’t perform like a top-two defenseman.

Next: 2017-18 Regular Season Expectations: Newcomers

Seabrook’s presence on the team and skill is beneficial to the franchise, but his contract is crippling. His deal alone could be exchanged for two above-average defensemen that would shore up a weak blue line that will rely on young talent next season to survive. Bowman giving out a deal like this is a debilitating move that may cost the Blackhawks any chance to add to the trophy case in this era.

The Blackhawks could really be stuck between a rock and a hard place with this contract and more than likely will struggle to get back to the top of the ranks in the NHL if Seabrook can’t play at the level he is getting paid over the next seven years.

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