Salary cap struggles
With the dawn of the salary cap era, so too was the dawn of the modern day Blackhawks. The emergence of franchise players like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook made them the rocks that Dale Tallon and Bowman built the franchise around.
But as these four matured into the superstar players they became, the necessary pay increases were inevitable.
Now, entering the 13th season with a league salary cap, these four players make up $33 million of the Blackhawks’ $75 million cap. Add veteran goalie Corey Crawford to the mix, and the more than $39 million for five players makes up more than half of the team salary.
While another franchise could look at the Blackhawks and say, “Oh, woe is me, I’m a Blackhawks fan and I’m complaining about money issues when I get to have Toews, Kane, Keith, Seabrook and Crawford on my team,” the salary cap does feel a lot like punishment from the perspective of a Blackhawks fan.
Punishment to a team that is successful as the demand for players from their team will only increase as the team does well year after year.
The main pain point is the Blackhawks have actually been very successful with draft picks and entry-level contracts for undrafted and overseas free agents. As each one of these good drafts picks or undrafted free agents has blossomed with the ‘Hawks’ franchise players by their side, their skill has created a market demand that the Blackhawks simply can’t pay with the salary cap restrictions.
The ‘Hawks build up the talent in Rockford and onto the team, but they cannot keep many of these players past their first or second contracts. Eventually, the Blackhawks look like half professional franchise and half farm system.