“There have been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long … But now I think I’m able to carry on”
The Blackhawks’ future is not as bleak as many would like to forecast. The salary cap for next season could be anywhere between $78-82 million. I’m going to go with $80 million in the middle for the sake of discussion.
If you like to have fun with numbers, take a look at how a reshaped roster could look next year. This spreadsheet also includes the following season with some estimates at future contracts.
This illustrates that the moves would not blow the ‘Hawks out of the water the following year. This also assumes Bowman moves Hossa’s contract to a team in need of reaching the salary cap floor. Take a look:
$ 10,500,000.00Line 2Schmaltz
$ 2,800,000.00Line 3Anisimov
$ 1,387,500.00Line 4Ejdsell
$ 925,000.00 ?
$ 925,000.00 ?D1
$ 925,000.00 ?D2
$ 925,000.00 ?RSV
$ 925,000.00 ?RSV
$ 925,000.00 ?
$ 925,000.00 ?Subtotal
$ 81,854,919.00SALARY CAP
$ 84,000,000.00 ?
Personally, I’d like to see Bowman acquire two top-four defenders instead of another top-six forward. I’m not sold on Rutta as their No. 2 defender with Keith. At the age of 27, he’s not going to develop any further. He impressed early but then faded as the season wore on.
Perhaps they could compete with him in that slot until Henri Jokiharju arrives. The reports are that Jokiharju might have a shot at cracking the lineup this fall. But acquiring that second top-four guy would solve that problem, too.
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Either way they go, you can see that with the new salary cap, Bowman can improve this team. And of course there are numerous trade options where Bowman could really shake up the roster. But the resounding theme so far is that of “continuity,” so Bowman may not be ready to go full throttle with major shake-ups.
The Blackhawks’ free agents this year are Duclair, Tomas Jurco, Vinnie Hinostroza, John Hayden and Andreas Martinsen. Out of this group, I only feel Hinostroza and Martinsen should definitely be re-signed.
We’ve all seen how Hinostroza has developed into a legitimate NHL’er this season. And Martinsen has been noticeable every single shift. No one else is willing to play the physical game as well as he has.
Hayden could still be a factor as one of those sandpaper guys, but should only be signed to a two-way deal. Duclair and Jurco are perimeter players and the ‘Hawks have enough of those already.
“It’s been a long, a long time coming … But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will”
So the resurgence of the Blackhawks can start over this summer with the right moves. As I’ve stated before, they’re not that far from contending once again. So with the confidence that there will be salary cap room, and some quality players available via free agency, we can look forward to the draft and free agent season.
Let’s recap one more time in condensed style of some possible combinations.
Keith-Carlson (Murphy is moved in a trade and Jokiharju develops all season in Rockford)
People, get ready
So, I’ve provided these projections to illustrate that there are some pretty good options in the free agent pool to significantly upgrade the roster. I added Carlson in one scenario because it demonstrates that even adding a high end salary is feasible. And one more year under the belts of DeBrincat, Schmaltz, Sikura and Gustafsson should put them on a trajectory to reach their potentials.
I repeat, a healthy increase in the salary cap to add free agents and continued progress from the youngsters can put your Blackhawks back into playoff contention next season. Buckle up and stay positive, Blackhawks fans. It’s going to be an interesting summer.