The NHL slowly announced 2018-19 regular-season schedules for its 31 teams Thursday, including the Chicago Blackhawks, while also reporting its new salary cap
We now know two important things about the 2018-19 NHL season: the Chicago Blackhawks’ schedule and the salary cap.
The league released both of these items Thursday (in a fashion too slow for most). Let’s start with the schedule bit.
The Blackhawks will open their season at Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 4. They’ll then travel to St. Louis for an Oct. 6 tilt before hosting Toronto in the United Center regular-season opener on Oct. 7.
Here’s the full list of Blackhawks opponents, with a tweet below from the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus featuring specific dates and times.
2018-19 regular-season schedule
October: at Ottawa, at St. Louis, vs. Toronto, at Minnesota, vs. St. Louis, vs. Arizona, at Columbus, vs. Tampa Bay, vs. Anaheim, vs. New York Rangers, at St. Louis, vs. Edmonton, at Vancouver
November: at Edmonton, at Calgary, vs. Carolina, at Philadelphia, at Carolina, vs. St. Louis, vs. Los Angeles, vs. Minnesota, at Washington, at Tampa Bay, at Florida, vs. Vegas, at Winnipeg
December: at Nashville, vs. Calgary, at Anaheim, at Vegas, vs. Montreal, at Winnipeg, vs. Pittsburgh, vs. Winnipeg, vs. San Jose, vs. Nashville, at Dallas, at Colorado, vs. Florida, vs. Minnesota, at Colorado
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January: vs. Boston, at New York Islanders, at Pittsburgh, vs. Calgary, vs. Nashville, vs. Vegas, at New Jersey, at New York Rangers, vs. Washington, vs. New York Islanders
February: at Buffalo, at Minnesota, at Edmonton, vs. Vancouver, vs. Detroit, at Boston, vs. New Jersey, vs. Columbus, vs. Ottawa, at Detroit, vs. Colorado, vs. Dallas, at Anaheim
March: at Los Angeles, at San Jose, vs. Buffalo, at Dallas, vs. Arizona, at Toronto, at Montreal, vs. Vancouver, vs. Philadelphia, at Colorado, vs. Colorado, at Arizona, at San Jose, at Los Angeles
April: vs. Winnipeg, vs. St. Louis, vs. Dallas, at Nashville
The first thing that sticks out to me is how quickly the Blackhawks are finishing most of their games with the Blues. They play St. Louis three times in October and once in November before not seeing the Blues again until April. Weird way to clump together a rivalry matchup.
The Blackhawks also won’t see any of Nashville, Dallas or Colorado until December, which is interesting. Those three teams theoretically will look better in that month than in October, so the Blackhawks may have gotten unlucky there.
The team’s longest homestand is just four games, which seems pretty short. The end of the season is also hideous on paper, as the Blackhawks have a three-game road trip out West to end March before finishing with four Central Division foes (at least three of those are at home).
Overall, this should be a challenging schedule for the Blackhawks.
Salary cap news
Additionally Thursday afternoon, the NHL announced its 2018-19 salary cap at $79 million.
This should be helpful to the Blackhawks, who are always pressed for cap space. That was true even at a $75 million cap last year. With the team trying to get Marian Hossa’s contract off the books, there’s a chance the Blackhawks could open up some decent cap space before the season starts.
What does this mean for their strategy with free agents and the like? That remains to be seen. If the team is able to open up some nice cap space throughout whatever means, that doesn’t necessarily imply they should go chasing for the biggest fish in the pond. It could, however, make it easier to find an NHL-ready, top-four defenseman.
Things will only get more interesting tomorrow with the start of the NHL draft. Even more direction will be required by the Blackhawks, for their immediate future and the further-off future.