Those who had hoped the newfound salary cap space created by Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman might be used immediately will be sorely disappointed, if Bowman’s latest comments are truthful
When the Chicago Blackhawks shipped the contract of Marian Hossa, along with Vinnie Hinostroza and Jordan Oesterle, to the Arizona Coyotes earlier this month, the Blackhawks suddenly were left with some nice salary cap space.
With a 22-man roster projected by CapFriendly, the Blackhawks sit roughly $5.5 million below the salary cap. Not an amazing amount of space for some teams, but considering the Blackhawks frequently have been at or above the cap this time of year in recent preseasons, it’s a nice little boost for a team that struggled in 2017-18.
Blackhawks fans no doubt expected general manager Stan Bowman to pull the trigger before opening night on some sort of additional move. And now, those fans will be disappointed.
So the Blackhawks, who have added three veterans this offseason to a group that wasn’t terribly close to making the postseason, may head into their early October opener with a roster that will only change based on how some young guys perform during various camps.
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That has to be a concerning thought for Blackhawks fans. It could even concern coach Joel Quenneville, but you know he has some sort of hand in the team’s on-ice personnel decisions.
What does this mean?
Bowman’s comments don’t necessarily mean he won’t make any sort of major moves by the time opening night rolls around, or at some point during the 2018-19 campaign. But it’s clear nothing is coming about right away unless Bowman gets an offer he can’t refuse.
It’d make sense for the Blackhawks to wait until closer to early October to make some sort of major move. Bowman has done this with various free agents’ contracts, waiting until the last moment to re-sign guys like Marcus Kruger and trading Nick Leddy very late in the 2014 offseason.
The idea that Bowman doesn’t believe he needs to make a move doesn’t have to be born from the thought he feels the Blackhawks already are a contender. He very well just might be waiting to see how certain guys shake out as far as on-ice performance.
Can Corey Crawford rebound from his injury? (Side note: Bowman told reporters Tuesday that Crow was getting ready to retake the ice for practice activities.) Can Brandon Saad bounce back from a rough season? Can Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook tap into a youthful elixir? Can Henri Jokiharju make himself NHL-ready right now?
Bowman is definitely waiting for some answers to questions posed by his present roster before doing anything else. And that’s OK, because the Blackhawks as presently constructed are not one player away from leapfrogging the rest of the Central Division.
Perhaps if everything goes the Blackhawks’ way in the early months of 2018-19, that could change. And Bowman is never going to say the Blackhawks don’t believe they can make the postseason. It’s just … they’re not in real good shape to do so right now, and Bowman isn’t clueless (as much as some fans believe he is).
Right now, however, Bowman is playing the long game when it comes to roster construction. It’s underwhelming right now, certainly. Fans seeking a clear direction from Bowman — a reasonable request — aren’t getting it.
But maybe Bowman’s comments today suggest his direction: wait and see. It’s not amazing to hear, but nothing about the 2017-18 Chicago Blackhawks was, either. It’ll be interesting to see if Bowman’s approach pays off.