Chicago Blackhawks: Which players to pay for this offseason

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 21: Goalie Robin Lehner #40 of the Chicago Blackhawks warms up prior to the game against the Florida Panthers at the United Center on January 21, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 21: Goalie Robin Lehner #40 of the Chicago Blackhawks warms up prior to the game against the Florida Panthers at the United Center on January 21, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Chicago Blackhawks are going to have a lot of cap space going into next season, just enough to keep some players around, who they choose is up for debate.

The Blackhawks, according to CapFriendly, are going to have around 11 million dollars in cap space going into the offseason. I know that it might seem like a lot but when you look at this team there are a lot of players who deserve their money this offseason. Let’s take a look at everyone who is going to demand a raise this offseason.

Dylan Strome

Dylan Strome will be re-signed soon enough. While I do want to see the Blackhawks get Strome back, I want to make sure it is for the right price. The Blackhawks gave Alex DeBrincat 6.4 million for the next 3 seasons, and I wouldn’t expect them to give Strome more than that.

Strome, in my opinion, is in the 3-5 million dollar range for this team. While last season was great for the young forward, this season has shown a bit of a setback.

The magic of Strome was how he brought out the best in DeBrincat. The two used to play together with the Erie Otters and reuniting them last season was magical. This season has not shown that. To be fair Jeremy Colliton has not given the two enough time together.

I believe as long as the two get paired up together when he returns from injury the team will be fine. Here is to Dylan Strome getting a 3 year 3.5 million dollar deal.

Slater Koekkoek

Unless the Blackhawks trade Slater Koekkoek before the trade deadline I would like to see him back next season. I don’t see Koekkoek asking for that much of a raise next season, maybe he will ask for about 1.5 to 2 million a year for one or two seasons. Either way that is pretty manageable for the Blackhawks. Stan Bowman and company need to make sure they do not give Koekkoek too much of a raise or that long of a contract going into next year.

Think about what Koekkoek might be able to do in a full season. This year he has played in 23 games so far and has 27 blocked shots. I am not saying he is going to make the top four pairings, but at the same time, he is a reliable sixth or seventh defenseman for a season.

Of course, the Blackhawks might opt to not sign Koekkoek. Think about the names the Blackhawks are going to have on their blue line next season. Keith, Boqvist, Maatta, Murphy, and de Haan will all be back. Seabrook might be able to play as well, then throw in Ian Mitchell and then you already have seven players.

Erik Gustafsson

Erik Gustafsson’s days in Chicago are numbered. I don’t see the Blackhawks re-signing him at the end of the season. I also don’t think they should spend any of their cap space on keeping Gustafsson onboard unless of course, he asks for a two-way contract.

I once questioned whether the Blackhawks should move Gustafsson to the fourth line. He plays horrendously in his own end, and this would allow him to continue to play on the power play, well that did not happen, and now we have him creating holes in the Blackhawks defensive zone.

I would like to see the Blackhawks trade Gustafsson for a draft pick and a prospect over the course of the coming weeks. I know that some might see that as the team becoming sellers for the deadline, but at the same time, I consider it a hockey trade, not a rental trade.

The Blackhawks only have 11 million in cap space, and I hope we don’t use any of it on Gustafsson.

Drake Caggiula

Drake Caggiula should be back with the Blackhawks next season. Last year Caggiula played on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. He can play with the best of the best, and there is no reason the team shouldn’t give him 2.5 million a year for the next two years.

The only issue I have with Caggiula is that the Blackhawks brought back Andrew Shaw. Shaw is a player who plays similarly to Caggiula, and having him on board makes Caggiula a little more expendable.

The Blackhawks have Shaw locked through the 2021-22 season at 3.9 million a year. I don’t know if the team wants to add another 2.5 million a year for practically the same player.

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Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner

I am not going to lie. I think that the Blackhawks are going to keep Crawford and not Lehner. They just don’t have the money to keep Lehner and sign some of the other names on this list. Lehner already said that he will not take a pay cut, so why are we going to expect him to be back at under 6 million a year.

Crawford might be able to swing a 3.5 to 5 million dollar contract for just a couple of years. Collin Delia has shown flashes of being as good as he was last year. So maybe the team can bring him back up and have Crow pass the torch to him in the next couple of years.

I know a lot of people are going to disagree with this, and yes I would like to have Lehner instead as well. We just do not have the money to keep him.