Chicago Blackhawks: LTIR players returning forces tough roster moves
The Chicago Blackhawks have had multiple players sent on the LTIR this season. When they return this summer, things will get interesting.
Several days ago the Blackhawks sent out a press release saying that both Zack Smith and Andrew Shaw were done for the season due to medical issues.
It was hard to watch the Chicago Blackhawks trade away players at the deadline. It signaled that the season was kind of over, and this was going to be another year without a trip to the playoffs. Although with last night’s big win against Anaheim putting them with arm’s reach of a playoff spot, maybe they’ll be competing this year? We’ll see…
At the moment, CapFriendly has Shaw, Brent Seabrook, and Calvin de Haan listed on Chicago’s Long-term Injured Reserve List. That’s over 15 million dollars in salary that currently injured. Add in Smith, and that number goes up over 18 million.
All that cap space is a kind of illusion.
Three of those four players (Smith, de Haan, and Seabrook) are expected to be ready for the start of next season. Were the Blackhawks to do something really interesting at the deadline, it would have been with the cap space they had this year.
What makes this a bad situation is that, while these players will return from their injuries, they come back under dubious terms.
de Haan had surgery on the same shoulder he injured last year with Carolina. It is almost certain that de Haan will play again, but after having two season-ending injuries in the same place is cause for concern.
Over 30-years-old, Smith is a good hockey player, but he’s had to have back surgery. That’s not a small thing for a professional athlete. He’ll certainly be ready on opening night, but it is still concerning that this injury may impact his future play.
Shaw’s status is in medical limbo. Shutting him down was the right decision, and he may stay on LTIR at the beginning of next season. He’s out because of a concussion, and it’s not clear how long his recovery may take. He may suit up for the first game of the 2020-2021 season, or he may watch from the home, or he may never play again.
Then, of course, there is Seabrook. He’s been around so long he’s like furniture, but he’s not going to get any better. For any athlete, time is the enemy, and not only is Seabrook getting older, but just had several surgeries. He’ll be back as the bionic man among the defenseman, but it’s unlikely he improves significantly.
Hopefully, the Blackhawks roll out an incredible team next year bolstered by the return of these injured players.
It’s just hard to see things play out much differently than they did this year. The players that swapped out the locker room for the operating table are likely unmovable via trade, and the Blackhawks may find themselves in a bad spot.
Furthermore, predicting the lineup at this point is impossible. Every player currently on LTIR is currently under contract next season, but the problem is complicated by the fact that Chicago won’t have many free roster spots for next season.
According to CapFriendly, everyone is under contract except for just four forwards (Drake Caggiula, Dominik Kubalik, Dylan Strome, Matthew Highmore), one defenseman (Slater Koekkoek), and both goalies (Corey Crawford and Malcolm Subban).
The roster is going to have to change next year. It would have been nice to see all of this year’s cap space filled up for maximum returns, but it didn’t happen.
With 2019-2020 more or less over, fingers crossed that Shaw, Seabrook, de Haan, and Smith come back as difference-makers for 2020-2021.