What would a flat cap mean for the Chicago Blackhawks?

Across the NHL, the ceiling for the salary cap is the same, $81.5 million. Depending on how talks between the NHL and NHLPA go, this could be the same number for every team for years to come.

The Chicago Blackhawks may find themselves dealing with a flat cap for several years.

That idea comes from reports today that the league and the players are working on an extension for the collective bargaining agreement. Numerous reports carried information about these discussions.

According to Elliotte Friedman at SportsNet,

 “As part of the agreement, the salary cap will be kept close to the current $81.5 million for the next three seasons. There is potential for it to go up $1 million in 2022-23.”

Friedman quickly glosses over the complexities of issues like escrow, and how that impacts salaries, but that flat cap is a key take away.

Former Blackhawk Artemi Panarin posted on Twitter that players shouldn’t be returning just yet until more has been negotiated.

That’s an interesting statement and has been copied into numerous articles. You can bet that if he felt comfortable making this kind of statement on social media there are some tense discussions being held behind closed doors. The NHL and NHLPA still have work to do.

Threatening to refuse to play may force the issue further, and the fallout could mean a speculated flat cap for years may become a reality.

Jonathan Toews is on the Executive Board for NHLPA. Its probable Chicago-area beat reporters will be getting in touch with him to get his perspective on the state of negotiations.

In the meantime, a flat cap might be a double-edged sword for Stan Bowman. Imagine being able to negotiate deals, and knowing two years in advance how much money you’ll be structuring contracts against. This would be a fairly significant departure because most of the time all anyone ever hears when it comes to pending deals is, “we’re going to wait and see what next year’s cap is before making any decisions.”

The Blackhawks may be able to make some significant headway towards building a strong team because of this. The entire league will be structured to be as cost-controlled as possible.

Now we might know for years to come.

Unfortunately, this might also mean that it might be that much harder to reward players with bigger deals.

If he isn’t traded before 2021-22, Brandon Saad will become a UFA. Then there’s the goalie situation.

The current tandem of Corey Crawford and Malcolm Subban will probably be broken up this year because they’ll both need new deals. How much longer does Crawford have in him? Subban hasn’t played. Is he a part of the plan? If so, how long would they sign him for?

Then there is the AHL crew of Colin Delia, Kevin Lankinen, and Matt Tomkins. Not one of them has any significant NHL experience, but Delia often has his name tossed around as next year’s back-up goalie. Delia and Lankinen will need new deals in 2022-23, but Tomkins will have to agree to a contract in 2021-22. Looking at all these goalies currently under contract, it’s hard to picture a scenario where Chicago isn’t going to be looking for a proven 1A goalie.

Also, what about signing free agents, or deals that need to be made right now? What is Dylan Strome’s worth?

The situation might become a bit rough. Bowman has his faults, but he’s been able to make the numbers work over the years. It’ll be interesting to see how all this shapes up over the next few years.

Things are heating up between the league and its players. Let’s hope for an amicable (and safe!) return to play.

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