The Blackhawks have several players to resign heading into the next season. With little cap space to work with, one player, in particular, raises a big question.
The cap space for the Chicago Blackhawks has been a concern over the past few years, and the issue has now come to a head with multiple key players needing new contracts this offseason. With GM Stan Bowman having little money to work with, one player that he will have to address is defenseman Brent Seabrook.
While Seabrook has been out of commission for a while due to injuries and multiple surgeries, his hefty contract is still on the books. The 35-year old’s current contract, signed in 2017, was valued at $6.8 million for eight years, a total value of $55 million. That is a hefty salary, and with four years remaining on the books, one that will not be easy to move, especially given Seabrook’s age.
However, it is still possible for the Blackhawks to find a solution for the veteran D-man. Seabrook has served the Hawks admirably, being an integral part of three Stanley Cup victories. The time has come, though, for Chicago to clear up some much-needed cap space, and the best way for them to do that quickly would be to move Seabrook.
There are a few different avenues for Chicago to potentially unload #7. While they are all technically doable, they are not all necessarily realistic. Let’s take a look at three different avenues for the Blackhawks to move Brent Seabrook.
While Seabrook’s contract could technically be bought out, this would be a disastrous move for the Blackhawks. Per CapFriendly, if Chicago was to buy out the remaining four years of Seabrook’s contract, his salary would stay on their books for another eight years. That is an eternity to pay a player’s salary, especially one that would no longer be on the team.
Not only would the buyout go on seemingly forever, but the monetary hit would be severe as well. CapFriendly estimates a potential cap hit against Seabrook’s buyout would be almost $25 million over those eight years, with approximately $20 million of that hit coming in the next four years.
The Blackhawks have several players that they’re looking to resign. Corey Crawford is a UFA looking to stick around the Windy City, at least for the next few years. Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome are both looking for new contracts as well.
Chicago is likely looking to start contending again in the next few years. That being said, the option of a Seabrook buyout, while possible, is simply not going to happen. The Hawks are also going to want to sign extensions for prospects like Ian Mitchell if they pan out, so the more money off the books, the better.
Chicago needs to move Seabrook, but this isn’t the way to do it.
Shipping Seabrook off to another team would be incredibly difficult, but doable. There are just not that many teams in the league willing to take on his contract, especially given his age.
Let’s also not glance over the fact that Seabrook’s production has been declining in the past few years. Despite that, some leadership could go a long way, especially for teams with younger locker rooms. After all, he’s still an alternate captain with years of NHL experience.
The only option that I see for trading Seabrook would be to a team with as much cap space as possible that would be looking for veteran leadership. Teams like Ottawa, New Jersey, the NY Rangers or Montreal could have a use for Seabrook. These teams aren’t primed to go anywhere in the next few years, and they could use someone with experience for the rookies.
However, what would these teams ask for in return for taking on such a hefty contract? It’s hard to say, but probably a lot. Even if the Hawks were to get a semi-decent return, it would probably leave much to be desired.
So, could Seabrook be headed to the trade block? Possibly, but personally, I don’t see that happening unless Stan Bowman makes an offer that another team just can’t refuse.
The Seattle Kraken expansion draft is the go-to gameplan for Seabrook at this point. Although the Kraken won’t begin play until the 2021-22 season, meaning one more year on the books for Chicago, the veteran defenseman might be enticing to the NHL’s newest team.
Mark Lazerus of The Athletic discussed this circumstance in his podcast Laz and Powers, emphasizing that the Kraken would be the best-case scenario:
"I mean Seattle really is the only realistic option for Seabrook, right? I mean you’re not gonna be able to trade him staight-up to somebody, but a team like Seattle would have a ton of cap space to play with, obviously, starting from scratch, no huge contracts on the books, they can maximize that leverage."
Lazerus notes that Seattle, like all expansion teams, would be starting with no giant salaries working against them, and plenty of cap space to work with. Since expansion teams rarely see much success in their first few years (save Vegas), they’ll likely be looking for at least a few guys that can provide veteran leadership.
Seabrook could be that guy. What are the stakes of Seattle agreeing to take on that large of a contract? It’s hard to say at this point, but Bowman could surely find a way to make it work. While Seabrook has only ever been a Blackhawk, I think that seeing him in a Kraken sweater in 2022 is a realistic and likely scenario.