How the Chicago Blackhawks Should Manage their Contracts
By Jeremiah Lee
With way too many contracts biting them back, the Chicago Blackhawks and Stan Bowman need to think for the short term.
Let’s take a quick look back at a couple bad contracts the Chicago Blackhawks dug themselves into.
- Brent Seabrook, 6.875 million, 8 yrs, signed: 2015
- Bryan Bickell, 4 million, 4 years, signed: 2014
Brent Seabrook was 30 when the Chicago Blackhawks signed him to a ludicrous deal. When you notice the league getting faster you don’t invest that much money into a player who is starting to decline. His performance in the 2015 playoffs was amazing, yes, but the league was getting younger and faster.
He is on the books until the summer of 2024. Yes, his leadership may be priceless, as the Blackhawks said, but the fact is the prospects will have to be very generous with their pay cuts for their next contract to keep the team together.
Bryan Bickell is a sad story. He was a power forward (though some would call him a grinder) who was able to make a difference in the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup run in 2013, playing the same role as Dustin Byfuglien did in 2010.
He was a valuable forward when he was 100%, making huge hits while making a difference in the offensive zone. He got the game-tying goal vs the Bruins in 2013 as well. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was forced to retire as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes. Teuvo Teravainen was traded along with Bickell in that move, and Teravainen has been a member of the Hurricanes’ core ever since.
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See, the Chicago Blackhawks and Stan Bowman have to remember something: Long-term contracts are a matter of measuring the risks and rewards. Signing franchise forward Patrick Kane to an 8 yr, 10.5 mil contract was an amazing signing, as he has earned every penny of that contract. If he was signed to a deal half that length, he could have easily commanded a 12.5 mil contract last season.
Jonathan Toews, though not a highly offensive forward, does earn the contract of the same value, but he is a two-way forward, meaning he is skilled on both the offensive and defensive end. He won’t rack up 100+ points per game, but he can defend the best in the league. Though he isn’t flashy like Patrick Kane, he is still a very good, well-rounded forward for the Blackhawks.
From now on, unless the player is almost guaranteed to improve, the Blackhawks need to stick to a signing of at the maximum four years, especially for players past or at the age of 30. Bowman’s signing of Seabrook was a boneheaded move, and he will live with it for the next three years.
Here is what I think the next contracts should be for the prospects:
Cap Space: $10.58 mil
Pius Suter: 3 yrs, 3 million
Pius Suter deserves a reasonably long contract extension, close to the same as Dominik Kubalik. He is living up to the hype and improving as the season progresses, looking to be a solid top-six forward for the Blackhawks for the future.
David Kampf: 2 yrs, 2 million
David Kampf is a good depth forward, not great, but good. He is a reliable defensive forward who isn’t expected to put up a high point count but shut down the opposition’s best forward line. At 2 yrs, 2 million, the Blackhawks play it safe in case Kampf begins to decline earlier than expected.
Brandon Hagel: 2 yrs, 1.5 million
Brandon Hagel has been improving more and more as the season progresses. He is a threat offensively as he can create chances for and possesses an underrated shot, as well as a pest to deal with as he will finish checks when needed, and can deliver huge blows to the opposition’s puck carrier. He is a valuable forward and if this contract works out, it will be a huge steal for the Blackhawks. In reality, he will probably take a little but more money, something like a 2 yr, 2 million contract like Kampf’s.
Alex Nylander:1 yr, 950,000
Alex Nylander still hasn’t proven himself in the league yet so asking for more than this would be a huge stretch. He plays with a lot of confidence in practice, hence the reason people thought a line with him and Patrick Kane would be huge. He hasn’t done much since then and has been a scratch most of the time. If he wants a longer contract, he will need to prove that he is the player they believed him to be when Henri Jokiharju was traded for him.
The Blackhawks need to have their young guys locked in before any of the veteran signings on their team. Once the young guys are signed to short, cheap bridge deals, they should still save their cap space as these cheap bridge deals will not last forever.
Kirby Dach could command something like a 4 yr, 5.6 mil bridge deal when his entry-level contract is up, and Nicolas Beaudin could command something like a 4 yr, 4 mil bridge deal if his play continues to improve. The salary cap is a headache, but even more so if your veterans take up a lot of it and are unable to contribute to the level they need to in order to earn that type of money. The Blackhawks have to learn from their mistakes and sign their players using their brains, not their hearts.