To everyone’s surprise, the Chicago Blackhawks are currently in a position to make the playoffs.
They are currently 11-6-4, and they have won eight of their last ten.
Somehow, Chicago has overcome the loss of Captain Jonathan Toews and up-and-comer Kirby Dach, found solid goalies in Kevin Lankinen and Malcolm Subban, and have 12 active players on the roster 25 years old or younger. They are competitive and have an edge they haven’t had in a few years. At this point, there is no reason to believe that they won’t make the playoffs.
Whoa, hold on. Pump the breaks!
It is true that this team is over-achieving and playing excellent hockey. I’m a glass-half-full guy, and I still believe that they can make the playoffs. However, this moment of success does not change the fact that this team is in a rebuild. If Chicago is truly building a team for the future, Stan Bowman cannot slip up here- he must stay the course.
Unrestricted Free Agents
Right now the Blackhawks have two active players who are unrestricted free agents at the end of the year and one unrestricted free agent on IR. Mattias Janmark is the Blackhawks’ most valuable chip.
He is a solid player who has skills to offer a team heading into the playoffs. Chicago would be wise to move his $2,250,000 cap hit for a few young prospects. He has been a nice pickup for the ‘Hawks and filled valuable ice time; however, he is not part of a long-term plan. Carl Soderberg is another unrestricted free agent.
He holds a mere $1,000,000 salary against the cap. He is 35 years old. He should be shopped to a team that might need a fourth-line center heading into the playoffs. He may not bring much return, but he won’t be part of Chicago next season.
It certainly puts the Blackhawks at a deficit up the middle, but the final few games should not be of concern in terms of the big picture. The final unrestricted free agent is Zack Smith. His salary is $3,250,000, and he has been on injured reserve all season. Bowman will have to be clever to move any of that this year, but it’s certain, he will not be on the payroll next season.