What might the flat salary cap mean for the Chicago Blackhawks

Connor Murphy, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Connor Murphy, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

Coming into the 2020-21 season it was understood that the NHL’s salary cap was likely to remain flat for the season, and would stay that way for a couple more years. At around the same time, the Blackhawks were preparing to enter the season as a rebuilding team after several years’ worth of poor results. The flat cap has been more or less confirmed for years to come, but where will that leave Chicago?

General manager Stan Bowman gets a lot of criticism, and some of it is very deserved. However, he has done a great job of managing the salary cap for the Chicago Blackhawks. News of the flat cap being confirmed was reported by SportsNet and others, and league commissioner Gary Bettman was quoted saying the flat cap would be in place for the “immediate future.”  Thanks to Bowman’s handling of the cap, Chicago is in a pretty good place right now.

While CapFriendly shows the team has many players that are on or will have expiring contracts soon, Chicago isn’t necessarily in a situation where they need to be making big money deals with players. That’s where the Blackhawks’ rebuild comes in. The team doesn’t need to commit to anyone except players they want around long-term. When they do, the deals likely won’t be earth-shattering.

The next player to get a major deal from Chicago at this point is likely to be Alex DeBrincat, but he’s got the game to deserve it. Once his bridge deal is done, expect him to sign for big money unless his game drops off a cliff, which it almost certainly won’t. What makes this even better is that he becomes RFA in 2023-24. By that point, the league’s finances should have started to even out, and the cap may go up again.

The Chicago Blackhawks have a number of players on ending deals, but are there any standouts?

Beyond DeBrincat, there’s no one really on the roster that has really put themselves in a position to secure a huge payday. Connor Murphy is playing well, but is he a top-pairing defenseman? When he’s staring down 30 is he going to be a player to commit term and money towards?  Kubalik is scoring at a good pace, but will he cost the team more than say, DeBrincat’s contract currently costs Chicago? The team has until 2022-23 to sort it out because that’s when the deals Murphy and Kubalik are on will expire.

Chicago is in an excellent position right now, especially since, while it isn’t ideal, Seabrook’s inability to play means that he can be put on LTIR for the remainder of his deal if Bowman can’t find a way to shed the contract. Additionally, the Blackhawks aren’t in a position to commit themselves to players like Lucas Wallmark, Carl Soderberg, or other players on short-term deals. All of those small one-year deals can come off the books very easily as Chicago hones in on the players that are going to be on the team long-term.

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In the end, the flat cap is likely going to impact Chicago very little for the next few years, which is only a good thing. It removes a situation where Chicago is forced to give up talent to make room for the younger players. It might not make the rebuild faster, but it will allow the team to take a more patient approach since there should be plenty of cap space for the team to work with, and for years to come.