With nine players currently making over $3.5 million per season, the Chicago Blackhawks management is far from resolving their salary cap woes.
Though there is no shortage of talent, working within the constraints of the cap seems to have dampened spirits in Chicago. Last season, we saw the exit of players such as Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd, and this season another string of players might be shown the door due to insufficient cap space.
Currently, defenseman Brian Campbell is raking in just over $7 million every year, and contributed 27 points in 65 games to the score sheet in 2011. Though he is being compensated just under $4 million less, Brent Seabrook racked up 48 points this season. It’s fair to argue that Campbell is overpaid for what he puts out, but it would be equally difficult to trade such a large contract. He was the fourth highest paid defenseman in the league this year, just below Boston’s Zdeno Chara, Chris Pronger of the Flyers and fellow Hawk, Duncan Keith.
General Manager Stan Bowman has already begun re-signing some of his players. News of Corey Crawford’s renewal on Thursday added another level of complexity to the Blackhawk’s struggles staying under the salary cap. Bowman renewed Crawford for $8 million over three years. Many agree this is a good payout for Crawford who recorded 33 wins and led all other rookies with a .927 save percentage in the regular season.
On Friday, Bowman expressed definite interest in signing rookie goalie Alexander Salak for $600k per season. It seems likely that Marty Turco’s deal will not be renewed, and that Chicago’s goaltending situation has been taken care of for the most part. Unfortunately for the Hawks, these signings do not solve all their problems.
Chicago already has $54 million of their cap space used up between 16 players next season. This includes eight forwards, six defensemen and two goalies. If the cap hit falls at just under $60 million again, there will be just under $6 million left to sign two defensemen and six forwards. Bowman does have a few options left on his team for renewal.
Notably, Troy Brouwer’s contract comes up for renewal this season. Recording 36 points in 79 games played, Brouwer serves as the physical presence skating in the top line beside Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. In particular, Kane contributed to the Hawks this season with a point per game on average. Known for his big hits, Brouwer’s size allows to fill the role of an enforcer. Still, Brouwer contributes to the points sheet, and stays out of the penalty box. Bowman would be smart to re-sign Brouwer to the Hawks before July 1.
Ryan Johnson serves well on the penalty kill and fulfills his role as a defensive player. He also isn’t a hard hit on the salary cap at $500k each year. He would be worth a renewal if Bowman could negotiate a similar contract with him again.
Right winger Tomas Kopecky is a unrestricted free agent on July 1. His size works to his advantage at 6’3 and 200 pounds. With 42 points this season, he worked well with line mate Marian Hossa. However, it is likely that he will look for more money this season. Due to Chicago’s cap problems, it’s doubtful that Stan Bowman will sign him for much more than the $1.2 million he’s already making.
It’s important to consider that Patrick Sharp’s contract comes up for renewal in 2012. In 2011, the Hawks payed him $3.9 million for 71 points in 74 games. He is a solid left wing who has had a fantastic last few seasons with the Hawks. If he has a good season in 2011-12, which he likely will, he will be worth more than his current salary. It’s fair to expect great things out of Sharp next season, given that his contract is coming up for renewal.
Generally, the Hawks should look towards replacing and strengthening the physical nature of their team. One of the major differences this season compared to the 2010 cup winning team, is Dustin Byfuglien. His physical presence strengthened the team and allowed Chicago’s superstars to do their job effectively.
The Hawks already have their big goal scorers in the form of Kane, Toews and Sharp. Now, it is essential for Chicago to make sure they have the players to fulfill the gritty roles.