While the Chicago Blackhawks were busy celebrating in Grant Park on Friday afternoon, the business of NHL hockey continued rolling along, with the NHL Entry Draft a mere two days away.
In addition to that, the free agency period is set to start July 5, and teams are already scrambling to get under the salary cap, which is going down by $6 million for next season.
For the Hawks, this means that they are likely going to have to part with some familiar faces in coming weeks. Bryan Bickell, Ray Emery, and Viktor Stalberg are all free agents as of next Friday, and Nick Leddy is a restricted free agent as well.
The Hawks will not be able to afford to re-sign all of them, despite buying out the contracts of Steve Montador and Rostislav Olesz earlier this week. If they want to bring a guy like Bickell, who is due a big raise, back, they are going to need to move some other salaries out.
With that in mind, James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail in Toronto wrote a piece detailing several players throughout the league that could be moved in trades in coming days, and one Blackhawk that he focused on was center Dave Bolland:
“As per usual, the Stanley Cup champs have some retooling to do to try and keep their team together. And there will be casualties. Bolland has one year left on his contract at about $3.4 million, but his duties can be taken over by someone like Marcus Kruger as GM Stan Bowman tries to keep playoff hero Bryan Bickell.”
Bolland’s name has been thrown around quite a bit in recent days when the subject of trades comes up, but it’s going to be a matter of finding a team that is willing to take on his salary in exchange for draft picks, because the Hawks aren’t going to want to take back much salary in return.
In terms of replacing Bolland, another player that could potentially make the jump and replace him as a third line center candidate is Mark McNeill. The 2011 first round pick for the Hawks had a solid season last year in the WHL for the Prince Albert Raiders, scoring 25 goals and dishing out 42 assists in 65 games.
Benefitting McNeill’s chances of making the roster as well is his size. At 6’2” and 210 pounds, his muscular build could pay huge dividends if he were paired up with a guy like Andrew Shaw or Bickell next season, but that of course will be dependent upon just who exactly GM Stan Bowman elects to bring back.
Needless to say, the turnover on the roster won’t be as big as it was after the 2010 championship, but there will still be some new faces after this coming off-season.