The Chicago Blackhawks recalled defenseman Stephen Johns from the Rockford IceHogs on Monday, but on Tuesday they made the decision to send him back to the AHL, leaving their roster with only six healthy defensemen.
That move likely made some Hawks fans scratch their heads, as the team will surely need to call up another defenseman before they embark on their annual circus trip. Why would they call up Johns just to send him back down again a day later, especially when there wasn’t a game played?
The answer to that question is somewhat complicated, but what it boils down to is that GM Stan Bowman wanted to maximize the amount of cap space the team had. When Trevor van Riemsdyk was placed on long-term injured reserve, it enabled the Blackhawks to exceed the league’s salary cap ceiling temporarily to replace him. The closer that the team was to the salary cap ceiling of $68.9 million before the LTIR designation was made, the more they could exceed the cap by.
Recalling Johns on Monday pushed the Hawks to within $30,000 or so of the salary cap ceiling, so when van Riemsdyk was placed on LTIR, it enabled the Hawks to spend up to nearly $70 million on their roster. Sending Johns (and his $800,000 cap hit) back to the minors Tuesday cleared more space, so the Hawks now have nearly $1.8 million to spend on players until van Riemsdyk returns to the lineup.
With that extra cap space, the Hawks will likely call up two players, with one defenseman (likely either Klas Dahlbeck or Kyle Cumiskey) and a forward (possibly Teuvo Teravainen or more likely Joakim Nordstrom) probably getting the call. Calling up Nordstrom and Cumiskey would leave the Hawks about $600,000 short of the salary cap ceiling, but it would at least add some depth to a roster that is experiencing some injury trouble at the moment.