The Chicago Blackhawks will enter the offseason needing to do some serious work after missing the playoffs in consecutive years, but General Manager Stan Bowman believes the team is in a good position for the future.
The Blackhawks, who finished off their regular season with a loss to the Nashville Predators on Saturday night, will be watching the Stanley Cup playoffs instead of participating in them this spring, and that fact has given Bowman a sense of urgency about restructuring the team.
“I would expect us to be more active in the summer free agent market than we’ve been in years past,” Bowman said in a postseason press conference Sunday. “We have the cap flexibility to do that. We haven’t really been in this position before with money to spend.”
Indeed the Blackhawks will have some money to throw around in the summer. With estimates swirling that the salary cap could climb to $83 million for the coming season, that would give the Blackhawks a staggering $23 million in cap space, with only five or six players needing to be signed.
That could open up the possibility of a big splash, with forward Artemi Panarin and defenseman Erik Karlsson both hitting the market to a lot of attention from teams across the league.
The Blackhawks could also explore the possibility of trades, as the team will need to restructure its blue line, likely add another depth scorer or two, and add a defensive forward to help bolster a penalty killing unit that was the league’s worst this season.
“We’re going to do trades as well, and there will be some moving parts, but I wouldn’t expect sweeping changes,” Bowman said. “We have a lot of good things here.”
With first round picks Henri Jokiharju and Adam Boqvist likely poised to be big contributors on the team’s blue line next season, a player like Karlsson could be an ideal fit for the Blackhawks as they try to bolster one of the league’s worst defenses. Players like Panarin would likely be a luxury item rather than a necessity, especially with the resurgence of Jonathan Toews and the continued development of Alex DeBrincat, but it seems as though the Blackhawks will have numerous options open as their offseason begins.