The Chicago Blackhawks will have a lot of decisions to make over the next week and a half, as the NHL expansion draft, entry draft, and free agency all get into motion.
The Blackhawks, who currently have up to 22 players under contract, are around $4 million over the salary cap’s upper limit, and although that number could go down if the league increases the limit this summer, they are still likely going to have to shed salary to be cap compliant for next season.
The big question, naturally, is which player, or players, could see themselves playing for another club next season. Everyone from Marcus Kruger to Marian Hossa has been mentioned in connection with trade rumors, and when the expansion draft is added into the mix, things get even more complicated when it comes to getting the roster set for next season.
For fans interested to see how things are going to shake out, we have a handy list of dates to circle on your calendar, and a brief explanation of what you could end up seeing on each of the dates.
June 17: Deadline to Protect Players From Expansion Draft
Teams can only protect certain players from the expansion draft, and June 17 is the deadline for teams to pick which players will be shielded from the Vegas Golden Knights.
For the Blackhawks, they have a few different options on how to proceed. They currently have eight players that are automatically protected by virtue of no-movement or no-trade clauses, and although it’s possible they could have asked a player to waive one of those clauses, they would have had to do so before the deadline on Monday.
If they didn’t do that, and no reports have indicated that they did, then they have two options. They can either protect three additional forwards, with guys like Ryan Hartman and Richard Panik at risk of being available for selection, or they could protect one additional defenseman, with Trevor van Riemsdyk the only realistic candidate for that spot.
June 18-20: Vegas’ Exclusive Negotiating Window
If the Blackhawks opt to leave impending restricted free agents unprotected in the expansion draft, then the Golden Knights will be able to negotiate contracts with them during this window. Players like Panik are already under contract for next season, but Tomas Jurco or Dennis Rasmussen could potentially be targeted if they’re not protected by the Blackhawks.
June 21: The NHL Expansion Draft
At 9 a.m., the expansion draft will officially take place in Las Vegas. Players picked will not be announced until the evening, as the league is hosting a TV special to put together the new Golden Knights roster.
At this point, any trades that the Blackhawks have made with the Golden Knights would be announced, so this could be the date where fans find out whether van Riemsdyk or Marcus Kruger are heading to Sin City.
June 23-24: The NHL Entry Draft
A few days later, the Entry Draft will take place in Chicago, and fans can expect plenty of fireworks here. The Blackhawks currently own the 26th overall pick in the draft, but it is feasible that they could move up if they make some kind of trade with the draft in their home rink.
With all of the NHL G.M.’s in the same place, there is a very high chance that deals of big-time significance will be made.
June 25-30: Impending Free Agents Can Talk to Other NHL Teams
The Blackhawks haven’t been very active in free agency over the last few years, but this year they do have some needs. The main needs come on the blue line and in their back-up goaltender positions, and free agency will give them a chance to address those needs if they can free up a bit of salary cap space to make signings.
July 1: Free Agency Begins
The big day comes at the start of July, as teams can officially sign free agents. The Blackhawks may not be the most active team on the market, but if they clear enough room via trade, they could surprise some fans with their moves.