Hossa, Keith Deals a Potential Cap Burden for Blackhawks

Hossa's retirement could hamper the Hawks in a big way with serious cap penalties

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Last year, we discussed the possibility of the Chicago Blackhawks using one of their two amnesty buyouts on Marian Hossa because of the salary cap recapture penalties that will be incurred if he retires before the end of his 12-year contract with the team in 2022.

Odds are, Hossa will retire by then, considering he will be 41 years old by the time he starts the final season of his contract. With the Hawks using both of their amnesty buyouts on Steve Montador and Rostislav Olesz before the 2013-14 campaign, they no longer have that option with Hossa, and will incur the penalties if he retires before the contract ends.

Whereas our numbers were based on some assumptions about the way the new system would work, the website CapGeek did some serious digging, and ended up coming up with a fascinating matrix of what would happen if players who are eligible for cap recapture penalties retired in a given year. While the list is interesting for some NHL fans, Blackhawks fans aren’t going to like what they will see.

As a matter of example, consider this. If Hossa were to retire after the end of the 2016-17 season (a year in which he’ll turn 38 years old), the Hawks would be on the hook for a $4.275 million salary cap penalty for the four remaining years of Hossa’s deal. That yearly penalty would be assessed if he retired in any of the three years that follow as well, meaning that in the final four years of Hossa’s contract, the Hawks will have a lovely cap penalty hovering over his head.

One of the ways that some pundits have suggested teams like the Blackhawks can get out of the penalties (assessed because the teams extended out the contracts of players in order to dilute their cap hit, and the league decided to punish those clubs after the fact with this new rule to tax them for the benefit they’d acquired from the deals) is to put Hossa on Long Term Injured Reserve. That designation would not only mean that Hossa’s cap hit would come off the books, but it would also mean that they would be off the hook for the recapture penalty since Hossa would still technically be an active player.

Unfortunately for Chicago, that’s not likely to happen, as CapGeek pointed out:

Needless to say, the Blackhawks can’t be happy that the NHL decided to punish teams with the cap recapture penalty, and it’s hard to blame them. The NHL approved the contract to Hossa, and the fact they’re punishing contracts that they approved (especially since it wasn’t blanket approval, since they rejected Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract with the New Jersey Devils) seems like a hypocritical action.

Oh, and just in case you thought that Hossa was alone in the cap recapture scheme, defenseman Duncan Keith and his 13-year contract are also subject to penalties. If Keith retires at the age of 37, the Hawks would be on the hook for a $3.73 million penalty for two years, and if he retires the year following, the penalty would be a shade over $4 million for the 2022-23 season.

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