In early November, Larry Brooks of the New York Post reported that the NHL could potentially see its salary cap ceiling stagnate next season due to the decline in value of the Canadian dollar and because of escrow issues with player contracts.
One of the teams that would be most affected by a salary cap freeze (the upper limit is currently $68.9 million) would be the Chicago Blackhawks. With nearly $66 million already invested in contracts for next year for just 15 players, the Blackhawks had better hope that the cap goes up, or they could be facing a similar salary cap shed-fest that they had to endure after they won the Stanley Cup in 2010.
On Sunday, Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune wrote an interesting article about the whole situation, and he talked to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane (whose contracts will pay them $10.5 million annually beginning next year, and are a big part of the reason why the team could have to shed other deals to make room) and General Manager Stan Bowman.
Most interesting was what Bowman had to say about the situation:
“Obviously, if the cap doesn’t go up and we keep the exact same team, no, that wouldn’t work. You get into all of these hypotheticals, ‘Well, if you keep this guy, that means you can’t keep that guy.’ I’m not sure that’s a productive endeavor. We’ve always been able to figure it out in the past, and we’ve had a pretty good run of stability. We’re looking to try to do that as much as possible.”
The Blackhawks will be helped a bit by guys like Johnny Oduya hitting free agency, but with so many veterans locked up, and young players like Marcus Kruger and Brandon Saad in line for raises, the Hawks could be looking at a fairly significant overhaul next season. Players like Patrick Sharp ($5.9 million), Brent Seabrook ($5.8 million), and Bryan Bickell ($4 million) will all be targeted for trades if the cap does indeed stay the same, and Bowman will have some tough decisions to make about the team’s future.
To Toews and Kane’s credit, they are focused on one thing: trying to win the Stanley Cup with the group that they have now.
“That’s the talk everywhere,” Toews told Kuc about the potential cap crunch for the Blackhawks. “I’m one of those that hope that that’s not going to be the case.”