Pros and Cons: Evaluating the Blackhawks’ Trade Candidates

With trade rumors floating around the Chicago Blackhawks, which players could stay and which could be sent packing as the team tries to get under the NHL salary cap?

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Pros: His contract is very team friendly, with a cap hit of $4.55 million for each of the next four seasons, and he has shown that he can help talented wingers to big years, as he’s done for the last two seasons with Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane.
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nCons: Losing Anisimov would leave the Blackhawks with a gaping hole at second line center, and they would likely have to dip into free agency to fill that hole, especially if they don’t think that a guy like Nick Schmaltz is ready to step into that role.
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Pros: Hjalmarsson’s contract is very good for a defensive player of his caliber. He is one of the best shutdown blue liners in the league, and his versatility in terms of being able to play on either side of the ice could appeal to a team looking to add a top-four talent to their defensive corps.
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nCons: The Blackhawks’ defense would be hurt in a big way by losing Hjalmarsson, and they wouldn’t really clear enough cap space to help fill that hole outside of the organization. Hjalmarsson is making just over $4 million the next two seasons, and it’s highly unlikely that they’d be able to find a guy with similar skills for that price.
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Pros: Even though Hossa has four years left on his deal at a $5.275 million cap hit per year, the real salary he’s owed is only $1 million per season. With that little real money being paid to him, smaller-market teams looking to get to the salary cap floor could be left coveting Hossa’s contract, and they could add him to bring in veteran leadership and to help inflate their salary cap number without expending large amounts of money.
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nCons: Since Hossa’s contract was so front-loaded, the NHL installed a “salary cap recapture” penalty on the deal, meaning that if Hossa retires before the end of the deal, the Blackhawks would be assessed a penalty on their cap. If they keep him under contract, that penalty keeps going down, but if they trade him, they run the risk of him retiring and screwing them with a massive bill on their cap at the end of his career. That is a very big risk, and would impose a massive drain on the team’s available cap space in the final year or two of his deal.
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Pros: Before we get to the lengthy list of cons, there are two pros: Kane would clear $10.5 million worth of salary cap space if the Blackhawks traded him, and they would get a massive haul of NHL ready players and prospects if they decide to move in that direction.
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nCons: The Blackhawks would not be able to replace Kane’s production with just one player. It would require a team effort, and even though $10.5 million is a lot of money, it’s extremely difficult to find top six wingers in this league, and the Blackhawks aren’t exactly teeming with them. Add to that the marketing challenges of trading away the team’s biggest (or second biggest, depending on how one views Jonathan Toews), and this move just doesn’t seem like one that would really excite the front office.
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Pros: At 33 years old and with six years left on a deal that’s paying him $5.5 million per season, Keith is still an excellent player, but he could begin a decline in the next few years. By trading him now, the Blackhawks could sell a team on having a few more years of quality play from Keith, and his cap hit is much more reasonable than that of Brent Seabrook.
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nCons: Much like Niklas Hjalmarsson, who on Earth is going to replace Keith? Sure, the Blackhawks could get some NHL ready talent for his services, but they would hurt themselves in the short term and likely kick themselves into a rebuilding window even as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane continue through their primes.
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Pros: It would clear some serious salary cap room to move Panarin, who is owed $6 million a season the next two years, and a team looking to strike while the iron is hot could look at the two years on the deal and look at it as a real “win move” now. Panarin is also one of the few Blackhawks that could combine a big return with big salary cap relief, a tough sell in today’s NHL.
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nCons: Panarin takes a lot of pressure off of Patrick Kane, and it’s difficult to find a top-six winger. Free agency could be an option if the Blackhawks were to trade him, but in a pretty thin market, it would be a lot more complicated than just splashing around some cash.
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Pros: Brent Seabrook’s contract is a bear, paying him nearly $7 million per season over the next seven seasons. For his production, that number is high, and if the Blackhawks can convince a team that Seabrook’s leadership and physicality are worth that kind of money, it could clear some serious room.
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Cons: Seabrook may be slightly easier to replace than Hjalmarsson or Keith, but that still does not mean that it would be easy. Add to that the fact that the Blackhawks would likely have to add a sweetener prospect or two (think Alexandre Fortin or someone else of that caliber) AND retain salary, and the benefits of trading away Seabrook quickly start to look like cons.
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