Heading into the offseason, most of the moving that will be happening on the roster will be through free agency and guys making the team from Rockford that have already been in the organization.
There won’t be a dramatic turnover on the roster, but several guys could find their way out of a Blackhawks sweater due to money (Tomas Kopecky) or performance (Viktor Stalberg). There has been little mention of possible trades for this team, but the plain truth is that one of Brian Campbell or Niklas Hjalmarsson could be donning a new uniform next season.
While neither is officially expected to be shopped at this point, both of their salaries played a part in the reason behind the Blackhawks’ struggles with the salary cap this season.
Campbell is the highest paid player on the team, making over seven million dollars a year, and is signed through the 2015-16 season. While the inconsistencies of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook made Campbell Chicago’s top defenseman for much of the year, he’s still certainly not worth that figure.
Soupy finished the season with 27 points and a plus-28 on the stat sheet. Puck-moving defensemen like Campbell are rare, hence the heavy salary that Campbell found himself earning when he received that monster contract with Chicago.
Hjalmarsson’s high cap hit isn’t necessarily his fault. After the San Jose Sharks signed Hjalmarsson, a restricted free agent last summer, to their offer sheet, the Blackhawks decided to match, with Hjammer ending up signing a four-year, $14 million deal to remain with the Blackhawks.
In making over three million dollars per year, Hjalmarsson’s production didn’t come anywhere close to earning that type of money, registering just 10 points on the season, along with a decent plus-13. But he’s also been prone to stretches of inconsistency and mismanagement with the puck.
At this point, it’s pretty clear that one of these guys could be on their way out, though the Blackhawks have yet to actually mention anything. Still, it’s hard to imagine the Hawks being able to achieve their offseason goals of improving this roster to the best of their ability with over $10 million invested in two guys, neither of whom are in the top defensive unit.
The more likely of the two to be dealt is Hjalmarsson. His cap figure is over what half of what Campbell is making, and his play on the ice isn’t something that has been deemed irreplaceable by anyone to this point.
The Blackhawks also have a wealth of depth within their organization, with plenty of youngsters that could end up making the team out of the gate heading into next season. There’s also Chris Campoli, who is expected to be re-signed at a much lower figure than either two of these guys. Signing Campoli would give the Hawks six defensemen, but dealing one of Campbell or Hjalmarsson could open up Bowman’s wallet to do a bit more on a forward unit that had its lack of depth exposed throughout the season.
In the end, neither of these guys may end up getting dealt, but it would come as a big surprise to many, given the low amount of financial flexibility that the Blackhawks will still have this offseason.