As a hockey fan, you tend to become attached to the players on your team. You see them at their best and worst, cheer their milestones and fret over their injuries. After a few years, they feel like family. When they’re traded or retire, it feels like a kick to the stomach, like your world is shutting down and you can’t do anything to stop it. It’s a painful thing to endure.
For myself and other Chicago Blackhawks fans, the shock of hearing that Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik had been traded was doubly painful. Sure, Bolland’s name was tossed about in the trade rumor mill, but his trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs was still a stunner. The worst part was that Frolik’s trade to the Winnipeg Jets came out of the blue. It was more unexpected than the Spanish Inquisition, and there were no comfy chairs used.
But now that the dust has settled, I think there could be method to Stan Bowman’s presumed madness. We know that Bowman needed to sign Bryan Bickell, and that the two sides were progressing on a deal. Bolland and Frolik’s trades were for draft picks, which means no additions to the roster or salary cap. Their departure left the Blackhawks with roughly $11 million in cap space, which is more than enough to sign Bickell (shortly after Frolik’s trade, Bickell’s contract extension was announced).
The cap space also means that Nick Leddy and Marcus Kruger, who become restricted free agents on July 5th, will now be re-signed. In his exit day press conference, Bowman made it clear that Bickell, Leddy and Kruger were priorities for the offseason. With one of those three signed, the other two should fall into place.
The move could also mean a free agent is in the cards. With Bolland’s trade, the thin coverage at center got even thinner. Even if a player from the AHL like Brandon Pirri were to be put in Bolland’s place, the Blackhawks need more depth. An unrestricted free agent like Danny Briere, Nik Antropov or Tyler Bozak could be a good fit. It all depends on who could be signed for the right price.
As we celebrate Bickell’s re-signing, let’s fondly bid goodbye to Frolik and Bolland. From terrible Christmas videos to a Stanley Cup-winning goal, fans will be forever grateful for everything they’ve done for the Blackhawks.