As is the case with every team that hoists the Stanley Cup, trying to keep that championship squad together is nearly impossible.
The Chicago Blackhawks know all about that, as the team was pilfered after they won the Stanley Cup in 2010. The team lost the likes of key role players like Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Kris Versteeg after their Cup victory.
With playoff hero Bryan Bickell being an unrestricted free agent, the Hawks needed to act quickly and they did just that to ensure the beefy Bickell would remain in Chicago.
In a thin free agent market, Bickell was expected to be a highly sought after free agent. However, the Hawks ensured he didn’t hit the free agent market as they made some shrewd moves in order to lock Bickell up.
The Hawks dealt center Dave Bolland to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a second-round and two fourth-round picks. More importantly, the move opened up $3.375 million in cap space. Bolland scored the Stanley Cup clinching goal, but his injury problems, lack of consistency and cap hit made him more than expendable. He will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2013-2014 season.
The Hawks weren’t done dealing yet as they sent fourth-line winger Michael Frolik to the Winnipeg Jets for a third-round and fifth-round pick in the 2013 draft which opened up $2.33 million in cap space. He was a nice contributor but an expendable fourth-liner nonetheless. Frolik will be a restricted free agent after the 2013-2014 season.
Thus, after a couple of shrewd moves, the cap space was cleared to lock Bickell up to a four-year, $16 million contract. Bickell, 27, was a key piece to the Blackhawks’ depth before he emerged as a leader during the playoffs. Bickell finished second in playoff points, second in plus/minus on the Blackhawks, and was as clutch as any player on the team en route to the championship.
With Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane locked up for the next two years, as well as Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith locked up long term, the Blackhawks’ nucleus remains in tact. Paired with a strong stable of prospects to replace the likes of Bolland and Frolik and a weak new division to play in, the re-signing of Bickell makes the Hawks a strong candidate to repeat as champs.
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