With the free agent signing period once again underway this summer, we’re seeing the same trend unfold that has taken place over the last several years. In a thin market, insane contracts are being handed out to players who almost certainly aren’t worth anywhere near what they’re taking in.
Luckily, with the Chicago Blackhawks, we’ve seen no such nonsense. The Hawks have actually managed to sit and watch the insanity unfold, rather than joining in on the fun. They locked up a pair of their free agents before the period got underway, before signing Michal Rozsival and Michal Handzus to short term deals on the first day of free agency.
But those first two are key players to the success of the Hawks, Bryan Bickell and Nick Leddy. The Hawks signed Bickell to a new four-year contract that carries a $4 million cap hit, while Leddy, who was set to become a restricted free agent, signed a two-year deal worth just $2.7 for the next two.
This is quite a bit of brilliance on the part of Stan Bowman, who retained a pair of young players on the cheaper end of things. While Bickell’s new deal initially seemed like a high price to pay, it looks like a bargain after seeing some of these contracts that were handed out. That annual cap hit for a guy who just finished a 17-point postseason isn’t bad, and is easily movable if the Hawks end up needing to clear some space.
For Leddy, while his role was diminished, young, puck moving defensemen don’t come cheap. Leddy has tremendous offensive potential from the blue line, and many were expecting a cap hit at least $1 million over what the Hawks eventually ended up paying. More Bowman brilliance.
When you throw in the Handzus deal, who will make only $1 million, and the Rozsival contract, which will certainly be low, especially considering it’s two years, Bowman is setting the Hawks up very well to not only make a deadline move when necessarily, but potentially retain key players as well, including Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, who are up for extensions next summer.
It’s taken a couple of years, but Bowman has established himself as one of the top general managers you will find anywhere in this league.