Following the banged-up Chicago Blackhawks‘ 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes, all the talk is once again centered on Chicago’s Finnish prospect Teuvo Teravainen (TAY-voh tair-uh-VIGH-nehn), whose NHL debut will likely come in the next two games, according to Joel Quenneville.
It’s tough to predict with any degree of certainty what immediate impact Teravainen will be able to make. What we do know, however, is that he is going to be an enormous part of the Blackhawks’ future, and has an offensive ceiling higher than any current roster player not named Patrick Kane.
The prevailing wisdom is that, regardless of Teravainen’s initial level of play, he will unquestionably prove to be an upgrade over the struggling Michal Handzus at the second line center spot. It is rather difficult to argue otherwise, especially with Handzus coming off a palpably dreadful performance against the Hurricanes.
Still, whether or not Teravainen is an upgrade isn’t the point at issue; if it was, the decision to permanently add him to the lineup for the rest of the season would be an incredibly easy one.
The actual dilemma concerns the fact that if Teravainen plays in 10 or more games for Chicago (regular season and playoffs combined), a year is chopped off of his entry-level deal. This would leave him under contract for only two more seasons at $925,000 per, as opposed to a much more salary cap-friendly three.
As you may have guessed, or already known, the Blackhawks have some major salary cap difficulties facing them down the line; Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Brandon Saad are each due sizable raises following the 2014-15 season, and Chicago is already set to be up against the cap ceiling before any of the three receive them.
Therein we find the value of “saving” that extra year on Teravainen’s entry-level contract. The longer the Blackhawks can put off his second deal — one which will almost surely be north of four or five million per year — the better cap position they will be in.
Still, that consideration needs to be weighed against what the young Finn can offer Chicago this year. If Teravainen steps in and impresses mightily right away, there is a great chance that the Blackhawks will bite the proverbial bullet and make him a roster fixture in the hope that doing so will lead to the franchise’s third Stanley Cup in five seasons.
But how good does he have to be for the team to make that particular choice? It’s impossible to say.
The Blackhawks have a dilemma on their hands.