After a wild few weeks of nearly boundless hype, the noise surrounding Teuvo Teravainen‘s potential impact this season for the Chicago Blackhawks has quieted down so much as to be almost indiscernible today.
Teravainen has only played in three of Chicago’s seven games since Joel Quenneville effectively deemed him ready to play at the NHL on March 25 against the Dallas Stars, and he hasn’t stepped on the ice for the Blackhawks in April. By all accounts, Teravainen is not missing games due to shoddy performance or not listening to the coaching staff; indeed, in response to Quenneville saying that he needed to get the puck on net more often following a game against the Boston Bruins, Teravainen led the team in shots in his next game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
While he was not necessarily a standout player during his three games, Teravainen nevertheless managed to clearly prove himself the second-most talented center on Chicago’s roster. In fairness, this is hardly a titanic accomplishment; Michal Handzus is on his last legs and Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger are best suited for third and fourth-line roles (respectively).
Still, for a team with 2014 Stanley Cup aspirations, there would have to be a very good reason for sitting Teravainen down.
As you might have guessed, such a reason exists. If Teravainen plays in more than 10 games for Chicago in 2013-14 (playoffs included), a year gets burned off of his entry-level contract — a deal which presently sees him cost only $925,000 against the Blackhawks’ salary cap for the next three seasons. Eclipsing the 10-game mark keeps Teravainen at a bargain price for only two years rather than three.
With sizable raises due for Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad as well as a salary cap that isn’t projected to rise by quite as much as some big-market teams would have hoped, being able to have Teravainen on a cheap contract for that extra season could very well mean the difference between a championship-contending roster and a rebuilding one.
It would seem that the Blackhawks are taking the safe road, one which is focused on the bigger picture. Opting to save the extra year on Teravainen’s entry-level contract is the correct decision.