The Chicago Blackhawks made two of their most important signings in recent history this week, locking up captain Jonathan Toews and sharpshooter Patrick Kane for eight years and $84 million each. Both stars were coming into the final year of their respective contracts, and neither was even remotely considered “expendable.”
While the two players resigning is great news for the Blackhawks and their fans, there’s still some work needing to be done with the current roster. Mainly, even though Toews and Kane’s respective cap hits don’t take effect until next season, Chicago is currently about $2.216 million over the salary cap. So, essentially, someone’s going to have to go before the season kicks off. The question, though, is who exactly will be moved?
Looking at their current cap situation, there appears to be plenty of candidates. There are a handful of players currently signed for just this year (including new member Brad Richards, but it’s unlikely he’s going anywhere). Of them, there are two that, upon their removal, would immediately put the Blackhawks back under the cap; defensemen Nick Leddy ($2.7 million) and Johnny Oduya ($3.375 million). Would Chicago be willing to part ways with one of these two to quickly fix their cap issues?
There are a few reasons both of these players could be a viable choice to be dealt to make cap room. Leddy is a third-pairing defenseman who doesn’t contribute a ton offensively and typically isn’t on the ice when opposing teams put out their best lines. Oduya is a little higher on the depth chart, and has had slightly better offensive stats. However, at the age of 32, he might not have a ton left in the tank, at least not as much as the 23-year-old Leddy.
Beyond these two, Chicago also has Michal Rozsival, Marcus Krugar, Peter Regin, David Rundblad and Brandon Saad also on the final year of their deals. Saad is unlikely to be going anywhere, as he made a big leap last season. While the others are likely dispensable, neither has an individual cap hit that would immediately put the Blackhawks under upon its removal.
It all depends on how the team wants to handle the situation. As you can see, they could easily trade Oduya or Leddy for draft incentives and all would be fixed. Or, if they wanted to move a couple of the aforementioned players, this could be done as well. It depends on the opinions the front office has of each of these guys, as well as how many minor league players they feel are ready to come up.
Either way, Chicago can’t head into the season with their current cap situation. Money is going to need to be moved, it’s just a matter of which route the Blackhawks chose to take.