The Blackhawks dropped significant news on Thursday, announcing season-ending injuries to defensemen Calvin de Haan and Brent Seabrook.
First and foremost, you think about the health of both players and the potential long-term effects. It's the second major surgery on his right shoulder in seven months for de Haan, who has played a full 82-game season just once in the NHL.
And in Seabrook's case, he's never had a long-term injury in his 15-year professional career and is now facing three surgeries (right shoulder and both hips) in the next three months. He will turn 35 in April and has four years left on his contract after this season. His future will certainly be something to monitor going forward.
On the business side of things, it's no secret the Blackhawks have been up against the cap seemingly all season long. But by putting de Haan and Seabrook on long-term injured reserve, they cleared up an additional $11.425 million in cap space.
So what could the Blackhawks do with that newfound money?
The Blackhawks are currently sitting dead last in the Central Division and seven points out of the final wildcard position in the Western Conference, which isn't exactly where they expected to be.
They could look at the rental market and try to acquire a high-end player who’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, but it wouldn't make sense to give up future assets just to try sneaking into the playoffs. The only trades made should be ones that could help the Blackhawks both in the short and long term, similar to the Dylan Strome and Nick Schmaltz swap a year ago.
If they are going to explore the trade market, the Blackhawks also have to be careful about acquiring players with term because Strome is due a new contract this summer and same with Dominik Kubalik, who's on pace for 22 goals and 35 points. Once the offseason rolls around, the contracts of de Haan and Seabrook go back on the books and the Blackhawks can only exceed the cap by up to 10 percent.
What the Blackhawks could and should do is look to take on bad contracts on expiring deals to receive future assets as sweeteners, such as draft picks or prospects. After all, they don’t have a second-round pick in 2020 — it was shipped to Montreal in the Andrew Shaw trade.
A couple names that immediately come to mind: Buffalo defenseman Zach Bogosian and Calgary forward Michael Frolik, both of whom are on playoff-contending teams looking to create some financial wiggle room at the trade deadline to improve their roster.
Bogosian is 29 years old and in the final year of his contract that carries a $5.142 million cap hit, which is the second-highest among Sabres defensemen. He's appeared in just 12 games this season and reportedly requested a trade from the Sabres.
Frolik, who spent two and a half seasons in Chicago from 2010-13, is in the last year of his contract that carries a $4.3 million cap hit. His role has diminished significantly on a Flames team that has just $490,833 in available cap space, according to Cap Friendly.
One thing is clear: The Blackhawks shouldn't make any rash short-term decisions that could jeopardize the future just to salvage this season. If a turnaround is going to happen, it must come from within no matter how GM Stan Bowman utilizes the extra cap space.
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