The Blackhawks trading Marian Hossa's contract was inevitable.
It made too much sense for a lower payroll team like the Arizona Coyotes to acquire a contract that carries a $5.275 million cap hit but only $1 million in actual salary for the next three years in an effort to reach the $58.8 million floor and for the Blackhawks to simply get it off the books, creating significant cap space. The fact Vinnie Hinostroza was included in the package is a good indicator of why it took so long to pull it off because there wasn't a way the Blackhawks could do it without removing a key piece of the roster.
But by making the deal, the Blackhawks have given themselves financial flexibility and the opportunity to make a larger move going forward, likely in the form of a trade.
The long-term goal has always been to lock up Alex DeBrincat and Nick Schmaltz when their entry-level contracts expire. It's why Chris Kunitz and Cam Ward each received only one year and Brandon Manning two years when they signed on Day 1 of free agency.
Extending DeBrincat and Schmaltz will no longer be a problem. The Blackhawks probably already have a number and term in mind and can move forward with those internal calculations knowing they don't have to worry about navigating around Hossa's contract, and whether to use the in-season or off-season long-term injured reserve route.
What really changes is the Blackhawks' short-term options. Clearly, their three free-agent signings alone aren't going to move the needle in lifting the Blackhawks back into playoff contention. Those were made to shore up depth at each position.
According to CapFriendly.com, the Blackhawks instantly saved $4.65 million following the trade and sit with roughly $8.55 million in projected cap space tied up to 18 players on their 23-man roster.
Now the Blackhawks can really go out and be more open-minded about a possible impact-type deal, like say former All-Star defenseman Justin Faulk, three-time 30-goal scorer Jeff Skinner or Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty.
Financially, they can make it work.
The challenge at this stage is: What would the Blackhawks be willing to give up to make a blockbuster-type trade to acquire somebody like that? Attaching Hinostroza and Oesterle to the Hossa contract almost certainly means they would have to be willing to part ways with a top-tier prospect at the very least and dip into their draft picks in 2019 or beyond.
You also have to consider the Blackhawks wouldn't be the only ones in the discussion for these kinds of players, so there's a decent chance they'd be competing with other teams on who can offer the most.
This doesn't even include the fact that the asking price is likely to increase or be contingent on a contract extension, which the Blackhawks may be able to contemplate too.
All of this is now on the table — or at least in the realm of possibility where Stan Bowman can make a few more calls and advance conversations he wouldn't have been able to do before the trade — because the Blackhawks were able to completely clear Hossa's contract from the deck. Even if it came at a price they were perhaps hoping to avoid.