Since the offseason started, the Blackhawks have made five player acquisitions (Calvin de Haan, Olli Maatta and Andrew Shaw and prospects John Quenneville and Aleksi Saarela) and two free-agent signings (Ryan Carpenter and Robin Lehner). Their 2019-20 Opening Day roster is starting to take shape.
But GM Stan Bowman may not be done making moves just yet.
According to Cap Friendly, the Blackhawks have 10 forwards, eight defensemen and three goaltenders slotted into their structure for a roster size of 21 and projected remaining cap space of $1.036 million. With the signing of Lehner, Collin Delia is likely going to start the season in Rockford, which opens up a roster spot and $1 million.
That leaves the Blackhawks three roster spots and just over $2 million to fill out the final three positions, although they're not required to carry the maximum of 23 players on the NHL roster. The minimum is 20 but the ideal situation is 22 (one extra forward and defenseman).
But Bowman likes to have in-season financial flexibility for transactional purposes and right now the Blackhawks don't exactly have that.
Brendan Perlini remains an unsigned restricted free agent and is likely to command at least $1.5 million. Dominik Kubalik appears to have a strong chance at making the Blackhawks out of training camp and his cap hit is $925,000. Dylan Sikura, whose cap hit is $750,000, was also singled out by Bowman recently as someone who could take on a larger role.
That's three forwards right there who all figure to be part of the four-line rotation but mathematically and financially, it doesn't work without salary being moved out.
If we're trying to identify potential trade candidates, Artem Anisimov comes to mind as someone who's probably become expendable, given his diminishing role over the past couple seasons. The Blackhawks paid his $2 million signing bonus on Monday, the same day his modified no-trade clause was removed. His cap hit remains $4.55 million, but his actual salary owed over the next two years is $5 million total. All of that could open up new trade possibilities for the Blackhawks that are certainly worth exploring.
Brandon Saad's name has also been lightly tossed around over the past few months, but that's not a move you make for cap clearance. He has value and the Blackhawks would only consider it if they felt they were getting something of equal value — or close to it — in return.
If the Perlini negotiations unexpectedly go sideways, is he someone that could be the odd man out? Or could his extension potentially squeeze somebody else out? What about somebody on the blue line, which has suddenly become crowded? The Blackhawks have options but they don't want to subtract too much from the current roster. They've spent the last month trying to build around it.
While Bowman is comfortable with his financial situation in the long term and has been careful not to hand out long-term deals in the last two summers that could potentially get in the way of the second contracts for Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome, there are still some decisions to make before the Blackhawks can start figuring out what their Opening Day line combinations and pairings could look like.
"I think we’re in a good position with the cap," Bowman said. "We've really got sort of a pretty full roster now. Whether this is the way we start camp or tweak a few things, I think we’ve come a long way in the last month. If you look at where we were a month ago and where we are today, we’re a much, much better team and we’re well positioned to have a good season."