Andrew Shaw brushed off questions about his status as the postseason continued, saying he would let that all work itself out in the summer.
The thought, however, has been there. And now that the summer came quicker than he and the Blackhawks anticipated, the question was raised again: How much does an uncertain offseason weigh on Shaw?
“You try not to [think about it] but I trust my agent and Stan to do what they can,” said Shaw, talking about Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman. “I want to be back here and I think they want me back.”
There’s little doubt the Blackhawks would like to have Shaw back. But the last few seasons it’s rarely been about what the Blackhawks want. It’s what they can afford. And they may not be able to afford Shaw.
Shaw, who is now a restricted free agent, could certainly get a lucrative contract elsewhere. The forward is coming off a two-year deal that had a $2 million cap hit. The Blackhawks don’t know what the salary cap will be for 2016-17, but it likely won’t go up by much. Considering that, plus Artemi Panarin’s performance bonuses – most of that $2.595 million counts against next season’s cap – and the Blackhawks will have a tough time coming up with money for Shaw.
Bowman said he won’t know where the cap settles until June, so it was difficult for him to say whether the Blackhawks could or couldn’t re-sign Shaw. There’s no doubt of Shaw’s value, though, Bowman said.
“He's a heart and soul player, really competitive. He lays it on the line every night,” Bowman said. “We certainly like what Andrew brings to the table. There's just some things that have yet to be determined, in terms of what's the salary cap going to be. I don't have enough information to answer that, but certainly we’d like to try and do what we can to bring him here.”
Shaw was the Blackhawks’ leading scorer this postseason, recording four goals in six games against the St. Louis Blues. For coach Joel Quenneville, Shaw has long brought those intangibles that he appreciates.
“His competitiveness, his willingness to find the dirty areas, score big goals doesn’t get distracted by the competition. I think everybody loves that feistiness he brings every game. So he’s an irreplaceable guy in that regard,” Quenneville said. “When we’ll get those [cap] discussions we’ll see how it all plays out. But I think everybody has an appreciation for what hebrings.”
His teammates certainly do, on and off the ice.
“He would be a difficult guy to replace, we all want to see him back here, I think we all enjoy having him around,” Patrick Kane said. “He's one of those guys who gets along with everyone on the team and can bring some comedy to the room and also at the same time you saw how successful he was and has been in playoffs throughout his career. And I think with him too he's still a pretty young guy and he has a lot left in him and a lot ahead of him to improve. We all hope to see him back here.”
Shaw has been a big part of the Blackhawks through these past few seasons including the 2013 and 2015 Stanley Cup teams. But once again, the Blackhawks could lose a valued player because of the salary cap. Bowman has worked his magic before with the cap. Perhaps they buy out Bryan Bickell’s contract, which would give the Blackhawks some breathing room. Maybe Shaw plays the part that Marcus Kruger did last offseason, taking a short contract with a small raise until the Blackhawks get more cap space.
There are options, but there aren’t many. Shaw has made his position clear: He wants to stay. Whether or not the Blackhawks can afford that remains to be seen.
“I want to be back here," Shaw said. "I’ve been in Chicago for five years now and I’ve made this place my home. We’ve got a lot of friends. I love the city; love the fan support here. Like I said, be patient and wait for that call.”