The Blackhawks entered last week on the cusp of winning their third Stanley Cup in the past six seasons, and by the end of last Monday night, they did that.
One week later, the anticipation is no longer about what the Blackhawks are about to win. It’s about what they’re about to lose.
The NHL draft begins on Friday but it won’t be surprising if the Blackhawks start shaking up their roster before then. It wouldn’t be the first time the Blackhawks started dismantling a team prior to the draft; on June 24, 2010, the day before that year’s draft, the Blackhawks sent Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager to Atlanta in exchange for Jeremy Morin, among others, and first- and second-round picks for that draft.
It’s doubtful there will be a blockbuster trade like that this summer but the Blackhawks will nevertheless part with some familiar faces. The Blackhawks currently have more than $64 million devoted to 14 players, and the salary cap isn’t expected to be much more than $71 million for the 2015-16 season. General manager Stan Bowman made it clear the Blackhawks want to re-sign Brandon Saad (and Marcus Kruger and probably Andrew Desjardins, too), so here we are.
Patrick Sharp’s name has been bandied out plenty because he and his $5.9 million cap hit are most likely gone. A source said Pittsburgh is a possible destination but there could be others. Bryan Bickell, who has two years remaining on his current contract and a $4 million/year cap hit, could be another casualty.
Sharp may have had a so-so 2014-15 but he’s otherwise put up strong numbers through the past few regular- and postseasons. The 33-year-old would be a great fit for a team with cap space looking for a top-six forward. Bickell earned his contract during the 2013 postseason but hasn’t really lived up to those numbers. Still, he brings a physical edge that some teams could covet.
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The Blackhawks will do their best to get a good return on whomever they trade, although it may not end up being a tremendous haul. Every other team is well aware of the Blackhawks’ plight and there may be some who try to lowball them. Hey, that’s the side effect of being in a salary-cap crunch.
Things are going to be changing very soon for the Blackhawks. They’ll have to say goodbye to some longtime friends who have been key in winning the last two or three Stanley Cups. They’ll see a different roster come autumn — maybe it won’t be 2010 different, but it will be different. But with loss will come gain: some Rockford players who have been working for years for an opportunity will finally get one. Some newcomers — Michael Paliotta, Kyle Baun and Artemi Panarin — will also get a shot. There are plenty of the core players remaining to keep the Blackhawks thinking success for some time to come.
Still, it will be bittersweet. It was only a week ago that the Blackhawks said hello to another Cup triumph. They’ll soon be saying goodbye to some who helped get them there.