SUNRISE, Fla. — The Blackhawks came away with exactly what they were looking for on the second day of the NHL Draft.
Well, they came away with the desired draft picks, anyway. As far as making any deals to solve their salary-cap woes, well, that didn’t really happen. So as the Blackhawks head home, their money problem still exists. And general manager Stan Bowman said the Blackhawks will figure it out in due time.
The Blackhawks made one trade on Saturday, sending goaltender Antti Raanta to the New York Rangers in exchange for minor-league forward Ryan Haggerty. But that hardly solves their cap problems. Raanta’s contract, which he signed last summer, would’ve been just a $750,000 cap hit for 2015-16. No, the pieces the Blackhawks must ultimately part with to get under that $71.4 million cap for this season are going to provide more cap relief than that. But after a weekend of wondering where Patrick Sharp and/or Bryan Bickell and/or Kris Versteeg would go, as of now, they haven’t budged.
So when will those necessary moves start happening?
“We don’t put a timetable on it,” Bowman said. “When the deals are there, they’re there. You just keep working. There’s nothing now, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be things to come. So you just keep plugging away.”
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Perhaps the right deal just wasn’t there this weekend. Bowman said there was plenty of talk. He wouldn’t say if he was close to making a deal. So let’s shift to the most likely scenario, shall we? Free agency begins on Wednesday, and we all know how that goes: A couple of players will get signed to contracts that likely have too much term and too much money. Then things settle down, and teams that still have needs see what else is out there. That might be the Blackhawks’ best bet. Their likeliest trade candidates come with sizable cap hits — Sharp’s is $5.9 million per year, and Bickell’s is $4 million — but they each have just two years remaining on their respective deals.
“Obviously the way the market works is you’ve got a few players, and there’s a lot of bidders, and they’re usually looking for long terms and big dollars," Bowman said. "The players that might be moved are on shorter terms than that, so I think at that point teams start to say, ‘Oh well, I don’t know if I want to sign a guy to a five- or six-year contract. I might look at players on shorter terms.’ They become more attractive at that time. That’s all stuff that can happen, but we’re not there yet.”
It's doubtful the Blackhawks wait until September/early October to make all of their moves as they did last fall, when they traded Nick Leddy to the New York Islanders on Oct. 4. Yes, the Blackhawks can go over that $71.4 million cap by 10 percent this summer as long as they're under it again when the regular season begins. But do the Blackhawks really want to be going through that again just prior to their season's start?
So the wait continues. The moves will happen for the Blackhawks because there’s no other way around it. When they’ll happen remains to be seen.
“Our job is to keep making calls and try to find something that works,” Bowman said. “When it does, we’ll do it.”
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— Now that the draft is over, signing Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger has moved to higher-priority range for the Blackhawks. “We have a lot of things to look at over the next week or so,” Bowman said. “But those guys are certainly part of it.”
— Bowman said he’s talked to Brad Richards’ agent about a possible return, but it’ll depend on the money. Richards made $2 million on his one-year deal in 2014-15. “They need to decide where they’re going to go dollar-wise, and we need to figure out what we can possibly offer,” Bowman said. He said the same is true for defenseman Johnny Oduya, who also becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.