The NHL offseason is officially upon us. The Blackhawks’ brass has had plenty to think about while the postseason played itself out. The buyout window opens on Wednesday, the draft is a little more than two weeks away and free agency begins on July 1.
So for the Blackhawks, what happens now? For the umpteenth summer they’ve got some decisions to make and a tight budget with which to deal. The 2017-18 salary cap hasn’t been released yet. But according to several reports it’s unlikely to go up much, if at all, from the $71.4 million cap of last season. The Blackhawks have been up against the cap for years now, so this is nothing new. Neither is their losing a key player due to the crunch. Yeah, it’s probably happening again his summer, too.
As one could predict, most of the questions for this mailbag are about Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw. So let’s get to it.
Steve Potts (@SPendHawk): Will Bickell get bought out? Seems like the best option with the cap vs. forcing a solid young asset into a trade.
Probably. The Blackhawks have tried to trade Bickell already and it’s not working, and I certainly wouldn’t give up a valuable asset in a package for him. So the buyout is very likely. Keep in mind if the Blackhawks do that they’ll be on the hook for $1.5 million in 2017-18. But what looms larger is the $3 million that would come off the books now. Considering the 2016-17 cap will go up very little, if at all, they need that money now, regardless of how the Shaw situation ends.
Speaking of that, Mike Fortier (@mike48007) asks, “If they buy out Bickell, does that save enough on the cap to sign Shaw?”
Not necessarily. Again, where does the cap settle? How much does Shaw and his camp ask for? Not only that, but the Blackhawks still have holes to fill on the roster. Saving $3 million is nice for a money-crunched team, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be enough to keep Shaw.
Steve Suffredin (@stevesuffonair): How do you believe the Hawks will address the blue-line deficiencies this offseason? Something has to give.
They’ll do what they can with the limited amount of cash they have. But let me play devil’s advocate for a second here: the Blackhawks’ blue-line situation isn’t horrible. You had three guys (Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson) who played a ton of hockey from 2013-2016. That was going to catch up, and I believe it did. Having those three back there would still be a dream for a lot of teams. I know some weren’t too happy with Trevor van Riemsdyk but getting that full season will help him going forward. Young guys will get better; not every player is Keith right out of the gate. The Blackhawks obviously have high hopes for recent signee Michal Kempny. Ville Pokka could get his chance. If anything, perhaps the Blackhawks find a serviceable veteran on the cheap but they can’t afford much more than that.
tems.zori_19 (@fatems_19): Who is the biggest priority for the Blackhawks to re-sign?
First is Shaw. After that, Artemi Panarin. If I’m them, I get that done as soon as possible. As of now the Blackhawks should have more wiggle room for 2017-18, which is when Panarin’s possible new deal with kick in (keep in mind, though, if the Blackhawks do buy out Bickell, it means a $1.5 million cap hit in 2017-18). Panarin has a nice little situation here: a fellow Russian teammate (Artem Anisimov) and a tremendous on-ice chemistry with Patrick Kane. As long as the Panarin camp doesn’t try to squeeze the Blackhawks for more cash than they already have, this needs to get done.
Marie Manning (@Marie_Manning): Thoughts on (Matt) Murray deserving Conn Smythe over (Sidney) Crosby?
There’s no doubt Murray’s work during the postseason was commendable and you could make the argument for him. You judge the whole postseason for a Conn Smythe candidate, but just to play devil’s advocate, look at the Penguins’ last few games vs. the Sharks. The Sharks were generating little to nothing – two shots in the third period of Game 6? Eek! I probably would have gone for Kris Letang, considering how much the Penguins leaned on him especially after Trevor Daley’s injury. The Penguins had a few worthy candidates.
Dom Palombo (@dompal88): Buffalo’s been a rumored trade partner for Shaw. Hawks could get McCabe or Slavin/Pesce from Carolina. Thoughts?
I’m always hesitant to address rumors, unless I’ve heard something or one of the best in our business have reported a possibility, and this is the first I’ve heard of this one. That being said, the Blackhawks have to try and get something out of Shaw if they can’t sign him, much like they did with the Brandon Saad trade to Columbus last summer.
Sally Daly (@DalySally): What is the grapevine saying about Calder Trophy odds for next week? Canadians are supposed to favor McDavid?
As Han Solo said, “never tell me the odds.” Seriously, I ignore all the odds stuff; just not my thing. Plus, I never talk to fellow writers about for whom they’re voting. None of my business. I wouldn’t just assume Canadian writers are automatically going for the Canadian playing in Canada. McDavid is a tremendous talent, and even with his injury he’ll be right up there in the voting. It was one hell of a rookie class this season. I still think Artemi Panarin has the edge but we shall see soon enough.
Austin Larson (@alarson2201): Do you think the Blackhawks will try to sign Brian Campbell to a deal?
Doubtful. Again, the Blackhawks don’t have much cash with which to work. Meanwhile, the Panthers have boatloads of it. Here’s another thing: would Campbell want to come back? Let’s go back to when Campbell was traded in the summer of 2011. At that time and again during his first season with the Panthers, Campbell talked of how much he enjoyed being back on a Dale Tallon team, that, “you’re not walking on eggshells around here.” Yes, those were his thoughts several years ago; things change. But long story short, mainly due to the money situation, I don’t see it happening.
Papa Bearfighter (@Papabearfighter): Any LA counterparts hearing anything about a Rob Scuderi buyout? All three teams have cap issues. Might make sense?
I didn’t answer this correctly the first time around, so Take 2. The Blackhawks, Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins are all paying portions of Scuderi’s salary. According to generalfanager.com’s buyout calculator, the annual buyout cost for Scuderi (over the next two seasons) would be $833,333 per season. That would be split among the teams, “equally, as per the retained salary amounts.” In related news, I still hate math.
Woods (@chicagofire44): Who you watching at Wimbledon men’s/women’s? And what do you see the Hawks looking for at the draft? Best available?
No massive rooting interest at Wimbledon, other than I’d love to see Roger Federer stay healthy and get at least one more title. As for the draft, we’ll see what the Blackhawks do. As of now they don’t even have a pick until the third round (83rd overall). I think they would go the defensemen route first, since they’ve lost more organizational depth there the last few years.
Froggy V (@PoolFroggy): Why do the Hawks get very few Saturday home games?
Will have to get back to you on this. But I can only assume that it’s because the United Center, between Blackhawks, Bulls and concerts galore, is a very busy building.
Angie Linton (@angielintonindy): Any summer vacation plans? Loved your Paris pics last year.
Very fortunate that I’ll be heading back there this summer again, although I’m probably going to keep the pictures at a minimum. But thank you!
Gettingthenumbersup (@Gettingthenumbe): 1. Don’t you hate getting unrealistic questions? 2. When is the press conference to announce (Dave) Bolland’s return?
1. Yes and, 2. I see what you did there.