Ben Pope of The Chicago Sun-Times suggests if there’s one team out there that could be open to adding “bad contracts” at this year’s trade deadline, it’s the Chicago Blackhawks. Because the Hawks have $23 million in cap space and because other teams are dealing with a flat cap, opposing clubs are going to overpay to dump a contract that is handcuffing them.
While he admits “There are risks to that strategy”, he notes that it’s a possibility, especially with many teams around the NHL tight against the cap heading toward the trade deadline April 12.
If true, this would make the Blackhawks a popular team. The biggest hurdle for NHL contenders is that most don’t have the money to make moves and Chicago is one of the few teams that does. While no one expected them to be contending for a playoff spot this season, they are right in the thick of things and the team has $21 million in LTIR space for this season they can use.
Because they also have some room next season, taking on a contract (or two) isn’t the end of the world for the Blackhawks and what’s interesting is that they can add a useful piece or two, while also picking up draft picks and prospects. Moving money will be at a premium and the Blackhawks can practically name their price in many instances.
So Who Could Reach Out to Chicago?
Pope names players like Vancouver’s Loui Eriksson, the Islanders’ Andrew Ladd and Leo Komarov, Edmonton’s James Neal, Carolina’s Jake Gardiner, and Jets’ forward Mathieu Perreault, among others. Most of these teams are looking to be buyers at the deadline, but many of them don’t have much money to maneuver.
Would a team like the Oilers will be willing to move a blue line prospect like Caleb Jones and a later round draft pick, along with Neal for a different draft pick and cap space? Perhaps. The Blackawks could get a useful piece in Jones, a player in Neal that could slot in every once and a while and Edmonton gets room to make other moves at the deadline and more freedom to talk contracts with players like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Tyson Barrie and Adam Larsson.
One thing to consider is that Blackhawks don’t want to remove pieces from their roster that would hurt their chances to compete. As such, this strategy likely only works with teams that aren’t looking for assets beyond cap space. For example, just today, Kyle Dubas told the media he was willing to move a top prospect to get the piece he needs in a deal. Toronto and Chicago are likely not a fit this particular scenario.
It will be interesting to see what approach the Blackhawks take. What players are out there that could help the team but also have a big salary? And, which of those players might be of interest to GM Stan Bowman?
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