Salary cap could force Blackhawks to part ways with players

Salary cap could force Blackhawks to part ways with players
June 27, 2014, 10:45 pm
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PHILADELPHIA – The updated salary-cap number for 2014-15 came through a few hours before the draft began on Friday. It wasn’t as high as originally expected, coming in around $69 million instead of the anticipated $71 million. 

It was a surprise to many, but not to Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman.

“I remember a few months ago when everyone was excited about the number and I told you guys, ‘Wait and see where it is,’” he said on Friday following the first round of the NHL Entry Draft. “We were expecting it to come around this range, so I’m not surprised.”

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Bowman may not be surprised, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a bit of a quandary. As it stands, the Blackhawks are slightly over that $69-million cap for next season — has them a little less than $500,000 over it, with 22 players signed. So one way or another, the Blackhawks are going to have to do some trimming.

So what does Bowman do?

“We have an idea what we’re going to do going forward into this and next summer,” said Bowman, who traded picks with the San Jose Sharks on Friday night but was otherwise quite. “We have a lot of decisions to make but I’m confident we’re going to be in a good spot in October.”

That could mean parting with a player or two. That could limit trade acquisition opportunities, as some of the remaining centers on the market — and the Blackhawks could certainly use something there — are pretty pricey. Jason Spezza carries a $7 million cap hit; Joe Thornton, if he would decide he wants to part ways with San Jose, is not far behind at $6.75.

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And let’s not forget the Jonathan Toews/Patrick Kane extensions. Bowman said the Blackhawks will “definitely get them re-signed. It’s a process you go through and it’s been a great process.” It’s also going to be a pricey one, with the two likely earning double-digit cap hits per season.

Those are all heady numbers for a team that’s going to have to crunch theirs.

Things were slightly noisy on the trade front on Friday night, Vancouver dealing Ryan Kesler to Anaheim being the highlight. Things could develop when the draft resumes on Saturday. Whatever happens, Bowman and the Blackhawks have some decisions to make. He’d like to keep the band together; he may not be able to afford it.

“It’s evident this year that we have a strong team. We were one shot away from the (Stanley Cup) Final. We don’t need to make big changes,” Bowman said. “I believe in the guys that have been with our group for a long time. We want to keep that group together more so than anything, not take it apart.”