It’s the off-season in Chicago. The Blackhawks summer has been a roller coaster ride, to say the least. After another disappointing season, the Blackhawks certainly need to make this summer one for fans to remember.
Chicago Blackhawks Summer Fun
The off-season in Chicago has been less than exciting up until now. The Chicago Blackhawks summer rebuild was, to begin with, the 2018 NHL Draft in June. The team left a lot of fans scratching their heads with their picks. Consequently, they wondered why general manager Stan Bowman drafted for “the future” versus “the now”. Above all the fans were looking for the team to draft some prospects with the potential to help the team immediately. They didn’t understand “two to three years” down the road.
Because the draft left many fans craving more, their hopes turned to the July 1st NHL free agent signing day. Rumours swirled around the Windy City involving the Carolina Hurricanes and Justin Faulk. There was some talk of Marian Hossa‘s contract being in play too. Many prayed that the $5.25 million cap hit could be moved to a team needing the salary to reach the cap floor in 2018-19. Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, Brandon Saad was rumoured to be a required piece in the deal with Carolina. Losing Saad was the deal breaker as the trade fell apart.
July 1st arrived and the Chicago Blackhawks made three underwhelming signings – Cam Ward, Chris Kunitz, and Brandon Manning. The Blackhawk fan base was in an uproar. They lit up social media with rants, tirades, and tantrums complaining about their team’s rebuild. After two straight first-round playoff losses followed by an off-season without playoffs, the Blackhawk faithful were out of patience.
Marian Hossa‘s Cap Hit
After the free agent signings, the Blackhawks were left with a little over $2 million in cap space. Sensing the unrest, the Blackhawks were pumping up the fans with talks of trades and moves they may make later on. They were also not publicly discussing the Marian Hossa contract and its long-term injured reserve potential during the off-season. They had the ability to count the $5.25 million in cap space for free agent signings, but it was never discussed.
Hossa’s Cap Hit Leaves Town
As the dust settled and fans calmed down, the Blackhawks made a shocking deal with the Arizona Coyotes. The trade is what would best be described as a “salary dump” for the team. In the deal, the Blackhawks managed to trade Hossa’s $5.25 million salary cap hit. The Coyotes are a team who needed the salary to reach the NHL cap floor next season. Unfortunately, to make the deal the Blackhawks had to part with one of their stars in the making. They also lost an up and coming young defenceman.
Gone But Not Forgotten
Vinnie Hinostroza was primed for a breakout year playing center for the Blackhawks. Hinostroza had played 50 games for the Blackhawks last season, scoring 7 goals and 18 assists. His two-way play was improving and he was a clutch player down the last stretch of a dismal season for the Blackhawks.
Jordan Oesterle is a young defenceman who just had his best season for the Blackhawks. After playing only 25 games for the Edmonton Oilers over three seasons (2014-16), Oesterle played 55 games for the Blackhawks scoring five goals and 10 assists. He was part of the defence corps Stan Bowman had locked up late in the season prepping for 2018-19. The free agent signing of Brandon Manning, unfortunately, made for a crowded defence corps allowing Bowman to include him in the deal with Arizona.
The Blackhawks re-acquired Marcus Kruger in the deal with Arizona. Kruger had been a reliable 4th line center, penalty killer, and strong on the face-offs for the Blackhawks. The role of 4th line center who is reliable at the dot has been something the Blackhawks have searched for since Kruger was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes. Kruger’s veteran presence will definitely help the team next season.
Hossa Contract Trade Aftermath
As the news of Hossa’s contract being traded became public, one could hear the loud rejoicing across the city of Chicago. The prospect of having an additional $5.25 million in cap space was too much for many of the Blackhawk faithful. One could hear the chorus of “Spend it, Spend it, Spend it, Spend it!” rising up around town. Like drunken sailors all over social media, there were many proposals on trades being made to improve the team. Almost everybody had an idea on how to spend the new-found cap space which now totalled $9.3 million per CapFriendly.com
Blackhawks Cap Reality
The team now has $9.3 million in cap space. They furthermore still face the same dilemma as when Marian Hossa‘s contract was on the books. At the end of 2018-19, there will be many players becoming restricted free agents. (RFA’s) These include budding stars Dylan Sikura, Nick Schmaltz, Blake Hillman, Victor Ejdsell, Gustav Forsling, and potential goalie of the future Collin Delia. This list does not include proven star Alex DeBrincat who led the team in goals last season. DeBrincat becomes an RFA at the end of 2020-21.
Of this list, Bowman would be smart to extend the contracts on Sikura, Schmaltz, Ejdsell, and especially DeBrincat. These young guns are the future core of the Chicago Blackhawks and need to be taken care of in the very near future.
The Blackhawks summer prospects camp is July 16th through July 20th. The summer camp will feature three of the Blackhawks future defence prospects. These include Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin both drafted in the first round of the NHL 2018 draft, and also Henri Jokiharju the team’s first-round selection in 2017. All three of these prospects will be watched closely by fans concerned about the Blackhawks suspect D Corps. Last seasons defence play left a lot to be desired and many are hoping help is on the way soon.
The Blackhawks prospects also have a championship title to defend in the upcoming Traverse City, Michigan prospects tournament being held September 7th to 11th. Last years squad won the tournament with the winning goal being scored by Alex DeBrincat. The winning goal was a sign of good things to come for DeBrincat who would lead the Blackhawks in goals last season. Will any of the current Blackhawks prospects be able to make the jump like “The Cat”? Fans all over Chicago certainly have their fingers crossed.
The Blackhawks have the potential to make some moves with their new cap space. They also have several future stars that need to be locked up. Only time will tell what Bowman has in store for the team going forward. Prospects camp and then the prospects tourney in Traverse City may give the team and its fans something to smile about as the Chicago summer leads into the upcoming season.
CHICAGO, IL – September 21: Alex DeBrincat #12 of the Chicago Blackhawks
controls the puck against the Detroit Red Wings during a preseason game at the United Center on September 21, 2017, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)