Brent Seabrook is a top-pair NHL defenceman, a minute muncher with strong possession numbers. There is one number not working in his favor and it’s holding up the Chicago Blackhawks and other defencemen yet to find new teams.
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Salary cap issues for the Blackhawks are nothing new. They win a Stanley Cup, they trade good players to keep the great ones. We are watching the third movie in a series of Blackhawks remakes now. Dustin Byfuglien and Brandon Saad were past casualties and Brent Seabrook still could join that list before the season starts.
To recap, the Chicago Blackhawks have about the same cap room Jonathan Toews has change in his couch cushions. On top of that only six defensemen are signed for next season. Most teams carry a seventh defenseman and the Blackhawks don’t have the cap space to get that done yet.
Which brings me back to Brent Seabrook. Top pair defencemen are hard to find and the Blackhawks have at least two in Seabrook and Conn Smythe winner Duncan Keith. You can argue Niklas Hjalmarsson also fits that bill. Why wouldn’t the Blackhawks want to sign him long-term? Because of that pesky cap.
The Hawks can do one of two things with Brent Seabrook. They can sign him to that long-term contract, which would almost certainly come with a big raise. He’s 30 years old and could be going into his last big contract. And he’s earned a raise over his hit of $5.8 million. It’s possible he takes a hometown discount to stay in Chicago but that’s not without consequence for the Blackhawks.
Signing Brent Seabrook long-term means other players have to move. Bryan Bickell only provides relief for two years and not nearly enough to cover what Brent Seabrook would make. Corey Crawford would be possible but again, at $6 million he wouldn’t cover what Seabrook will earn on a new contract. Any signing of Brent Seabrook long-term means the Blackhawks have to move multiple roster players.
Trading Seabrook is the other option. Twenty-nine other teams would be happy to have a player like Brent Seabrook on their top pair. Seabrook has control over where he goes with a limited no-trade clause so that narrows things down. If you’re Brent Seabrook with three Stanley Cups, you aren’t going to a team that won’t be good for a few years.
Take a look at the team salary caps and you’ll find a few potential partners. If the Anaheim Ducks landed Brent Seabrook that’s terrifying but no way GM Stan Bowman trades him within the conference so let’s look East. The Buffalo Sabres are looking for a right-handed shot defenseman and have the prospects and/or roster players to make this move. So do the Florida Panthers. Would Brent Seabrook approve a trade to either team?
Whether he is traded at all is a big question holding up Cody Franson and Christian Ehrhoff. While neither of these players is at the same level of Brent Seabrook, both are quality defensemen capable of playing second pair minutes, including time killing penalties and working the power play. Both would come cheaper than Brent Seabrook but don’t have his talent. Ehrhoff is also a left-handed shot which seems to be in less demand.
October is coming quick for the Chicago Blackhawks. The salary cap caused Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy to land on the New York Islanders last season. It’s going to happen again this season with more than Brent Seabrook. He is the biggest name because of his Stanley Cups and ability to play in all situations. The rest of the NHL is waiting to see what happens with Brent Seabrook before looking at other defensive options.
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