We’re less than two weeks from the NHL Trade Deadline and the Chicago Blackhawks won’t be adding players for a cup run. Instead, the roster is full of difficult contracts that push the team to the salary cap.
Heading into last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Chicago Blackhawks were poised to make another run for the Stanley Cup. Patrick Kane was picked high in many playoff pools and many office brackets had Chicago getting out of the first round.
Instead, they got swept in four games at the hands of the Nashville Predators. It was such a beat down that Predators goalie Pekka Rinne had as many points as Kane and Jonathan Toews in the entire series!
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The loss fuelled conversation of the Stan Bowman dynasty being at its end. But some hockey experts thought the Hawks could retool and compete on the fly. Niklas Hjalmarsson and Artemi Panarin were both shipped out in the offseason to make cap space and get younger. The moves were logical ones.
Now, the Blackhawks sit more than 10 points out of a playoff spot this season. This means they will most likely be sellers for the first time in a long time at the NHL Trade Deadline.
One look at their roster and you can see this team has many questions to answer. Head Coach Joel Quenneville can’t be blamed in any of this. He’s done a masterful job configuring a roster full of chalky veterans and newcomers throughout the years. The formula worked until this season. Everything good in life must end.
Next season, Chicago has a little over $63 million tied to only 14 players. The year after, the team has just under $60 million being dished out to nine players. Toews is looking slower than ever, which doesn’t inspire hope. Neither does Duncan Keith’s goal total this season (it’s as many as you have – zero).
With Corey Crawford suffering concussion-like symptoms and Artem Anisimov good for a trip to the IR every year, the microscope needs to go under Bowman. Regardless of the extension he signed, the three-time Stanley Cup champion has to be on the hot-seat in Chicago. The disparity between their top earners and other players on the roster is more than any other team in the NHL.
On top of it all, there are rumblings about Joel Quenneville’s contentment in the Windy City and how the future looks. I don’t think Coach Q is ready to retire, but I think he’s ready for a change of scenery.
The Blackhawks have to find a way to ship out either Keith or Brent Seabrook by next season. The pair of Olympic Gold medalists are still worth something in today’s market, but they are clogging up the cap.
Breaking Toews and Kane up seems unfeasible. Despite their $10.5 million cap hits until 2022-23, those players seem like all-time Blackhawks. With Ryan Hartman, Anthony Duclair, and Vinnie Hinostroza becoming restricted free agents and the limited cap space, this team needs a big-time change.
The question is, will it be Bowman who puts the pieces of the blown-up puzzle back together?