Status of Blackhawks rebuilding plan

The Chicago Blackhawks continue their ballet around the salary cap in hopes of continuing a dynasty of the 2010s.

The largest stumble so far has been Brandon Saad’s trade to Columbus.  I move that we believe will come back to haunt the Blackhawks.

Other losses include Vermette back to the Coyotes and Brad Richards to Detroit.

Patrick Sharp remains the largest unknown.  Given that the Blackhawks are currently over the salary cap (allowed until the season begins), it is unlikely that he will return given the other positions that still need to be filled.  But one never knows.

CBS Sports shares their thoughts:

They still have to re-sign restricted free agent Marcus Kruger, while their only free-agent addition at this point has been Viktor Tikhonov, a highly skilled forward (and former top pick in the NHL Draft) who spent the past six seasons playing in the KHL.

Even with the trade of Saad and the departures of Richards and Vermette, the Blackhawks find themselves a little more than $400,000 over the $71.4 million salary cap for the upcoming season with only 20 players under contract, via General Fanager. They are allowed to exceed the cap by as much as 10 percent (a little more than $7 million over) in the offseason before needing to be cap compliant at the start of the season.

That means there is still some work to be done before they can finish completing their roster, especially on defense where the only have Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and David Rundblad under contract for the upcoming season. Even if they go with players like Trevor van Riemsdyk or Stephen Johns on their entry level contracts to fill out the blue line they are still over the cap.

The Blackhawks are reportedly still interested in re-signing veteran Johnny Oduya, currently an unrestricted free agent, but are waiting to clear cap space before doing so.

When it comes to clearing that cap space Patrick Sharp, Bryan Bickell and Versteeg are still the most likely — and obvious — names to be moved. They also present their own set of problems. When it comes to Sharp, you’re not only dealing with a no-trade clause that can complicate things, but also the fact that some of the teams that would have been interested in a potential trade (Pittsburgh and Washington, for example) have already landed top-six wingers this offseason via trade, with the Penguins acquiring Phil Kessel from the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Capitals landing T.J. Oshie (as well as Justin Williams via unrestricted free agency). With Bickell, there is the issue of another team wanting to take on the remaining two years of his contract ($4 million per year in salary cap space) for a guy who has just 43 points in 139 games since signing that deal, which is almost certainly one of the most regretable ones they have at this point and is contributing to their cap issues.

This was going to be a fascinating offseason for the Blackhawks as the closest thing the NHL has to a modern dynasty has to pick and choose which players to sacrifice, while also needing to rebuild depth around the core of superstars. And even though they still need to shed a sizable contract or two this summer, the most incredible thing about the Blackhawks’ offseason to this point is they have still managed to start replenishing their depth and piecing together a roster that should feature their next wave of talent.

The Saad trade was a huge part of that.

Let’s be honest, the Blackhawks would have probably preferred to keep him. They drafted him, developed him and watched him grow into a top-line player on two of their past three Stanley Cup-winning teams.

But they also might have cashed in that asset at the exact right moment.

Saad is fantastic. He is a wonderful two-way player who probably still has his best days ahead of him. But he was also reaching a point where his perceived value around the league may have been exceeding his value to the Blackhawks, especially if the asking price was going to be the $6 million per year he got with Columbus. Remember: This is a player that, for as hyped as he is, has never topped 23 goals in a season and has spent his entire career playing next to two future Hall of Famers. That is a perfect storm for everybody involved.

Image courtesy of Ron Cogswell.

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