Now that Daydream Nation is firmly secured in Chicago until the next lockout and one of them has to be bought out after to get under the $12 salary cap Bettman instills to end that dispute, Stan can start figuring out just how he’s going to put next year’s team together.
What’s that you say? This year’s team is still over the cap? Why yes, it is. But we’ve been down this road a few times already, and the answers to get under this cap are known to everyone. It’s a punting of Oduya, or Sharp, or Rozsival, or Seabrook, or Versteeg (that would be a miracle) or some combination thereof.
It’s next year where some of the challenges lie. But is it that bad? Let’s look, yes?
As you probably know, the Hawks have 15 guys signed for the ’15-’16 season for $65.7 million. Enough people have said that the new Canadian TV deal will bump next year’s cap to $75 million or so to believe that will be the case, so we’ll go with that figure for this exercise.
That 15 figure though isn’t totally correct. It doesn’t include Stephen Johns, who is likely to be on the team this year and almost certainly will be next year unless something unforeseen happens. So that’s 16 with Johns’s $800K entry deal on there, bringing the Hawks to $66.5 million on the cap.
Of the free agents, we know Rozsival and Oduya won’t be here, Regin probably not, which leaves a re-signing of Kruger, Saad, and Leddy. I don’t think it’s going on to too much of a ledge to say all three will be back. Saad a certainty, Kruger very likely, and Leddy also very likely. All three are restricted. It’s hard to picture Leddy getting that much more than the $2.7 he gets now. Let’s assume a big year this year, especially if he’s getting second pairing minutes after an Oduya Launching (try the oysters at Oduya Launching). So another bridge deal at $3.3 per for two years? Let’s go with that. Now we’re at 17 players (and five d-men with Johns) and $69.8 million.
Kruger’s a little harder to figure out. Because to figure out Kruger’s value you can’t really look at scoring, and so it depends on what the number value of the other things like defensive play, penalty killing, and faceoffs is. But it’s hard to see him getting too much of a raise from his current $1.3 million. He’s only 24, so he could move on from the 28 points or so he’s given the Hawks in his two full seasons (he was on pace for about 25 in the shortened season). But how much really? Let’s give him $1.7 million in his next contract. You could easily see $2 mildo, but unless someone is going to silly offer-sheet him $3 million per he doesn’t have a lot of leverage. We’ve got 18 in now at $71.5 million.
Saad is the issue. On a totally open market you could easily see Saad getting $5 or even $6 million per. But it’s not, as he’s restricted. Let’s look around for some comps.
The first one you think of is Kyle Okposo, because they’re almost the same player (Okposo is a little faster). Okposo’s AAV is $2.8 million. His five-year deal escalates every year, so in salary he makes $3.5 this year and $4.5 next. It was signed before the lockout, so that sort of escalating deal isn’t as easy to pull off, but that 2.8 figure seems about right on the low end.
Evander Kane got 5.25 per, though he was coming off a 30-goal season (which one easily could see Saad producing this year). James Van Riemsdyk got 4.2 after his entry-level deal, and he and Saad’s numbers their first two years are pretty similar. I’m going to split the difference here and say Stan finds a way to get Saad in at $3.5 per on another bridge deal. That puts the Hawks at 19, right at that $75 million figure.
So yeah, there are issues here, which means someone entrenched is going to have to go. That’s why you’ve been hearing Sharp’s name, and why you may hear Seabrook’s name later, or maybe this is when you start to hear the whispers of “Gee, Hossa’s back is really starting to act up” and some LTIR shenanigans being produced.
If Sharp were launched, the Hawks would have 18 players in at $69.1 million. So they’d have to sign about five guys or so with almost $6 million to play with. That also assumes that no kids will make the leap for ’15-’16, and we shouldn’t do that. The most likely are McNeill as a forward and Dahlbeck as a d-man (Dahlbeck may even get a look this season). I also haven’t included Rundblad, who isn’t likely to get much more than his 750K he’s getting this year if he’s brought back at all. McNeill, Dahlbeck, and Rundblad would come in about about 2.5 million combined, leaving the Hawks at 21 players at $71.6 million. Throw a mixture of Clendening, Ross, Hartman, whoever else on the Rockford shuffle, but the Hawks would have room for one mid-level signing under these circumstances.
There are some cartwheels to be pulled here, and we can’t predict who will break out in Rockford or below that or how next year’s draft might unfold. But it’s doable.