Evaluating Stan’s Summer

This is yet another post we’ll probably have to revisit when the summer moves are complete, because some ballast still has to dumped before anyone calls this complete. But it’s not so easy to evaluate Stan Bowman’s performance this summer because there’s a ton of emotion packed up in every move. And seeing as how I’ve been accused as driving most of the noise, it’s probably up to me to try and suss it all out.

At the top, no I don’t think this has been Stan’s best work, but it’s probably better than most think and it’s certainly not a complete failure. Let’s see why.

It’s important to note that there are a couple of huge factors completely out of Stan’s control, and maybe completely unforeseen. One, Stan did not flatten the Canadian dollar, which is what helped basically smush the salary cap (and how much worse would it be without the escalator?).

Second, I don’t think anyone every saw Brandon Saad asking for, and getting, $6 million per year. Even in our most disastrous projections, and pretty much everyone I saw, thought $5 million was the absolute cap he would get (and the Hawks apparently offered that).

So I think Stan does have to get some credit in having a Plan B there, because he didn’t come up with Anisimov and Dano within five minutes. He clearly had a “break glass in case of outrageous Saad demands” plan, and he didn’t get caught holding nothing when that went sideways.

Essentially, how you grade Stan’s summer is not what you think of the Sharp/Johns-for Daley/Garbutt trade, but what you think of Stan’s choice to make a hockey trade of Sharp instead of something resembling more a salary dump. And this is where I don’t agree with what Stan did.

From the start, it was reported that Stan wasn’t going to simply toss Sharp for picks only. He didn’t want to create a hole on his team that wasn’t at least being balanced out by an addition somewhere else. On the surface, you get that. But what he found was that teams didn’t want to make a hockey trade for Sharp. According to The Score’s Jay Zawaski, there was basically one other offer, at least in hockey-trade terms, and it was apparently pretty laughable.

But it’s hard to believe that if Stan had showed up the day before the draft and wanted to move Sharp for just picks, essentially selling Sharp for pennies on the dollar, he couldn’t have found a dance partner. If Phil Kessel’s contract can get moved, Patrick Sharp’s can get moved. Would the Penguins have rather just given up the picks for Sharp instead of the picks and prospects they did for Kessel? I would wonder. Other teams certainly would have too.

Now, either way Johnny Oduya isn’t coming back. We accepted that long ago. And at the draft, Stan probably doesn’t know he’s not getting Saad back either. And even if he was somehow able to dump Sharp for merely picks and not have to take any sort of salary back (either another bad contract or eating some Sharp money, both likely to have happened), you still can’t pay Saad what he got from the Jackets. You can’t pay him that because of the way it’ll tie up the cap, and you can’t pay him that because what does Teuvo ask for in two years, when he’s likely to end up just as important if not more so than Saad? Standards have to be set.

So let’s just live in a fantasy world for a second where Sharp is traded for picks or enough of one where the Hawks gained $4 million on the cap but still had to trade Saad for Dano and Anisimov. Yes, they have a hole on defense but they still have Johns to possibly help fill it. Obviously, Daley and Garbutt aren’t here, and Garbutt’s hit for the Hawks and Johns’s cancel out, so you have an additional 3.3 million to play with. Marcus Kruger would certainly already be re-signed. You’d have plenty of money to sign a veteran placeholder like John Moore or David Schlemko to give you time to figure out what Johns is and can and cannot do. You might have had enough left over to get a veteran left winger as well (hi there, Eric Fehr), and that’s without whatever space Bickell and Versteeg are eventually stripped for parts for.

But holding out for a hockey trade left Stan short of the offers he probably thought he’d get. And while Daley certainly is a veteran to fill the Oduya shaped hole, he comes with only slightly less questions than Johns would have. And he’s older and more expensive. Oh, and you’d have more space next year for the Seabrook extension that’s coming, because you’d best believe they’re not going to slap an “A” on him before next season and then watch him walk a season later.

We also have to understand that draft picks really don’t mean much to the Hawks right now. Even if they were to “hit” on their first round picks all the time, those players are a minimum two years away from being drafted from being contributors, and that’s being as optimistic as possible. That becomes a question of how long you think the Hawks’ window is. You’ve got maybe, at most, three years of dominant Duncan Keith left (maybe four, and another two or three years after that where he’ll probably be really effective but not dominant). You’ve got five years, maybe six, of dominant hockey from Kane and Toews. Once they hit 32-33, they’ll still be very good and effective, but dominant? Henrik Zetterberg was 34 this past season, and when was the last time you called him dominant?

So the Hawks are in a position where they have to do their best to maximize every single season they have left with peak 19, 88, 2, 7, 4 and whoever else you throw in that. Maybe Daley does that, maybe he doesn’t, but clearly the purpose behind it is understandable. And maybe that’s why they felt they could get away with not waiting on Johns and to a lesser extent Paliotta, because they just don’t have time to wait now. I don’t necessarily agree, but I certainly see where they’re coming from.

And they’re still poised to be very good at forward for a while, with Teuvo, Dano, Danault (whom I still believe in), and I’m calling this now but Tyler Motte is going to be a very effective player and the one out of training camp ’16 that wows Q and ends up on the roster. So really, as Fifth Feather has pointed out, the only glaring hole on the team for now and in the future is support on defense. And there may still be time and way to address that.

Overall, I think Stan overplayed his Sharp hand by A) trying to make a straight hockey-trade and B) what he thought he could get for him in that scenario. Obviously, I wasn’t sitting in his office (they’d have had me arrested if so) when these talks were going on, so this could all be way wide of the mark. It’s not an F- summer for Stan, because as stated at the top there were things that tied his hands that had nothing to do with him (and if you want to throw Bickell’s contract on that list of things Stan didn’t have anything to do with that tied his hands, I won’t stop you). And really it came down to one decision, but one that might, repeat: might, bite him in the ass. Let’s give him a C/C- and move on. That might even be harsh, too.


  • Moses Taylor

    What do people think Kruger is going to sign for? At this point, it is a given he’s coming back. IOW, does dumping Versteeg get the Hawks to Kruger’s number on it’s own? The longer it takes, the less likely the Hawks get completely out from under Steeg and Bickell.

    • ‘hawks58

      No. Losing Versteeg’s salary would put the Hawks at about $2.4M in cap room with 20 players on the roster. While $2.4M may be in the ballpark for what Kruger is paid, they will still have to add at least $1.4m in salary (Panarin will be up to put the Hawks at 14 forwards, and another defenseman will have to be signed/called up to get them to 7 D)

      • Lionel Hutz

        Hawks are carrying 750k in bonuses from previous year. Not sure if you are factoring that in.

        • ‘hawks58

          The numbers were from generalfanager.com and they did have the overage factored in.

    • Doog

      If you bury Tropp and Morin’s contracts and are wiling to go with 21 total players on the roster, then it can work, assuming Kruger’s cap hit is around 2.4M. If you want a full 23-player roster, shedding Bickell looks like the easiest path.

      • ‘hawks58

        Tropp or Rasmussen are likely the 23rd player on the roster, given their low cap hit (625k and 575k)

  • Brian Soda Man

    Your not paying $21 mil in cap for 19, 88 to not have a chance at a Cup every possible season. Stan cast his lot last summer when making those deals. The Blackhawks have made their duo the highest paid in the league with the expectation that they will carry the franchise until their prime has passed and their cap % has become team depth permissible. Hopefully those occasions intertwine. Every move made subsequently has that circumstance in the foreground. Therefore I think he deserves to be lauded for providing a roster with the talent to win the Cup. Whether the intangibles or experience required exist is to be seen.

  • Doog

    It wasn’t a summer move exactly, but getting depth at left wing with Panarin should be a credit to Bowman’s construction of the the upcoming season’s roster.

    All told, the team lost half of its top six and an aging second-pairing defenseman. AA definitely replaces one of the three forwards, and maybe “Panarin” is Russian for “handsome sniper”. It would not surprise me if Dano takes Saad’s learning spot with Toews and Hossa. Not that these moves improve the top six, but I can see how they keep you in the hunt for home ice in the first round of the playoffs. Not personally impressed with Daley thus far, but the likelihood of him just crumbling into an heap of dust seems lower than with the older Oduya.

    One other thing – everybody got a year older, which isn’t a good thing for most of the roster. Sam’s point about managing the core’s window really should be the prism through which the next five years are perceived. Come 2021, the Connor McDavids will be the dominant Western conference franchise. So how many Cups can the ‘Hawks win before then?

    • ‘hawks58

      Expecting this version of the Oilers to be dominating is a stretch, even if McDavid is, in fact, the next Crosby.

      • Doog

        Probably true, but the Oil is as good a guess as any for the team that will be at the top next decade. Who would you pick? The Blues? Let’s all laugh about that for a moment.

        • Sam

          Any team coached by babcock

          • Doog

            Good thing he’s in Toronto and not in the WC, eh?

  • ‘hawks58

    The grade has to be incomplete at this point. If he is able to sign Kruger and Seabrook, and doesn’t have to move 50, 4, 65; I would give him a B/B+.

    I really think the return on Saad, given the timing of the trade and what he was asking for, is a huge win for the Hawks. The Sharp trade is a loss to me only because they had to take on all of Daley’s salary. Had Daley come over with a cap hit around $1.75-$2m, that would have been a huge pick-up. I still hold out hope that Daley can be basically an older version of Nick Leddy.

  • OMFS88


    • Eric Ericson

      The last time it was in the nhl series were in NHL 11. Note that it was when the merger between Continental Airlines an United Airlines in 2011 was done. I think this problem was after Continental Airlines and United Airlines merged.
      The old rights to the United name and the new logo was not probably not valid after that.
      (The Airline kept the “United” name, but swapped to Continentals logo – the blue globe).

      One thinks it should’ve been sorted by now though.

      I’m not sure if you know this but EA doesn’t make games as a whole united company. The studio that produces NHL is a separate entity than the one that produces the NBA games. Additionally,
      the United Center could simply have given permission for the NBA portion of the arena while the hockey operations side declined.

      But noone gives you a explanation. 29 of 30 team sponsors are aboard. (even the Islanders new arena Barclays Center is in).

      Ok, is says the Chicago Blackhawks now on the ice instead of Chicago Stadium. I´m somewhat ok with that. But EA claims the game is more authentic, not! Eddie-O is in the game with
      Doc Emerick. Intro in Chicago goes something like this: Welcome to the Chicago Arena?

      Look the blowjackets have their canon in the game, the chicken wings the octopus, the missing lightning got their tesla coil or whatever its called etc. If 29 of 30 other arenas can do it….

      Its in NBA 15 Live. But you cant see any Hawks banners or retired numbers in the rafters. Does Jerry Reindorff(Bulls owner) own the rights to the video game section. Even if Rocky is a co-owner to the buillding. It stills smells like the old TV policy for home games to me.

      Alot of fans have tried to contact the UC. But they being ignored. For now there are to small amount of people taking this to serious. Therefore can the United Center Company keep the lid on this issue.

      The real authentic goal horn is in for the Hawks, (hope it will sound of three times) Chelsea Dagger to. Even Tommy Hawk is in the game. A little progress anyways.

      It would have been the icing on the cake. If the UC was in the game. With Toews and Kane on the NHL16 cover and the 3 cup in 6 seasons on home ice since 1938.

      Hopefully more fans can contact and pressure the United Center for a response. Does anyone know how to contact Rocky or Mcdonough. Jay Blank to. Those guys have made all of this happen. Good to be Hawks fan right know. They if any should know whats going on. But no luck there yet up to this point.

      Lets get a 4 cup in 7 seasons! Go Hawks!

  • Matt

    I think Sharp was a miss. I’d have rather had $5.9M and Johns than Daley, Garbutt, and $2.5M or whatever.

    GIVEN THE CIRCUMSTANCES I think the Saad trade was damn good. If you assume he was getting $6M one way or another then I think Stan did very well.

    You brought up an interesting point — can’t help but wonder if Stan would have traded Sharp sooner if he’d have known that Saad wasn’t coming back.

    Man, that Mike Reilly miss might have had a hell of a domino effect.

    I’d expect (and hope) that next year there’d be a push to get some more young D prospects in the system, though one piece that could mitigate losing Johns is Twitter is saying that Erik Gustafsson is looking quite good and the team is excited about him. Would love to see him impress and make the team.

    If the cap doesn’t rise by a lot (and I’m guessing it won’t), 2017 has a good chance of getting nasty.

    • 60MinutesBaby60

      Yeah. Thought Reilly was in. But have to say when it didn’t happen didn’t mind it either. Time will tell of course.

  • fromheretoinfirmary

    I for one am terrified of the situation on defense at this point. One of Keith Seabs or Hammer goes down for any extended period of time and things could get ugly. We’ll see what Daley is/can be under Q’s system, but with Saad walking I expected that Oduya could be kept. Instead, we have a formidable top 3, Daley, and… TVR and Runblad? TVR could continue to improve, which would be huge, but I won’t hold my breath after the injuries. Johns may or may not have been a solution, but with him gone, that’s one less POSSIBLE solution. As pointed out above, there is still time to add another piece or two depending on what happens with Bickell, but if this is our D-corp opening night and moving forward, then I’m officially concerned.

    • 60MinutesBaby60

      Agree re TVR.
      Cheering him on but – no offense – one more LTIR stint and very much danger of “injury prone” label getting pinned on him. Not good that.
      Man I do NOT envy the NHL defenseman’s job description.
      Stay strong TVR-man.

    • ‘hawks58

      Let’s be honest, if Keith, Seabrook, or Hjalmarsson go down for an extended period of time in ANY season, the Hawks would be in trouble.

      You can say it is worse now, but would a top 4 with Roszival be any better?

    • HossasPierogi

      I think Rundblad will be reliable in the 3rd pairing w another year under his belt.

  • Brain Sprain

    Should have traded Sharp for picks, signed Oduya and kept Johns. Move Versteeg for next to nothing and sign Kruger with $ left Even if it takes you a bit over the cap.

    Bickell just lost his vertigo last week so he was not really able to be dealt. Maybe after camp if he is skating well.

  • 60MinutesBaby60

    In my barstool expert’s opinion, Job 1 for the braintrust this off-season was to clear cap space. Hockey-trades schmockey-trades.

    If not for this Marko Dano guy all’s I got for “In Stan We Trust” is a big fat
    Bronx cheer.

    Keep me Oduya over Daley and I’m just fine. And this Garbutt part gives me the willys b/c Shinpads IS on my club hell or high-water (or maddeningly
    ill-timed penalties.) Headbutt goals FTW.

    Furthermore – and believe me I hope I’m wrong – but Anisimov’s “quiet room” visits, history thereof, leave me uneasy. Again I WANT to be wrong about it.

    One other thing – a question – I thought Bickell’s deal was done on Bowman’s watch?

    Very appreciated the article, Mr. Fels. Can’t get enough of this (Hawks) stuff.

    PS – Another good story – imho – is SPowers’ re grading the prospects camp over at ESPN. Justa FWIW …

    • Sarcastic Mike

      There has been much speculation that even though Stan was the GM, the decision to re-sign Bicknell no matter the cost was not made by him.

      Read between the lines on that.

    • Tornsys

      This may be an odd comment, but I think during the regular season the Hawks don’t see as many hits come their way as a lot of other teams, so hopefully that bodes well for Anisimov.

  • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

    Not saying I’m right, not calling anything a win or a loss, but my basic reactions to each move…

    Saad: Making the best of a bad situation. If you accept that resigning Saad became impractical, if not impossible, Stan got more back than should have been possible.

    Sharp: A bit of a disappointment, not that he’s gone, though I held out hope after the Saad thing. Can’t help but wonder if Stan pulled the trigger too early. If we’d lost Sharp for picks or prospects, as we expected to, maybe we could have kept Vermette or Richards, and we wouldn’t be in the position of HAVING to trade Bicks. .

    OD: I don’t mind this. I think we got our money’s worth out of him. IMHO he’s no longer worth the risk. Figure it it will take a year or two to retool for another cup run. We are better served with youth on the D line, but do we have any quality youth left?

    Vermette and Richards: It was probably a pipe dream, but see above.

    • ‘hawks58

      Sparky, the reason the Sharp trade worked out like it did is specifically because Stan and company are trying to avoid a year or two lost to retooling. They are thinking that for the next 2 years, Daley > Johns. Despite all of the Johns love, I would have to think that is true.

      Is it also possible that the Hawks like Gustafsson so much that they didn’t think Pailotta or Johns would crack the top 7? And if those two don’t come up this year, is Pokka not a more highly thought of guy that would probably come up before them in 16-17? It could be that, like Clendening, they just no longer were as highly rated by the organization as they are by the fans.

  • Doog

    Sort of off-topic – where can you find With or Without You numbers?

  • T.M.

    Oh how I long for the days of Bob Pulford

  • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

    Not Stan’s best summer, granted, but let’s give him credit for his spring. Without the moves he made after Kaner went down, this team does not have a parade this summer.

  • jordyhawk

    This article pretty much nails it. Good read.

  • Bill Placzek

    You lost any credibility after you mention Tyler Motte and Danault…

    • Tornsys

      Please elaborate on why you feel this way.

  • hawkfacts

    Stan has had a very good but incomplete summer. Dano & Anisimov at 2 mil less than Saad got paid is a big win. Dano will be a better player than Saad and Anisimov (if he stays healthy) is the best #2 center the Hawks had in 30 years.

    People forget Panarin but he counts as a summer move too. If he delivers 20 goals he makes Bickell and Versteeg expendable no matter when you get rid of them.

    Sharp & Oduya were declining assets and even if they have reasonable years, there was no way they could have stayed with Hawks. That’s 10 mil they could not afford.

    Downside – depth on defense is a dangerous problem for the Hawks. Unless, they can upgrade the bottom 3, an injury to any of the top 3 ends the season. Whether that’s fixed now or in January is irrelevant to the next Cup run. If Stan does fix that, this team is better than last year’s squad hands down.

    And finally, if Stan does unload Bickell and Versteeg and gets the full salary cap relief, the Seabrook extension becomes a done deal. That ensures a 4-5 year Cup window.

  • SAMCRO Outlaw

    I see talk of cap relief in deals involving Bickell & Versteeg. Come on, wake up, there is nothing he can do with either of them or he would have already. He screwed the pooch on Bickell, plain and simple. He either misread the market on him or thought he could find one and let the buyout window pass him buy. That was a $3mill cap relief mistake for each of the next two season.

    Trading Saad was the right thing to do and whether the return package works out or not most everyone seems to understand.

    I’m fine with Oduya being let loose. He was on borrowed time as it was and his play was less than great for most of last year.

    Sharp was going so meh, whatever. I don’t like that he’s traded pretty much every blueline replacement though. And I’m not sure how they resign Seabrook at a salary higher than Keith’s, fit it into any type of cap, and have money to sign any of the young guys coming off their entry level deals. Plus, as much as I love what he brings to the team, I’m not sure signing a 30+ dman to a big contract who isn’t a freak is the right thing to do.

    On paper the forwards look fine and should be really good still. But is Q going to play 4/5 on D all season? Or is he going to put Rosie out there on his funky leg scooter thing (I know he isn’t signed…YET).

    • dinob0t

      “I don’t like that he’s traded pretty much every blueline replacement though.”

      There it is! That’s precisely what’s bothered me the most. The Sharp trade, as bittersweet as it is, was expected. But why was Johns thrown in!?!? Stan has methodically shucked off every promising defensive prospect in the pipeline, and now it will cost him an arm and a leg to both re-sign Seabiscuit and try and pick up any competent D-men on the open market next summer.

    • ‘hawks58

      Sure, Bickell is a $3m cap relief the next 2 seasons if he was bought out, but he would have been $1.5m of dead money the two years after that as well.

      I still think he will be able to move Bickell, even if they have to retain half of his salary. Someone would take Bickell at $2m, hell, I think WE would take Bickell at $2m!

      • Sopel the catfish

        Is there any way we can trade Bickell’s 4 million to Florida for Steeger’s remaining 2?

      • Doog

        Effectively, that could be what’s going on right now – the ‘Hawks can only get $2M in cap relief if they shed Bickell, and they figure they would rather have him at $4M than have an open roster spot that is still costing $2M.

        This is why I am surprised that Versteeg hasn’t been moved – he is a solid player for $2.2M who can play either wing and support great players. For the Blackhawks, that skill set is likely replaceable by some combination of their older prospects. You would think a team with a bit of cap space would prefer Versteeg’s certainty (such as it is).

        • HossasPierogi

          I like Versteeg. He and Bickell shouldn’t be in same conversation. Reasonably priced skilled and somewhat erratic player vs overpaid player who lacks NHL skill set.

      • SAMCRO Outlaw

        I usually don’t put a whole lot into the rumor mill, but Zawaski has been pretty in step with what has happened this summer and he’s stated that there is no market for Bickell and his contract is unmovable.

        I get that robbing Peter to pay Paul is what his buyout would have been and I know it shows a lack of organizational loyalty, but I think the albatross he’s become would have been worth it.

    • lizmcneill

      They need to move someone, as they’re right at the cap with only 19 skaters.

      • SAMCRO Outlaw

        Yep,they have about $230k of cap space & still need to find a cash for Kruger and Q’s boy Nordstrom. I’m starting to think that Kruger isn’t coming back because they have some options there, but they still have to move someone just to get two minimum salary skaters onto the roster and be at 20.

  • Pete

    Since the Hawks reportedly offered Saad 5M and it was turned down then Bowman made a great trade for Dano and AA. Saad should have taken the 5M even just out of respect. Does he really think he deserves more than Keith and Seabrook. Plus he would make more here in Chicago over the long haul so he was short sighted. I’m torn on the Sharp trade because I was thinking trade sharp, Versteeg and Bickell for the best picks you could get and then go from there. However, I think people may be undervaluing Garbutt. Keith said he was one of the hardest players to play against and even his detractors admit he has talent. Keith doesn’t strike me as someone to exagerate so I think Garbut could be something. I am hoping they can move Versteeg for ANY pick so they can sign Kruger. Then Bickel can stay on the team if he can’t be moved. Versteeg is replaceable with what they already have so that is the salary that can and should be moved. By the way, I find it hard to believe they can’t put enough sweetner on a deal to move Bickel to like Florida or Arizona. Those teams are desperate for upside whether it be picks or prospects. But I still like Bickel. People forget that maybe he wasn’t scoring in the playoffs this year but he was hitting!! 4M is too high if he isn’t also scoring, but he is a valuable player in my opinion.

    • Black JEM

      Hitting means almost nothing in who wins.

      Give me goals – the skating NHL is almost making (Almost) hitting completely meaningless.

  • WaitTillNextYr

    Wishful thinking !

  • Bannerman

    Stan had an “easy” out to get out of the cap mess- trading Crawford- and he didn’t take it. That to me has to bump up his grade to at least a B-. Let’s suppose for a second that Saad decided to take the $5 mildo. Where was that money coming from?