NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at St. Louis Blues

Every Time I Think I See

As you’re probably aware by now, we spend a lot of time, probably more than anyone else because we’re sicker in the head than just about everyone else, piercing through what the Hawks’ front office is telling us and what we think is actually going on. Some take this to mean we think the front office is full of concrete-headed giblets, but that would be pretty moronic to think when they’re currently making their third banner in six years. But we do like to put our conspiracy theory hats on (without drunkenly yelling anti-semitic feelings at cops, though we do occasionally yell at cops [we have friends in blue]) from time to time. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking about a couple things going on at the moment, and it’s probably mostly because I don’t have anything else to do. Take these with multiple grains of salt (which still isn’t really much salt if you like to try and stop your heart as much as I do with salt). Just things I think.

-So Marcus Kruger still sits out in the ether, waiting for the Hawks to clear space to get him re-signed. Now, it could just as easily be that everyone around the league knows that the Hawks and Kruger have some sort of verbal, handshake deal and seeing as how this isn’t the NBA Toews and Kane and Bowman don’t have to fly to Sweden and barricade themselves inside Kruger’s house (though I kinda still hope they do because that would be hilarious). Maybe teams have called Kruger’s agent and been told there’s no point, they’ve got something worked out with the Hawks. After all, offer sheets do have to be signed for them to mean anything.

And yet, Kruger would be an easier steal than Brandon Saad would have been. Because it would take less money to overpay Kruger to the point that the Hawks would choke. Honestly, $3 million per season is probably an overpay for something of a worker bee like Kruger, and $4 million most certainly would be. That would cost a 1st and  3rd round pick though, which plus the money seems like a lot to give up for a guy who probably maxes out as a 3rd line center. Still, teams have overpaid for checking centers with multiple rings before. Why do you think Dave Bolland is rich? Jordan Staal also leaps to mind.

Maybe teams are just smarter, and/or they know the Hawks would match a $3 million hit. But A) it does seem to be robbing Kruger of more and more leverage and you wonder if the Hawks aren’t using this time of inactivity to lower his price even more. It would certainly be worth a try as every dollar counts.

It also makes me wonder if an offer sheet for Brandon Saad was ever coming. That was the cover story, but there hasn’t been a single one put out there this summer. What if, and this is me just throwing this out there, that given all the facts, the Hawks just liked Marko Dano better? We know they’ve been after Anisimov before, and maybe this was just a trade they couldn’t turn down, especially when the price on Saad became known? If Saad had taken $4 million or even slightly more per season, he’d still be here. But maybe Stan though Saad at $6 million isn’t worth Dano and Anisimov? That’s an argument you could make for sure. I wonder if they gave a damn about an offer sheet With the cover of the fear of an offer sheet, it give the front office more leeway if Dano and/or Arty don’t pan out. After all, people will just say, “They had to move Saad, and at the time it looked like a pretty good deal and that’s what they could get up against a wall.” It’s certainly more cover than just coming out and saying we like this as a hockey trade on its merits alone on the ice. Because then if it doesn’t work out, it’s the talent evaluation that gets brought into the bright lights for more questioning.

-Another thing floating around this half-sober bald dome of mine. You’ve probably seen me and others hint that Bryan Bickell’s deal wasn’t solely Stan’s decision. That’s really only based on the opinions of a couple people I trust who are somewhat tapped in, and it was really only speculation on their parts. But it has legs when you consider that Stan has rarely overpaid anyone and has been pretty dead-eyed in taking sentimentality out of it (not always, as Handzus and Rozsival would clearly stand as Exhibits A and B. Though I suppose you could argue that he might not have made the call on them either). Bickell was the playoff here of ’13, and after the exodus of of ’10 you’d understand where everyone was gunshy about any perception of another self-immolation unless they were sure they player could be replaced, like Bolland and Frolik. There was no big left wing who drives possession and is good defensively waiting in the wings, and sadly there really still isn’t.

If you give any credence to that, then you might peer a little quizzically at the extensions of Kane and Toews, which are of course the source of the Hawks’ cap crunch even if no one says that outright. When you look at Kane’s and Toews’s deal, not only are they the highest cap hit of any player in the league but they are also the highest salary of any forward, at $13.8 million the next two years. They then slide down the next five years, with the last two years of each deal being a salary of $6.9 million. Yes,  Shea Weber makes the most the upcoming season with a $14 million total, but all but $1 million of that is a signing bonus. Kane’s and Toews’s salary is about half in signing bonus, and we can argue these semantics all day.

If you’re of a quizzical and suspicious mind like myself, and you buy into some decisions coming from up on high in the Hawks organization, you start to wonder if there wasn’t some directive that Kane and Toews had to have both the highest cap hit and salary in the league, at least among forwards. Because let’s just for a moment suggest that Kane’s and Toews’s salary should have started at $12 million per year, which is what Sidney Crosby makes per season, and even with the trophy cabinet stocked it’s a hard argument to suggest either is the equal of Crosby, but let’s do so anyway. Then each of 19 and 88 would be paid 3.6 million less over the eight years of the deal, for a total of 80.4 million over the lifespan. That’s only a savings of about 500K on the cap for each of the contracts, but as we’re finding out this summer every dollar counts.

Now, if you got really creative and had the deals slide for Kane and Toews in the same increment as they do now, but from a starting point of $12 million per season instead of the $13.8, that’s where things get interesting. The they would only be making about 71.1 million over the eight years,  for a cap hit of $8.8 million per season. Obviously, this is a pipe dream. And granted their deals were signed at a different time than Crosby’s was and all that, but it is curious, at least to me, that they had to be paid a salary that is something close to aggressively more than the consensus best player in the game.

Also, while Saad got some shit about not sticking to his hometown discount pledge right after the final, we should be thanking our lucky fucking stars that Duncan Keith was happy to pin his whole career in Chicago, which he didn’t have to. The type of deal that Keith got wasn’t available to Kane and Toews obviously when they signed last summer, but he did sign his the same day that Daydream Nation signed their second contracts. Because what if Keith had only taken the five year deal that they accepted back in 2010, and he was a UFA right now? He’d be asking for at least $10 million a season, right? Keith’s been paid handsomely since signing that deal of course, as he’s been paid $39.2 million in salary in the five years so far and will make another $32 million over the next eight years in salary. Obviously, had he not signed as long the deal would be structured differently, but we can be pretty sure if he were signing a new deal today, he’d be making a fuckton more than $32 million over eight years.


  • Matt

    The Kane and Toews things — eh. I feel like in pretty much every sport whenever a top 10 player hits the market he sets the new salary ceiling.

    The interesting thing to watch will be the Stamkos contract. One would assume in pretty much any year prior that he’d be getting more than $10.5M per. This was the first summer where we saw many fewer dumb decisions than usual, and Tampa certainly isn’t dumb. So we’ll see if he eclipses that Kane/Toews mark.

    • Jim

      In a salary cap world, I would not want to construct a team around a high priced forward. What has Ovechkin and Crosby done for Pittsburgh? Ok, the Penguins won one, but Crosby has been 12M forever and they haven’t made a splash in the playoffs since. Ovi has done nothing. If I was TB, I would let Stamkos go and get a guy at half the cost who replaces 70% of his scoring and can play a 2 way game. How much do the combined triplets line cost? 7.5 million for the three of them.

      • lizmcneill

        Who’s that guy and why has he reached UFA without his own team signing him?

  • Jim

    For sure the 2 big contracts make this a 49M Cap for the BlackHawks. So Saad and his 5-6M had to go, the guys coming back replace at least 75% of Saad plus Richards at the same price of one Brandon Saad. They need to get NHL hockey players back to win a Cup now, they can’t be in the prospect developing business while devoting 22M to two guys.

    I’m looking at http://www.generalfanager.com/teams/chicago-blackhawks at the roster. They’ve trimmed all the fat they can, while retaining the high priced guys they need to win a Cup.

    There are no two ways about this, Bickell and his 4M have got to go. Damn Bickell sucked so bad last year and in the playoffs (he was decent against the Wild). Hell, you can swap Morin for Bickell, and get similar nothing, and save 3M and pay it to Kruger. Stan is daydreaming of a LTIR for Bickell. If they can’t get rid of Bickell, Kruger is gone, and Shaw is your new 4th line center, where he sux.

    If I was Stan, I would get a focus group together, and figure out how to lose Bickell.

    • lizmcneill

      Send him to Toronto with a pick/prospect for their trouble, a la the Horton contract.

  • Preacher

    If the Saad “offer sheet cover” conspiracy is true, then Stan certainly was conspiring for a LOOOONG time. After all, how many times did Stan say publicly that they were keeping Saad? And hasn’t he been saying it all season? No conspiracy. I think Saad’s agent was totally threatening an offer sheet from Columbus (and maybe others *cough* Pittsburgh *cough*) that he knew was coming. Stan saw the danger of getting nothing for him and pulled the trigger. As a good general manager, he and his team certainly had many contingency plans worked out for every possible situation with the cap and contracts, but we can be pretty sure keeping Saad was the priority all along. Dano and Anisimov were Stan making the best out of what he didn’t really want to do. One thing Bowman has always done is to stick with the players he knows. (“We like our guys.”) Saad was known, Dano isn’t. Given a choice, I’m guessing Stan would take Saad every time.
    I think this was all agent-driven, pure and simple.

    • lizmcneill

      Yeah, if there was no credible offer sheet threat, why is Saad still not an unsigned RFA or signed to Stan’s reported 5×5 final offer?

      • I’ve listened to and read a bunch of things regarding the Saad trade. None which I can personally verify to say is true so everyone could be lying and I’d know no better.

        However, there are a bunch of things to consider:

        1) If Saad’s agent was asking for 6mil for 6 years Hawks couldn’t have matched that. If that’s the hardline Saad’s team was going to take then he would’ve been un-signed on July 1st and ripe for a offer sheet.

        2) If Saad wants to stay in Chicago he could force the hand of the Hawks by signing an offer sheet with the thought process that they are not going to let me go. A reasonable assumption, as not many people saw the Saad trade coming.

        3) Once a sheet is signed your options as the team are limited to either sign the player or let them walk for picks. You can’t trade the rights to another team and let them match.

        So to a certain extent it becomes a game of chicken. Bowman in this case “blinked” and made the first move. Again, the threat of an offer sheet, plus the desirability to add a player like Saad and finally the limited options you have once one is made I think Bowman did the right thing.

        After the initial shock of the trade, you look at it more objectively. I think what the Hawks got back in return was actually pretty good. Whether AA/Dano fit on the Hawks is a TBD. But indications are there that it has the possibility of being a really good deal.

  • Reggie Fleming

    Sam, as a conspiracy theory guy myself (JFK was killed by a hit man hired by Aristotle Onassis) I agree that the cover story behind the Saad trade was bullshit. It’s not that Stan liked Dano better, he actually liked Anisimov better.

    As we all know, Bowman has been getting shit for the past 19 years for not getting a second line center who can skate and chew gum at the same time. Stan gets glassy-eyed when talking about Anisimov’s size and ability to play in all situations. Moreover, Taser was getting sick of being beaten-up by the Getzlafs and Kopitars in the West and needed to get some relief. Dano was icing on the cake. However, the Jackets demanded Paliotta in return (which hurts) and that the Hawks take two Joe Blows off their hands.

    Do we have time to discuss how the Trilateral Commission is a front for Red China taking over America?

    • 60MinutesBaby60

      @ Reg –
      Can’t says I’m a conspiracy theorist (am quite nutty tho, certainly)
      but …

      SBowman sure did “take care” of Anisimov awful quick
      dollars & term-wise. And that part of “the Sad trade”” did and does still both annoy and puzzle me.

      My ‘umble opinion you takes care of your own (i.e. guys who were already here and who have ALREADY proven themselves CHAMPS) first. Then and only then do you *pay* new guys coming aboard..
      Just my buck 380 on that tho …

      Re the asterisk above: The trade did make me sad Wanted/Assumed #20 in an Indianhead his entire NHL career. Oh well …Iswhatitis

  • Black JEM

    Nah, Kane and Toews were going to get there’s. And after they signed the deal what did they do? Win another Cup.

    Yes, the strong USD kind of hosed the Cap, I think that is where their forecast went wrong. I assume they figured mid 70s. Still, unlike Ovi and Crosby, Kane and Toews keep winning, because they are something more than just great hockey players. Some guys win, that is who they are. They will win another one. Or two.