With the aquisition of Brad “Religion” Richards, even at the cap friendly number of $2 million dollars for this season, the Hawks are now currently around $2.2 million dollars over the cap while carrying 22 players on the active roster by opening night.
This means that someone is going to have to be voted off of the island in short order, particularly with the Convention coming up in a couple of weeks. If there’s one thing that McDonough and Blunk are conscious of it’s optics, and they’d hate to have a player kissing hands and shaking babies all weekend at the Regency just to have someone’s favorite player launched, even if they technically don’t have to until opening night in October. Add that to the cover that the long holiday weekend will bring tomorrow, as well as the tendency for media types to try to bury bad news on a Friday afternoon, and it would not be the least bit shocking to see someone go tomorrow.
Further complicating matters are the tagging issues that Sam had mentioned yesterday, in that the Hawks cannot exceed salary commitments for next year past this year’s $69 million dollar cap, which is key for re-signing Toews, Kane, and Saad, which again is something that McD undoubtedly wants to trot out at the convention. As of right now, the Hawks have $44 million dollars committed to next year, and in theory that should be enough to even wrap Saad up if Daydream Nation comes in right at around $10 mildo per. But things can change quickly in negotiations, and having breathing room is always helpful. So with all of that said, here’s a look at some of the likely candidates.
- Kris Versteeg – $2.2 million through 2016 – This is the most obvious choice, as the Verbeauty reunion has been an unmitigated disaster, even with Florida eating half of his salary. Versteeg’s contract goes through the end of next year which helps with tagging, and it gets the Hawks right up against the cap this year. The trick will be finding anyone who wants him, which will most likely be a team near the salary floor of $51 million, and the Hawks will probably have to sweeten the deal and send a pick with him. Stan loves his draft picks, but he may have to pay his way out of his own mistake with this one.
- Johnny Oduya – $3.375 million through 2015 – Oduya is entering into the last year of his deal at 34, and losing his salary would give the Hawks a little breathing room for Rockford shuffling during the year, if not much bankable cap space for augmentative trades later on down the road. Stan Bowman hates losing useful players for nothing (unless they’re named Viktor Stalberg), and with a crop of young defensemen in Clendening, Johns, and Rundblad waiting for their shot in the show, Oduya would create space for that, even if it would be a hit to what is arguably still the deepest defensive corps in the league. Still, with the stupid spending going on for defensemen (Hello Brooks Orpik and Deryk Engelland), sending Oduya to a team like the Islanders who probably still need one more adult on their blue line could bring back a second round pick or two. Oduya has a limited No Trade Clause that would have to be worked around, but clearly those aren’t as etched in stone as any player wants to believe.
- Michal Rozsival – $2.2 million through 2015 – While there might not be much tread left on Rozy’s tires at this point, he can still be a useful defender for about 50 regular season games, and with the Young Go-Hards platooning with him, that should be possible to manage. But his $2.2 million is probably a little overpayment for that at this point, and the Hawks could conceivably lose him without missing much of a beat. However he has a full No Movement Clause, and Stan would need to find a taker who feels like they’re one veteran depth guy away and likely have to take next to nothing in return.
- Nick Leddy – $2.7 million through 2015 – Leddy’s name has been popping up in this discussion rather frequently given his age and potential and the return he could grab, mostly due to him basically needing to shit or get off the 3rd pairing pot and take tougher assignments. A movement of Oduya would most certainly signal a vote of confidence for Leddy, Stan’s first major acquisition and Golden Child. And again, with how the market for defensemen has been and the Hawks’ inability to take much more than picks in return, giving up on a mobile, 23 year old defensemen already with 258 pro games played and two 30+ point seasons with a low cap hit and still under team control as a restricted free agent seems to be selling awfully low.
- Bryan Bickell – $4.0 million through 2017 – An interesting idea, considering he just re-upped and has a limited NTC, but Bickell’s $4.0 coming off the books would certainly help with the tagging aspect and give the Hawks some maneuverability. His availability likely depends on Kevin “Stairwell Dump” Hayes signing his ELC, as Bickell remains the only Hawk forward with genuine size. Critics will point to his lackluster regular season scoring numbers, but his underlying metrics remain as solid as ever and that shows itself in the playoffs when things get tighter. A long shot at best.
- Patrick Sharp – $5.9 million through 2017 – The name that doesn’t go away, though the longer time goes on, the more unlikely it seems. The addition of Richards at the price he came in at likely included his being sold by Stan on playing along side the likes of Sharp to help win a Cup and repair Richards’ image. It also signifies for the most part that The Core ™ probably gets one more whack at The Chalice before things get dicey with Kane and Toews’ new paper. Sharp has a full no trade/no movement clause, and to trade a team’s leading scorer while being bent over the barrel on his destination of choice (if he even wants to go) and take pennies on the dollar back doesn’t seem sensible now, and there’s no guarantee that whatever amalgam of young wingers is going to replace his nearly automatic 30 and 30. But stranger things have happened.
- Brent Seabrook – $5.8 million through 2016 – Another nuclear option, though given what Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik are pulling in, an enticing one, as the Hawks have depth on the blue line and could possibly take another cheaper, younger, promising piece back. This, again, is all based on the body of work over the last two years where Seabrook has looked to be a bit off-stride even in spite of some of his numbers. Obviously, if he goes back to being “Brent Seabrook”, this isn’t a trade anyone makes. But he’s 29 now, and that’s not generally a time when players still have an upwards trajectory, even if a defenseman’s career arc is a little bit longer and protracted than a forward’s. An incredibly unlikely scenario, but one that would certainly yield an amazing return given this marketplace.