Thursday, July 15, 2010

Blackhawks Down - Salary Cap Punishing Chicago

The Chicago Blackhawks are seeing more turnover than Lindsay Lohan's legal team.

It seems that the recipe for success in a salary cap world is to draft and develop a strong nucleus, sign them long term, hope they don't get hurt and surround them with supporting cast of players that change from year to year.

When the Backhawks raised the Stanley Cup this past June, it looked like they would be very good for a long time. With a nucleus of young players in Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook signed for a number of years, and a strong supporting cast, the future in Chicago looked promising.

Fast forward to July 15, and 8 players that were on the Stanley Cup winning team won't be back because of salary cap pressures. Gone are Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager and Andrew Ladd to the Thrashers. Kris Versteeg is now a Maple Leaf, Colin Fraser has joined the Oilers, Adam Burish is with the Stars and John Madden is unsigned and won't be back.

In all, the team has just about all its money committed to just 15 players and have a little over $113,000 in available cap room. Goaltender Anti Niemi remains unsigned. He just filed for arbitration and may be looking for Halak type money (about $3.75 million/year). On top of that, the Hawks still need to sign Jack Skille and Bryan Bickell. The team's cap issues were further complicated when it decided to match San Jose’s four-year, $14 million offer sheet for defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson.

So now there are rumours Patrick Sharp and David Bolland may be on the way out. Marian Hossa's name has come up as well. As well, if the Hawks aren't happy with the arbitration award in the case of Niemi, they could let him go. They could also trade him, and try and sign Jose Theodore or Marty Turco at a discount.

So come October, the Hawks will look like a very different team with possibly up to 11 players gone. It will be like comparing then and now pictures of Joan Rivers.

While the Hawks situation is extreme as they overpaid for some players due to late qualifying offers, one thing is clear - being vigilant at managing a team's assets and finances is critical to achieving long term success. Players will come and go, and teams can't fall in love with their players. They need to unfortunately more than ever view players as assets, and decide when the disposition of those assets fits into the long term plan of a team. Warm and fuzzy? No. Reality? Sadly yes.


Anonymous said...

How can one not enjoy a hockey article that references Lindsay Lohan and Joan Rivers. Awesome.

Daniel Gilbeau said...

When I see a team being dismantled like this, I think of the 1997 Florida Marlins. They were the first wild card team to ever win the World Series and then their owner, Wayne Huizenga, got rid of most of the lineup. They traded Moises Alou, Al Leiter and others. The following year, they were 54-108, not because of a salary cap like the Blackhawks but because an owner got his big win and did not want to spend money on players. The Blackhawks had no choice with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane playing out their entry contracts of some $800K per year and now making $6 million or so.
This is why you will never see another dynasty in the NHL. It is good for parity but not for fans who have to watch their teams change year after year.

Anonymous said...

I like your conclusion too about players being an asset ... very fitting considering the amount of people getting pissed off at Lebron James. I guess people thought that he was different as he grew up playing in Cleveland but at the end of the day he is an asset as you put it and people shouldn't be so pissed off that he wants to play in Miami with his buddies ... as most people would do the same thing. Heck, even Joe Sakic who played his entire career with the same franchise actually signed with the Rangers before the Avs matched, which I think started the escalating salaries that eventually led to the lockout.