Blackhawks have room to take on bad contracts & help rebuild along
The Chicago Blackhawks are in full rebuild mode and have traded away a number of players that would have taken up cap space. For now, they signed a trio of forwards in Andreas Athanasiou, Max Domi, and Colin Blackwell to eat some of that cap, but still have a great deal to work with. As smart rebuilding teams do, the Blackhawks should be calling around and looking for trade partners to take on bad contracts other teams can’t afford while loading up on assets, whether that’s draft picks or prospects.
There are still teams around the league that are surely looking for help, as a team like the Arizona Coyotes can’t take on all of the bad contracts teams are trying to move. The Blackhawks already got started at the 2022 draft by acquiring Petr Mrazek and the 25th overall pick in 2022 from the Toronto Maple Leafs for the 35th overall pick, giving the Blackhawks their third first round pick this year.
The Florida Panthers have made it clear they are looking to trade starting goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky prior to the halfway point of his very large contract he signed with the team. He makes $10 million a season for four more seasons and the Panthers are even willing to retain half of that contract. What if they didn’t have to?
The Blackhawks don’t have any goaltender who can get them through this rebuild, but do have the cap space to take on the entire contract which would allow them to gain even more assets in return. The Panthers are in win-now mode and freeing up $10 million while having a capable starter in Spencer Knight as the replacement and goaltender of the future ready to go would make a huge difference.
The Panthers have to think about re-signing Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar. There’s talk they may have to trade Weegar due to the cap situation. If the Blackhawks are willing and the Panthers don’t think it’s too large of a price to pay, Bobrovsky could finish his contract in Chicago while they gain some good assets from a team that doesn’t need them right now.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs have very little cap space to work with as usual. They once again had to bring in a slew of cheap depth players to fill their lineup while revamping their goaltending. As for their defense, it looks strong but there is a lack of room back there. Rasmus Sandin remains unsigned and they have Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, and Mark Giordano on the left side already.
The best course of action for them to free up cap space and room on the back-end is to trade a name that has been floating around for a while and makes the most sense, Muzzin. He isn’t a game-breaker, has two years remaining on his deal making $5.625 million per, and the Maple Leafs have enough assets to get a deal done that would make the Blackhawks happy about the return. He would be another body to hold them over so the prospects aren’t rushed to the NHL and allow them to stay above the cap floor.
The Dallas Stars are an interesting team since they have two former stars in Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin making far too much money ($9.5 million-plus each) and not contributing enough. The team doesn’t have a ton of wiggle room to be able to sign Jason Robertson and Jake Oettinger to the contracts they deserve after what they have shown in their young careers. This brings the question, who are the Stars willing to move to make the cap work, not only next season, but after when Roope Hintz, Denis Gurianov, and other contracts will be up?
With Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the last year of their deals, Benn would be the guy to take on since he’s not the player he once was and has really slowed down. If Kane is gone by next year’s trade deadline and Toews either gets a much smaller payday or moves on as well, it leaves a hole up front for some veteran leadership, a spot in the lineup, and money to be handed out.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets have suddenly become a major player as they signed Johnny Gaudreau in free agency and just re-sign Patrik Laine to a four-year deal worth $8.7 million AAV. They are now over the cap and have two prime targets to move on from, Jakub Voracek and Gustav Nyquist.
Voracek makes $8.25 million for two more years while Nyquist will earn $5.5 million next season. One of these forwards will have to be moved to fit under the cap ceiling. Both will cost them, but clearing Voracek will be much more expensive but allow for more leeway in terms of money over multiple years. Neither are game-breaking either and on the back-half of their careers. The Blackhawks would do well to call the Blue Jackets immediately.
The Blackhawks may not go with these types of big-named players to take on, but they should definitely be finding a team or two to make a deal with in order to help their rebuild along.
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