With the subtractions of Dave Bolland, Viktor Stalberg, Ray Emery, Jamal Mayers and Michael Frolik due to trade or free agency the 2013-2014 Chicago Blackhawks lines may look something like the following.
Outside looking in: Smith, Hayes, Morin, Leblanc and Beach
As we know, Quenneville’s lines are never set in stone but this is an early forecast of what they may look like to start the 2013 NHL season. Marcus Kruger (RFA) is yet to be signed but very early in the off-season Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman said he will be signing Kruger to a new contract. However, we have all seen this before where Bowman has stated similar (Niemi) and the Hawks ended up losing him.
Could a team offer sheet Kruger? Possibly, the minimum that would need to be offered to Kruger would be a 105% raise of last year’s salary which I believe was 900k. That would put him close to the 2 million mark and not unreasonable for a player like Kruger. There would be no compensation for losing Kruger from the team using an offer sheet on him if that was the case.
I believe Kruger is looking for 2.2-2.5 million per season and if he does end up receiving that the Blackhawks will be completely out of cap space although they can go over the salary cap (up to 10%) until the start of the season.
Bowman could try to do something with Carcillo and Bollig who have a combines 2013-14 salary of $1,400,000 but still does not leave a ton of room, cap wise. Also, I’m not too sure what teams would have interest in either player.
As you can see in the lines I have Pirri slotted in on the 3rd line, however, with the cap situation it may be tough to add a young player in due to the cap hit. Pirri (2-way contract) has a hit of $870,000.
Kruger would need to sign a deal by December 1, 2013 or he will not be eligible to play the rest of the season.
How else could the Blackhawks make room if they want to sign Kruger?
Well, one can’t imagine any of the forwards being moved besides Carcillo or Bollig so one has to look below at the defenseman.
Outside looking in: Olsen, Clendening and Stanton
Chicago has a solid top 6 defense group but they also have a ton of money invested in them. Bowman could free up some cap space by moving Niklas Hjalmarsson or Johnny Oduya. I personally believe it would be much easier to move Hammer due to him being an unrestricted free agent next season.
The issue with moving one of our defenseman is that the Blackhawks are not as deep on the back end as they are up front. Sheldon Brookbank would step in to fill a spot but after that is a huge question for depth.
Outside looking in: Raanta
The goaltending situation is interesting. Corey Crawford is the clear number one goalie in Chicago after proving to many critics that he’s one of the best “tenders” in the game today. The back-up situation was figured at one point to be freshly signed Antti Raanta’s job but Stan Bowman went and spent 2 million on 40 year old ex- Blackhawk goaltender and Stanley Cup winner (with Tampa Bay) Nikolai Khabibulin.
Raanta initially signed the contract expecting to be in Chicago for the 2013-14 season and earlier Stan Bowman did an online interview saying he expects Raanta to fill that role. This was only a few days prior to the signing of Khabibulin. In a recent interview, Raanta was questioned about where he was going to be playing next season and has mentioned that he is prepared to go to the Blackhawks AHL affiliate, the Rockford Icehogs.
It should be an interesting and possibly shocking off-season for Chicago with the reduced salary cap but Bowman has done an extraordinary job in the past managing players and contracts.
Thanks for reading,