Blackhawks Confidential

Does Bowman have to make Blackhawks' salary-cap trade in four months?

sharp-montreal.jpgThere may be just 52 shopping days until Christmas after today, but more importantly for the Blackhawks just four months now stands between them and the NHL trading deadline.

Already, there has been speculation about the team being forced at that time to deal away one or more players who are significant factors in their lineup to assure they have salary cap breathing room immediately after the season to sign restricted free agents Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith and avoid the dreaded offer sheets that could drag take them away like pirates in the night to other ports of call.

Although there's another argument that offer sheets are made for inflationary times, not for recessions (or just emerging out of recession), and bidders could be an imaginary threat out there, no more than financial phantoms. Just imagining losing Kane, Toews or Keith is damn frightening, however, so much so the boogeyman wins this one.

Can the Hawks really afford to part with either Patrick Sharp or Kris Versteeg by early March, late in what could be a championship run? The Toronto Sun's Bruce Garrioch recently pointed to them, along with defenseman Brian Campbell, as possible trade candidates in four months.

Of course, no one is going to believe the Hawks can unload Campbell's unwieldly contract. It doesn't even expire until 2015-16 and what crazy club out there is searching for a way to be locked down to paying Campbell $7,142,875 a year?

If Garrioch can be believed, even the Ottawa Senators rejected Campbell and his onerous cash for clunkers deal when the Hawks offered him in trade for Dany Heatley last summer. Ottawa didn't want to jump from the frying pan into the fire by having Campbell weigh on their finances.

"A league executive speculated the Blackhawks are going to either have to move centre Sharp or winger Versteeg if they want to retain Kane, Toews and Keith,'' Garrioch recently wrote. "So (Stan) Bowman's mandate could be to win the Cup, but to do it without at least one of Campbell, Sharp or Versteeg."

Does that sound realistic to you?

Based on how Sharp and Versteeg have played so far, that seems absurd at face value. You can ill afford to lose either one.

But will right winger Marian Hossa make such a difference when he debuts later this month in the lineup to eventually make us see that differently in four months? Hossa needs offensive support and can't do it alone.

The winger pair in the trade-deadline spotlight presently are the team's second and third leading scorers in back of Kane's 12 points. Sharp has 6 goals, 5 assists and Versteeg 3 goals, 6 assists.

Sharp is earning $4 million this year and Versteeg $3.066 million. But if they continue to be as critical to the Hawks as they are now, I can't see how Bowman can pull off a trade in four months that makes the Hawks stronger for the 2010 playoffs and also eases his cap woes for the future.

I suppose it's possible, but I think it would be a mistake to trade away Versteeg. He had his doubters after being a Calder Trophy finalist last season for his impressive rookie performance. Some predicted a sophomore collapse. They have been wrong.

Versteeg has shut up those doubters. His on-ice energy has been captivating and a positive influence on the entire team. Versteeg has been one of the most aggressive and essential Hawks in the opening weeks.

Do you throw potential away for cap room? I don't think so.

It seems the consensus favorite around the internet to get traded out of Chicago in March has become defenseman Cam Barker. He has 8 points so far with 3 goals, 5 assists, which has him one point ahead of Campbell.

Barker's salary is just over $3 million. Anybody making $3 million or more technically could be on the hook at the trade deadline?

That means you would have to throw center Dave Bolland and winger Dustin Byfuglien's names into the trade hopper as well as Sharp, Versteeg and Campbell. I'm going to leave goalie Cristobal Huet's name out of this discussion, assuming the Hawks won't want to trade him come March if he's playing well and couldn't trade him then if he isn't playing well.

Garrioch also claimed that Bowman inquired with Montreal about the availability of goalie Jaroslav Halak, but added that Canadiens GM Bob Gainey needs to see Carey Price straighten out first before he would entertain dealing Halak.

Since most trade speculation never happens, we are probably just killing time waiting for the Hawks to resume games later this week.

But it's rather jarring to think of the present club without Sharp or Versteeg in four months.

The Hawks have a cap problem and there has to be a solution. How long can Bowman go without addressing it, and will he really need to trade a key element or two of his team before the playoffs when that happens?

No one knows where we'll be in four months. But I can't believe the Hawks will be trading Sharp or Versteeg.

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8 Comments

FearlessFreep said:

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You brought up two players that I think would hurt less to trade if it comes to that - Barker and Byfuglien. While I like Barker's shot on the point, he is a defensive liability and the Hawks already own an expensive one of those on the point. Byfuglien would be a tougher pill to swallow only because he provides a bit more grit and physical presence, something the Hawks do not have in depth with Eager just coming back and Burish out. Could trading those two players provide enough cap room to sign Kaner, Toews and Dunk?

Mike Kiley said:

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If Toews, Kane and Keith are reasoable, the thinking is $5 million apiece a year. If they are unreasonable (or realistic, as the case may be), $6-$7 million doesn't sound out of bounds for a championship team they likely anchored. Bowman needs Bernie Madoff's advice.

Mark Giangreco Roman Wrestler said:

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Barker is expendable at 3 mil. He doesn't get top 4 minutes and a second power play QB is a luxury.

If Atlanta picks up the phone, you tell them Barker, one of Versteeg/Byfuglien/Sharp and a draft pick for Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk has an expiring 6.4 million cap hit at the end of this year. I like Versteeg, Byfuglien, and Sharp, but I'm not willing to lose any of the Big 3 for them. In addition, Kovalchuk is a superstar that would give the Hawks an insane collection of top 6 forwards for their run to the Cup.

Not to be forgotten, a decision does not have to be made by the trade deadline. Hawks have an impressive collection of young forwards with reasonable contracts to trade in the offseason. They can wait it out and make a decision after seeing another year of play from all these guys.

Dave Morris said:

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Uncle Mike, you're right. Why don't people just listen to you, instead of writing whatever comes into their heads?

Take this guy Garrioch. He really has nothing to do all day except write about the Senators. Like I said. He has nothing to do all day.

So he has to look for something to fill his column.

So he says, "I know. I'll write for the zillionth time how the Hawks HAVE TO TRADE SOMEBODY ***NOW*** TO AVERT THEIR CAP CRISIS."

Fiddlesticks.

StanBow can wait until after the playoffs. If the Hawks do as well as everybody thinks they will, there will be teams lined up to do business.

Stan knows that.

And Uncle Mike, you know that better than any of us.

Mike Kiley said:

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Morris--I've needed an agent for 60 years and now you come along too late. All I can offer is a pallbearer position. But the hours are good.

VegasHawksFan said:

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Any trade talk before the end of December or a full month of Hossa seems like a waste of time. We know who the Hawks are already committed to and who they want to commit to next year. I think all other players will be valued based on how well they fit with that core. Buff has some fabulous attributes, but seems to forever need to have someone motivate him. Steeg, at this time, seems more likely to stay that Sharp, but again, until we see how the team plays with Toews, Kane and Hossa in the mix, this seems like an empty discussion.

Mike Kiley said:

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Not so empty when you consider Bowman has to start laying groundwork for a deal weeks out. Player evaluations have to give the GM a tendency right now to think about what he might do when he can pull the trigger. But, as you say, things change in four months and trades are always based on how the troops on the ground are faring at that moment. It doesn't mean Bowman isn't dreaming and scheming right now.

pilote3 said:

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Just asking but how good is Sharp without Kane?Imo Buff and or Barker expendable.Versteeg NO WAY

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