Blackhawks Confidential

Guess the Blackhawks playing their farewell seasons in Chicago due to salary cap space

buff.jpgOK, time for our Blackhawks Confidential contest, which wins an all-expenses free trip on Amtrak to a vodka-powered bar not far from me for an all-day, all-night goofoff, where we can be sporting and play liar's poker to determine who buys the next drink.

As any knowledgeable barstool jockey in two countries (I still have unpaid tabs in Canada) will tell you, I suck at liar's poker. So it may turn into a day's free ride to alcoholics unanimous. Reformed drinkers are also eligible, since I have always loved a cheap date.

If the Blackhawks are now pledged to pay 15 players $60.609 million next season in salary cap commitments and the current salary cap of $56.9 million is expected to stay right there or perhaps be lowered, who gets the ax from that group of 15?

List your top four in order of their approaching exit from Chicago. The season might yet be young, but it's getting old in a hurry for some Blackhawks who won't live to see another season in Chicago.

You can automatically eliminate the top six moneymakers from being odd men out. Brian Campbell ($7.13 million) and Cristobal Huet ($5.625 million), no matter how they finish the season, aren't financially conducive for trade talks now or ever. Teams aren't that crazy to be weighed down by their contracts.

Getting rid of both would solve almost all the money problems for next year. But they have both played well enough this season to survive another season, even if they can never play well enough to match those overpaid salaries.

Newly-signed Jonathan Toews ($6.3 million), Patrick Kane ($6.3 million) and Duncan Keith ($5.54 million) are major building blocks for the foundation. Marian Hossa ($5.233 million) is the team's big free agent superstar signing for the foreseeable future.

That narrows the field of potential trade baiters to nine. From this group, you have to throw out defenseman Brent Seabrook ($3.5 million), who isn't going anywhere. You also can take Troy Brouwer ($1 million) out of the trade equation.

For what he accomplishes, Brouwer is the best bargain on the roster.

That leaves seven millionaires with tousled heads leaning toward the bloody chopping block. I'll list them in order of their financial burdens to the team: Patrick Sharp ($3.9 million), Dave Bolland ($3.375 million), Cam Barker ($3.083), Kris Versteeg ($3.083), Dustin Byfuglien ($3), Brent Sopel ($2.33) and Tomas Kopecky ($1.2 million).

OK, here's the crux of the contest. As December dawns, before we know how well any of the seven will play from here and whether a championship is in the cards, who are the most likely candidates not to be Blackhawks come next season?

You need some extra money in the coffers, of course, if you want to bring back restricted free agents such as Ben Eager or Andrew Ladd, and what about unrestricted free agents John Madden and Adam Burish? Combine their four salaries from 2009-10 and it adds up to around $6 million.

That's on top of the $60.609 committed. So we take a leap to around $66.6 million. Madden's current salary of $2.750 million looks untenable for next year, but he has been so good so far, I have to believe the Hawks will try to bring him back. But at what cost?

So if you are going to pay Madden, Burish, Ladd and Eager (or their replacements) $5-6 million total, that means you have to shed roughly $10 million from the committed $60.609 and have enough room for that $5-$6 million to fill out the roster.

How do you cut back $10 million? Right now, long before the season ends, you have to judge from top to bottom the most likely rejects.

Here's my uneducated guesses to go:

1. Sopel, $2.33 million

2. Barker $3.375 million

3. Byfuglien $3 million

4. Versteeg $3.083 million.

That saves $11.788 million and leaves you short two defensemen and two wings that need to be replaced. How can you do that: add four more players to be their replacements and not pay them much?

The Hawks will have to go into their system next season and plug in some cheap talent.

Bolland will be coming off back surgery that sidelined him as much as four months this season and the Hawks need him as a second-line center. He stays. Tomas Kopecky is beside the point, earning $1.2 million, and won't be very marketable, anyway.

Maybe you can deal Kopecky to help pay the four cheapies replacing Sopel, Barker, Byfuglien and Versteeg. Every penny counts.

While Sharp should go in the right deal, because he would probably be the most attractive Hawk to other clubs, I have decided to gamble that the Hawks will hold onto Sharp. In my estimation, which is worth a whole lot less than Kopecky (and that's a low number), this club will try to hold onto his versatility and dump the aforementioned four.

Barker and Versteeg have upsides that should intrigue other clubs. Byfuglien can be sold arguing that he is a physical force on a lot of nights. Sopel, well, he's having a solid season and helping his value as a shot blocker, even if he is way overpaid.

Time for all of you out there to prove me wrong. How do you get rid of $10-$12 million?

I can offer no stronger incentive than a day and night of boozing when I make even less sense than I do on this blog. Now, who wouldn't want to be part of that?

Plus, I have some pretty good behind-the-scenes Blackhawks, Bears, White Sox, Cubs and De Paul stories to share. Alas, unlike Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa didn't leave behind any suspect needles that might result in me testifying before Congress one day.

However, I will even extend an invite to Chicago Now colleague Sarah Spain to put on her teeny-weeny, itsy-bitsy bikini and take a picture with the lucky winner. What more could anyone ask than an original, autographed map of Spain and all its mountainous regions.

Get your ax and start whacking while I brush up on my liar's poker.

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20 Comments

Dave Morris said:

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Hey Mike, how come no picture of Sarah to 'incentivize' us?

Mike Kiley said:

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Go to No Spain, No Gain and troll the pics.

Dave Morris said:

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Doctor Kiley, following your recommendation, and in the interests of continually expanding my knowledge, I have examined Ms. Spain's portfolio.

I say sign her to a long-term deal.

Cap hit be damned.

IHF said:

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So you know Spain personally?

How did you get her to agree to such a setup?

You must be a bigger deal then I originally assumed.

Mike Kiley said:

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I do not know Ms. Spain and I am only joking about the persona she conveys on No Spain, No Gain. Unless we have all have a sense of humor, I guess I can be perceived as being a sexist asshole. While that is not my intent, I am trying to be an asshole all by myself. So to steal from Meatloaf, one out of two ain't bad.

SpawnOfDitka said:

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I'll bite. To quote Three Dog Night(sort of)..."I've never been to Spain, but I'd really like to go there". I see Sharpie, Versteeg, Buff, and Barker sacrificed for the cap. Sharp and Versteeg for their skills and upsides, Buff for his size and potential, and Barker for his power play headmanning. Sopel and Kopecky are not going to draw flies. And you're right...the Hawks will have to plug the holes with some farm animals, just like the Wings are doing this year. Got any good Tony Amonte stories???

Mike Kiley said:

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Amonte just missed me by inches. Lucky for him. How about some Chelios stories? Or should we do Eddie? And really I'm one the few people around still harboring some Sergei Krivokrasov stories. Back when Russian Blackhawks were novelties.

SpawnOfDitka said:

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In my dreams, I see Brian Campbell as a Toronto Maple Leaf.

Dave Morris said:

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@SpawnOfDitka> In Brian Burke's dreams, he sees Brian Campbell as a Maple Leaf.

;-)

SpawnOfDitka said:

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Let's get er done!!!!

Jerry Kayne said:

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I feel the same way today that I felt when Sharpie signed his last contract, he's a core player. I know Mike feels the same way by the banner at the top of this blog!

If you want I can Photoshop Sarah in the banner too?

Jerry Kayne said:

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Forgot ... my choices for the axe are the same as Mike's as you can guess by my previous comments. Trade Barker, Byfuglien, Versteeg, & Sopel. I hope I win a night under the town.

And I can't believe no one mentioned Stan Bowman's puppet-like introduction (remember Pat Paulsen anyone") and the McD script of thanking the season ticket holders. And again, where was the "thanks to Dale Talon for drafting me!"

Mike Kiley said:

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Robotic Blackhawks may be good for Christmas gifts for kids, but McPhony will ruin the team by trying to make them follow his old, old, old, old script. Be yourselves, guys. Listen to Marty Havlat just this once.

Xmedic said:

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Emotionally, I so want Sharpie to stay, Steeger too. That being said the rest of the bunch is expendable, but not necessarily sellable... No one wants Sopel at that price, but Barker may benifit from a "change of scenery" and teams would take that one for the potential he has (had?) So I'm goin' with Barker, Buff, Kopecky, as for sure cast offs for draft picks if nothing better. Madden isn't getting resigned, so there's a bunch, and I'd be surprised if Ladd gets a new contract. I'd also say there's no reason to keep Brouwer. Now, I didn't carry all the 1s, but that should be plenty of space. And if any of this get's me next to Spain in a bikini, than there's no need to drink with you!

Mike Kiley said:

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Give up a day with me for a night with Spain. I'll have to go back and read the contest rules, but I think you're screwed. I'm reading your mind, right?

Dave Morris said:

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Gentlemen (and Ladies, should any be present), Dr. Kiley's diagnosis assumes that Brian Campbell is a Hawk for the duration.

However, he omits to mention the lust of Mr. Burke for Soupy--so astutely noted by SpawnOfDitka.

Doctor Kiley also fails to cite the current opportunism of one Donald Waddell, a previous suitor for The Souper, who has buckets of ducats under the cap and a promise to build a contender in Atlanta.

Mad Mike also inexplicably snubs the greenbacks made available to Garth Snow, to whom Charles Wang has given the green light.

Should any of the above GMs propose to pony up for Campbell, StanBow will no doubt invite them to a very, very long lunch.

As Joe Mantegna once said, "Things change".

SpawnOfDitka said:

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Mr Morris...you have a future at the Make a Wish foundation!

Forklift said:

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Campbell can be moved - but the Hawks still have to take back $7MM/year in contracts (although it can be spread across multiple players, like the Sharks sent to Ottawa for Heatley). That could go a long way toward not only cap relief, but also clearing a spot for Shawn Lalonde for next season.
Byfuglien is first out the door though - I don't expect to see him finish this season in Chicago.
Cam Barker can be a Top 4 defenseman in most places, but Chicago isn't one of those places.
Eager won't be back next year, but he makes "only" a little over a million, so there's not much cap relief there.

I'll say Barker, Byfuglien, Sharp (highest trade value)and Sopel.

Lucky for you, I'm a club soda drinker.

SouthSideHawkMan said:

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Wow would I love to see Campbell as a Toronto Maple Leaf. Sometimes I don't even realize he's on the ice his play is so poor. What was Tallon thinking? Byfuglien is another one, some players take shifts off Buff takes weeks or months off. Another bad signing. Here is my take a hike list

1-Campbell
2-Byfuglien
3-Sopel
4-Kopecky
5-Barker

Troy Brouwer has really steped his game up, I'd like to see more of him on the ice. I think I'm also one of the few Hawks fans that would like to see more Jack Skille, but I know thats a pipe dream with the Hawks cap

iplagitr said:

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To me, Versteeg is the only player in the discussion who has "stand out" abilities. They should hang onto him. He's young and will only improve too. Once he learns to make the smart play over the fancy play, he could truly be one of the better playmakers in the league. I would hate to see him get traded and then become a great player for another team.

The other guys are good, but replaceable. Sharp is a very good player and strong competitor, but as he has shown, he can go cold. I don't think his best years are ahead of him either. It's nice to have Buff on a line with the small guys, but there are plenty of big guys to take his place.

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