Yesterday the Blackhawks put Bryan Bickell on waivers, which he cleared, meaning the team can assign him to Rockford if they wish. The salary cap tracking website General Fanager reported that the Hawks would gain $950,000 in cap space by assigning him to Rockford, and the Hawks are currently about $200,000 over the cap, and must be compliant by opening night. But it seems the Hawks’ attempt to trade him or putting him on waivers so they can send him down is a decision driven by his play and less so by cap considerations.
Bryan Bickell’s performance in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs was incredible. After scoring 9 goals in the 48 game season, he went on to score 9 more in 23 playoff games, including the tremendous tying goal in game 6 vs. Boston. While GM Stan Bowman was forced to let go players such as Victor Stalberg, Michael Frolik, and Ray Emery, one player he locked up was Bickell, signing the then 27 year old to a 4-year $16 million deal that runs for two more seasons.
After that breakout 2013 playoff performance, he scored another combined 18 goals in the 79 regular season and playoff games in 2013-14. By that measure, he hasn’t been all that bad. But then came 2014-15, and Bickell was lost. He put up 14 goals and 19 assists in 98 combined games, with no goals and just 5 assists in the playoffs, despite getting almost 15 minutes of ice time per game.
Bickell is owed $8 million over the next two years. The Hawks say the vertigo Bickell encountered last spring is gone. But his health and his play may make him too risky for another team to take him on, and the Hawks putting him on waivers doesn’t exactly signal a lot of confidence that the Hawks expect him to return to form. Clearing waivers means the Hawks literally could not give him away.
Sending him down might just be a way to get cap compliant and give him a chance to prove himself worthy of playing in the NHL. It looks likely the Hawks will be stuck with a large part of Bickell’s salary on the cap payroll, so it’s a big problem if they can’t move him and can’t get production out of him. But if he pulls it together and becomes a valuable contributor again, he could end up being a huge factor in whether the Hawks can make a serious run at repeating as champions.