The Chicago Blackhawks were widely known as a team around the NHL that needed to clear cap space heading into the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and free agency on July 1. With that in mind, the team shuffled millions of dollars in contracts and gave themselves an opportunity to make moves both now and in a couple years.
First, the Blackhawks cleared Marian Hossa's $5.275 million per year cap off the books by moving him to long-term injured reserve (LTR). An allergy concern will see Hossa sit out the entire 2017-18 regular season. Second, the organization lost Trevor van Riemsdyk to the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft. While van Riemsdyk's $825k salary was not a cap concern this season, he was due for a raise and became a player that Chicago had to live with losing. Then, in what many thought would be one of the last deals the Blackhawks would do on Friday, they traded defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to Arizona, freeing up $4.1 million.
Then, proving everyone wrong, in a blockbuster move, Chicago moved dynamic forward Artemi Panarin to the Columbus Blue Jackets for former Blackhawk Brandon Saad. While both players make $6 million per season, Panarin was up for a contract extension in two seasons and it was a virtual lock that he'd command $7 million to $8 million on a deal that Chicago couldn't afford. Chicago wanted to add grit and found security in knowing they'd have Saad on a deal for more seasons at that $6 million hit.
Every one of these moves show both a need to trade money off the roster and general manager Stan Bowman's willingness to shake up the team after a disappointing end to their 2016-17 season. Bowman promised that there would be change and the trade-happy GM was not speaking lip-service. No team has made changes as quickly and emphatically as the Chicago Blackhawks have.
Bowman was concerned that the Blackhawks were too easily pushed around in the postseason. The Nashville Predators swept the Hawks in their opening playoff series and overall the Blackhawks felt they were skilled, but not gritty. Chicago was embarrassed and had no intention of repeating that result.
These moves also show that the team may not be done making moves. Rumors were swirling that the Hawks had their eyes on forward T.J. Oshie. However, Oshie re-signed in Washington for eight years and $46 million. Bowman will need to look for another option to replace Hossa's production.
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