Welcome to Cap Hell?

Jeff Angus



(They say a picture is worth a thousand words… but to Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz, the above one is worth about 1.3 million)


Congratulations on winning the 2010 Stanley Cup, Chicago. Now, welcome to cap hell! The Blackhawks have almost $58 million committed to 14 players for 2010-11. The current salary cap ($56.8 million) is expected to rise by $2 million this summer, but that still leaves GM Stan Bowman approximately $1 million to sign eight players.


On the surface, it appears like Chicago might be completely screwed for 2010-11 and beyond. Their core (Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa) is locked up to long-term deals aside from Seabrook, and all five will be wearing Blackhawk sweaters for a long time. However, their impressive depth is in jeopardy this summer. Can Chicago find a way to keep this team together? Probably not, but their situation may not be as bad as it has been made out to be…


Keep in mind that I am making a number of assumptions with my off-season plan for Chicago.

If Stan Bowman follows this simple five-step process, he should expect another deep playoff run in the spring of 2011. It was reported today that Jonathan Toews received a $1.3 million bonus for winning the Conn Smythe, and that bonus will count against the 2010-11 cap for Chicago. That complicates things a bit more.


1. Bury/trade Cristobal Huet.


This is the most obvious and logical move for Chicago to make. A $5.6 million goalie riding the bus in the AHL may keep Rocky Wirtz awake at night, but he will have the comfort and protection of at least one Stanley Cup ring beside him. Huet has two years left on his current deal, and is virtually untradeable. Chicago could package him up with some great players/picks/prospects in a salary dump move if they are unwilling to bite the bullet and demote him.


Fantasy impact: Corey Crawford should get the promotion to back up Antti Niemi in 2010-11. Crawford had the inside track at the back up position last fall behind Huet, but he lost out to Niemi in training camp. Chicago may also dip into the free agent market for a more experienced depth goalie, but a Crawford/Niemi tandem will be cheap and should be effective. Niemi probably won't start more than 55 or 60 games, so Crawford will have some fantasy value.


2. Trade Kris Versteeg.


Versteeg is a fantastic second line scoring winger. He is crafty, fast, and c