Now that the NHL has finally announced that the salary cap ceiling is going to be $81.5 million, it sets the stage for what general manager Stan Bowman is going to do. With the NHL draft ending, it’s time for teams to start looking at the unrestricted free agents to possibly add to their teams.
Chicago has salary cap space for the first time in what seems like forever, and it’s all but guaranteed that they are going to spend quite a bit of it. According to Cap Friendly, they have just short of $16.5 million. That number is going to go down, as Bowman already confirmed they were going to sign Brenden Perlini and newly acquired John Quenneville.
Those two contracts are not going to break the bank though. If anything, they should combine for anywhere between $2 million and $3 million. Being a little bold, let’s say they both agree to deals that total $2.5 million. That still leaves Dylan Sikura and Gustav Forsling to be signed. However, Sikura shouldn’t cost any more than $1 million, and Forsling shouldn’t be more than $1.5 million. Altogether, that gives Chicago approximately $11.5 million in cap space, maybe a little more or less depending on other contracts.
That leaves them more than enough money to sign some needed forward depth from the list of free agents. Some names that have been tossed around include Gustav Nyquist, Ryan Dzingel, Corey Perry and even Joe Pavelski. The most likely names to be added from that list are Nyquist and Dzingel. So what could their contracts look like?
Starting with Nyquist, he is coming off a career high 60 points while splitting time between Detroit and San Jose. As a player, Nyqust was more known for his defensive prowess, which is something Chicago drastically needs. He can play anywhere in the top-9, giving the Hawks some much-needed versatility and scoring depth.
His last contract was a four year, $19 million deal, which came out to $4.75 million AAV. Based on the fact that he is coming off a career year, but didn’t score more than 48 points during his other three years, Nyquist is probably going to command somewhere between $5 million and $6 million AAV. That’s a decent chunk of change, but a good deal for the Blackhawks would be a three-year, $16 million contract for an AAV of $5.33 million.
As for Dzingel, he would be another top-9 option for the Blackhawks, albeit on a less expensive contract. Add in the fact that he is from Wheaton, IL and grew up a Chicago fan, it could drop his AAV a little bit. It would be worth it as well, considering that, like Nyquist, he’s a good defensive forward. He scored 56 points last season, splitting time between the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets.
He has a good chance to score between 40-55 points per year, given a decent surrounding cast. His last contract was a two year, $3.6 million contract for a $1.8 million AAV. He’s not going to sign for that low again, but he could be had for anywhere between $3 million and $4.5 million AAV. I can see Chicago giving him a four-year, $15 million contract for an AAV of $3.75 million.
Unfortunately, the free agent defense pool is nothing to really consider, as the Blackhawks are probably going to give some of their younger defensive prospects a chance. It’s either that, or they fix it through trade. The thing that makes this trickier is the fact that Kevin Hayes just signed a seven year, $50 million extension, for an AAV of $7.14 million per year, which will drive up the other contracts.
While Chicago wants to spend money, they also have to keep in mind that they have some players to extend, and they’re going to be costly. Both Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat are entering the final year of their entry-level contracts, and both are due for some significant raises. If Chicago were to go all out on both of these players, it would be wise to trade out some of their more expensive contracts, like Brandon Saad and Artem Anisimov.
Make no mistake, July 1 is going to be an interesting time for the Blackhawks and Bowman. Let the games begin!