Now that the dust has settled on Marian Hossa’s not-so-surprising announcement yesterday that he is done playing, the Blackhawks have several options ahead of them regarding his contract. This could actually play a huge role for the upcoming free agent market, especially if it’s regarding acquiring some defensemen.
The way it stands now, the Blackhawks have two different avenues they can pursue, depending on other factors of course. The first is to keep Hossa’s contract, which would be a $5.25 million cap hit. The second is to trade him. Some of you might be wondering: why they would trade a player who is done playing?
The answer is due to the salary cap/floor that the National Hockey League has. Blackhawks fans are all too familiar with the salary cap, aka the maximum amount of salary a team can spend on a roster. However, there is also something called the salary floor.
It’s the minimum amount of money a team can spend on a roster for the upcoming season. For the 2017-18 season, the NHL set their salary cap at $75 million and the floor was $55.4 million. The league has already said that the salary cap would be raising to somewhere between $78 million and $82 million. As for the salary floor, it hasn’t been decided, but from the 2016-17 season, it rose a mere $1.4 million. Right now, it is unknown how much the salary floor will be raised for the upcoming season.
There are several teams that are going to need to spend money just to reach the salary floor, but that could change depending on free agency and if they assign extensions to other players. Still, it’s happened in the past, and it’s made even better considering Hossa’s actual salary is a little over $1 million, so it’s not like it’s breaking the bank.
The other issue is that a team would have to willingly accept Hossa’s contract, and they’re not going to do that unless they have something else thrown in there. That could mean draft picks, a prospect, or even another NHL player. Will Chicago be willing to part with their second first-rounder? Whatever the case is, it would have to be enough to entice a team to do so.
How does this affect the Blackhawks? According to CapFriendly, the Blackhawks have a little over $6 million in cap space, and that’s not including the expected increase. With the NHL saying the cap is going to be between $78 million and $82 million, they could potentially have anywhere from $9 million to $13 million to spend. For this article’s sake, let’s assume the cap goes to $80 million, which would leave the team with $11 million to spend.
The Blackhawks could potentially find a trade partner and trade away Hossa’s contract to a team trying to hit the salary floor, and that would take his cap hit off the books for Chicago. If that happens, they could potentially have around $16 million in cap space to work with. A Blackhawks team that has that much cap space? Yes please!
There is something to be mindful of however, as the team still needs to figure out some contract extensions for a couple players, mainly Vinnie Hinostroza, John Hayden and Anthony Duclair. In addition, they’re going to want to work out extensions for players like Nick Schmaltz and Alex DeBrincat, who are still in their entry-level contracts, but will be due for a pay raise starting next offseason. It’s a little too early to see what those players will be demanding, but they’re gonna be making millions more.
Say Chicago does find a trade partner for Hossa’s contract. That would give them millions to spend this offseason. This could mean that Chicago could be in play for the big free agent defenseman on the market, John Carlson. He’s expected to command, at the least, $7 million. It would be tight, but Chicago could possibly work that out. On the other side, Chicago could be in play for a trade of a big defenseman from other teams.
The biggest name that sticks out is Erik Karlsson, whom many insiders say will be moved this offseason. However, he is set to be a free agent following next season, and will command a salary cap hit of $10 million. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus said that there were rumors that Jacob Trouba wants to play in the United States, and is a restricted free-agent of the Winnipeg Jets. It’s possible Chicago could create an offer sheet for him, but the likelihood of that happening is slim to none. Still, it’s something to watch for, considering Trouba is a 24-year-old defensemen with immense upside.
The bottom line is that there is still a waiting game to be played, especially in regards to how Chicago will approach this offseason. The number one priority is defense, and if the Blackhawks can manage to get one or two defensemen, they will return to the playoffs. That would be greatly benefitted by moving Hossa’s contract, but that won’t come easily.
The bottom line is that Hossa’s announcement possibly made it easier for Chicago to improve their team drastically. They could be looking at nearly $16 million in cap space to sign free agent defensemen, extend some of their younger players, and possibly go after some elite players from other teams that will be trade eligible. They have the money, and you can bet Stan Bowman is going to spend it. It’s just a matter of time.