This weekend featured games from both conference final and I don’t have much to say for either series, other than told you so!
It’s not like I could talk about Ryan Bayda’s crosscheck to Kris Letang at the end of game 2 being the same as Milan Lucic’s on Max Lapierre with vastly different consequences. Or that the NHL refs are starting to call games like IIHF refs do (impact of the hit equals a penalty, regardless of if the hit was clean or not).
Instead, let’s talk about salary caps and their subsequent victims. I know, salary caps are a major yawn for everyone who doesn’t apsire to be a chartered accountant, but it’s about to seriously affect today’s up-and-coming teams. Namely the Chicago Blackhawks.
I should preface this article by stating my support of salary caps in pro sports – the NHL especially. Clearly there are more pros than cons, however, often overlooked is the impact salary caps will have on teams from a talent development, drafting and player value perspective.
Salary caps are quite the catch-22: you work hard (or suck hard) for your top draft picks to rebuild after terrible seasons and will end up being defined by the talent you weren’t able to retain. Unfortunately, I believe the Chicago Blackhawks will be one of the cap’s biggest victims in the years to come.
After years of misery, the Hawks are back and stronger than ever. The team’s success on and off the ice has been well documented and is probably hockey’s best story over the last 15 months. Here’s where it get’s interesting: after the 2009-2010 season, the Hawks must resign Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Andrew Ladd, Cam Barker, Duncan Keith and others. Given the levels of talent and recent successes, all these players are due for significant raises, too. Early reports are suggestion Kane and Toews alone could seek between $5 Million-$6 Million per season each.
After this season, Kris Versteeg is a restricted free agent and Nikolai Khabibulin and Martin Havlat will be unrestricted free agents. And so the problem begins. I’ve long stated the salary cap shortens team’s window to win a Stanley Cup to 2-3 seasons at max and we’re about to see this with Chicago. Next year has to be their year!
It might shock you to say between now and the 2010-2011 season, the Hawks already have approximately $23 Million committed to the following players: Patrick Sharp, Dustin Bufyglien, Brian Campbell, Cristobal Huet and Brent Seabrook. Assuming the salary cap sits around the $50 Million mark (and it might not; it could be lower), you have $25 Million (give or take) to resign Toews, Kane, Barker, Keith and if you so choose, Havlat, Versteeg and Khabibulin.
While the Hawks have a few blue chip prospects in their development pipeline, you can see their diligence in developing talent and excellent scouting will end up hurting them in years to come. Kane and Toews are the cornerstone pieces here, but the Hawks have a number of unhearlded and underrated role players who’ve thrived under the Joel Quenneville’s system and the Hawks simply won’t be able to keep everyone. Some tough decisions are coming up for the Hawks.
Of course, similar arguments could be made with the Washington Capitals, too. We’ve seen something similar in Ottawa with the depth the Senators have lost over the year’s. Hopefully the talent pool in your respective systems doesn’t dry up too badly or rebuilding could come sooner than desired.
Stay classy, Chicago Blackhawks.