Rumor Roundup: Blackhawks must make moves to get under salary cap ceiling

Lyle Richardson
Patrick Sharp (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
Patrick Sharp (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

Over a month has passed since the Chicago Blackhawks’ signing of center Brad Richards pushed them above the $69 million salary cap by more than $2.2 million. While the Blackhawks have until the start of the season in October to become cap compliant, speculation persists over what GM Stan Bowman will do to address this.

Earlier this summer there was talk of the Blackhawks trading winger Patrick Sharp, who has three seasons remaining on his contract at an annual cap hit of $5.9 million. Though Sharp’s agent vehemently denied the rumors, NBC Sports’ Mike Halford believes Sharp could have high trade value. The 32-year-old forward is a proven goalscorer and is coming off a career-high 78-point season.

Halford also noted moving Sharp would free up additional cap space for next season. The Blackhawks currently have over $65 million invested in 15 players for 2015-16. That won’t leave much room for Bowman to re-sign restricted free agents Brandon Saad, Marcus Kruger and Nick Leddy. Trading Sharp would address that problem, though it comes with the risk of weakening the Blackhawks’ offense this season.

Bowman could instead opt for a short-term solution. In a recent live chat with his readers, ESPN.com’s Craig Custance believes the Blackhawks GM prefers moving winger Kris Versteeg, who was reacquired from the Florida Panthers early last season. Though the Blackhawks carry only $2.2 million of Versteeg’s $4.4 million annual cap hit, the 28-year-old winger’s performance has declined since suffering a serious knee injury in March 2013. Custance believes moving Versteeg won’t be easy.

Custance also suggests Leddy as a trade option, pointing out it’ll cost more than his current $2.7-million cap hit ($3.4 million in actual salary) to re-sign. Another could be defenseman Johnny Oduya ($3.375-million cap hit), though like Sharp he has a modified no-trade clause.

Remaining veterans available

It’s also been more than a month since this summer’s NHL unrestricted free agent market opened July 1. A number of players remain available, including Martin Brodeur, Daniel Alfredsson, Ray Whitney, Ed Jovanovski, Sami Salo, Saku Koivu, Todd Bertuzzi and Tomas Vokoun.

If this were 2004, those players would’ve been snapped up on opening day. Alas, in 2014, their best days are all behind them. All of them made SI.com’s Allan Muir’s recent list of notable free agents who may have played their final NHL games. The list also includes goaltender Tim Thomas, defensemen Joe Corvo and Francis Bouillon, as well as forwards Ryan Malone, Devin Setoguchi and Scott Gomez.

Some on this list, however, could still end up with NHL clubs this season. Brodeur’s agent recently said his client is prepared to wait through the start of the season if necessary to find the right fit. Alfredsson is expected to decide in the coming weeks on returning with the Red Wings or retirement.

RDS.ca reports the Montreal Canadiens opened contract talks with Bouillon following their recent re-signing of superstar P.K. Subban. Setoguchi is only 27 and could attract interest from clubs in need of depth at right wing.