Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman’s focus is on how to become cap compliant before the start of this season. With the Blackhawks sitting $2.2 million above the $69 million salary cap, there’s ongoing speculation over which players (Patrick Sharp? Johnny Oduya? Nick Leddy?) Bowman could move to get under the cap ceiling.
Following this season, however, Bowman will face more salary cap issues. His re-signings of franchise players Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to matching eight-year, $84-million contracts leave the Blackhawks with over $65 million invested in 15 players for 2015-16.
Assuming the salary cap rises to $75 million next summer, there won’t be much room to retain most of their other key free agents. Oduya, Brad Richards, Michal Rozsival and Peter Regin are eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer, while Leddy, Brandon Saad, Marcus Kruger and David Rundblad become restricted free agents.
Bowman also faces the prospect of opening contract talks next summer with blueline stalwart Brent Seabrook, who at that point will be a year away from unrestricted free agency. Already there’s speculation over Seabrook’s future with the Blackhawks. The Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika, responding to a question from a Dallas Stars fan, mused over the possibility of Seabrook’s availability and of the Stars’ chance of landing him.
Though Seabrook is signed through 2015-16 at an annual cap hit of $5.8 million, Heika speculates the going rate for a blueliner of his skill level is around $8 million per season. If so, it could prove difficult for Bowman to find sufficient cap space to retain him.
Heika doesn’t expect any decision on Seabrook until next summer at the earliest. The Blackhawks will either attempt to re-sign Seabrook or peddle him for more affordable blueline depth. Heika notes the Stars have plenty of young, cheap defensemen to offer up, though he considers landing Seabrook a long shot. If Bowman decides to trade Seabrook the Stars could face a bidding war with a number of clubs for his services.
Bowman doesn’t have to worry about Seabrook’s future with the Blackhawks right now, but it will represent another challenge to keep his core intact without sacrificing roster depth.
KABERLE CALLING IT A COMEBACK?
Former Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle may attempt an NHL comeback. After spending last season playing in the Czech Republic, Kaberle told The National Post’s Michael Traikos he has a training-camp tryout offer on the table. He adds it’s not with an Ontario-based team, which rules out the Leafs and Ottawa Senators.
After spending 13 years with the Leafs, Kaberle spent three short, disappointing stints with the Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadiens. It’s a good bet those clubs aren’t interested in bringing him back.
The Detroit Red Wings are seeking an experienced top-four defenseman, but Kaberle’s a left-handed shot and the Wings need a right-handed blueliner. Forget about the Dallas Stars, as their three defense pairings all shoot left.
One possibility is the New York Islanders. 38-year-old Lubomir Visnovsky is their most experienced blueliner, while most of their remaining defense corps is 25 or younger.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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