Navigating the Salary Cap is probably one of the more important tasks for any general manager to have. Teams that can avert total cap chaos by walking the tightrope of inking players to deals that match their value (or compensate for future value without breaking the bank) remain successful. Those that don’t see struggles and front office changes.
PHR will look at every NHL team and give a thorough look at their cap situation heading into the 2018-19 season. This will focus more on those players who are integral parts of the roster versus those who may find themselves shuttling between the AHL and NHL. All cap figures are courtesy of CapFriendly.
Current Cap Hit: $74,008,045 (under the $79.5MM Upper Limit)
F Nick Schmaltz (one year, $925K)
F Dylan Sikura (one year, $925K)
F Dominik Kahun (two years, $925K)
F David Kampf (one year, $925K)
F Victor Ejdsell (one year, $834K)
F Alex DeBrincat (two years, $778K)
The team has a number of quality youngsters who will eventually cost them a good deal of money. However, the team has high expectations for Schmaltz, who had a breakout season and was one of the few bright spots in Chicago during a dismal season. Schmaltz, in his second year, scored 21 goals and added 52 points and is expected to be the team’s No. 2 center for a number of years in the future. The only key issue that Schmaltz continues to work on is his struggles in the face-off circle as he had just a 40.1 percent faceoff winning percentage last year, which is horrible.
The team’s other major bright spot was the play of DeBrincat. The 20-year-old made the team and then tallied 28 goals in his rookie campaign and looks to be another solid scorer for Chicago to work with in the top-six. The team hopes for a similar season from Sikura, who the team signed out of Northeastern University, where he posted 58 goals over four seasons there. The 23-year-old winger looks to have a solid chance of joining DeBrincat in the top six this season.
Two other interesting names, who could make an impact with the team are Ejdsell and Kahun. Ejdsell, who the team acquired in the Ryan Hartman trade at the deadline, has an opportunity to beat out Sikura for a top-six spot if he has a good training camp, while Kahun, signed to a two-year deal out of Germany, is another candidate to make the team and contribute immediately.
One Year Remaining, Non-Entry-Level
While the Blackhawks offseason was relatively quiet, the team did make a splash in the goaltending market after the team went for much of the season last year without their starting goaltender. Because of their lack of depth, the team added Ward to help fill the backup role, who could also take over starting duties if needed. The 35-year-old Ward played 43 games for Carolina a year ago and posted a .906 save percentage along with two shutouts. While those numbers aren’t great, they are better than the goalies they carried a season ago.
The team also brought in some grit, bringing back Kruger as well as signing 38-year-old Kunitz. Both should fill significant roles in the bottom-six and hopefully boost the production of those lines. Kruger struggled since leaving Chicago. He posted just one goal and five assists in 48 games last season and was demoted to the AHL for 19 games. However, in the offseason, Kruger admitted he played the entire season with a hernia, which is what affected his play. Now, fully healthy, Kruger might be able to bounce back. Both are solid one-year options.
The 28-year-old Rutta showed some solid signs of progress in his rookie campaign. He averaged 19:15 of ATOI, scoring six goals and 20 points, as well as having a (minus) one plus/minus ratio. Another season could boost his production as a top-four defenseman.
Two Years Remaining
The Blackhawks success will likely fall on Crawford, who missed most of the season last year with concussion-like symptoms and the 33-year-old netminder has already indicated that he likely won’t be ready for training camp and could miss part of the season next year.
With those issues, there isn’t necessarily a guarantee that he will bounce back and put up similar numbers from his 2015-16 season when he put up a .919 save percentage in 55 games. His numbers were actually even better in the 2017-18 season before he was injured, posting a .929 save percentage to go with two shutouts in 28 games.
Chicago will rely on Gustafsson and Murphy to help man their defense. Both will need to improve quite a bit to improve their weakened defense. Gustafsson showed some promise after being recalled late in the season from Rockford of the AHL and he posted 16 points in 35 games. The defensive-minded Murphy, who came over in the Niklas Hjalmarsson trade was solid, if not unspectacular on defense. Both will be needed if the team wants to return to the playoffs next year.Read more