Free agency is now a little more than a month away from opening up and there are quite a few prominent players set to hit the open market while many teams have key restricted free agents to re-sign. Here is a breakdown of Chicago’s free agent situation.
Top Restricted Free Agent: F Vinnie Hinostroza — For the second year in a row, Hinostroza got some quality time with the Blackhawks, totallying 99 games in those two seasons. However this year, the 24-year-old forward really showed that he can contribute at a high level. In 50 games this year, Hinostroza found himself working between the second and third lines, totaling seven goals and 25 points, while logging more than 13 minutes of ice time per game. As Chicago becomes more and more reliant on youth to fill in the gap for some of their aging veterans, the team needs Hinostroza to take that next step as a bonafide top-six center.
Having made just $925K this past year, he still is likely to have quite a low salary for a few more years, which is exactly the kind of value the ’Hawks need to rebound and compete for a playoff spot next year.
Top Unrestricted Free Agent: D Cody Franson — Perhaps a better word is ’none.’ There are no key unrestricted free agents unless you look real deep on their roster. You would have to look at players who the team moved to Rockford near the trade deadline when the team decided to give their young players as much playing time as possible. Franson was one of those players, who possesses the offensive talents, but lacks the defense to compete at an NHL level and has bounced around the league looking for a permanent home. Don’t count on Chicago being that place as a recent report suggests he’s not expecting to return next season. He tallied just a goal and six assists in 23 games, but was put on waivers in January.
Projected Cap Space: The salary cap has not been Chicago’s friend over the past few years with big contracts the team handed out to Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, among others. However, the team has done a good job of moving some contracts and have $6.1MM of cap space available to them, and that’s not including the assumption the cap could go up $5MM next season. The team might have the ability to bring in a free agent or two to help aid the veterans in making a playoff comeback this year. While it’s not likely to include a high-priced free agent, their available cap space should be an asset for the coming season.