Just 6 days after the Blackhawks fourth line scored the game-winning goal in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, two of the three players on that line have been traded. Today, Stan Bowman sent Dave Bolland to the Maple Leafs in exchange for the 51st and 117th picks in today’s draft, as well as a 4th round pick in next year’s draft. He also traded Michael Frolik to the Winnipeg Jets for the 74th and 134th picks in today’s draft. While these moves are definitely disappointing for Hawks fans, they are smart moves. On the bright side, it was just announced that Bryan Bickell signed a 4-year, $16 million contract with the Blackhawks.
Okay, so a lot to digest here. Let’s start with the trades.
By moving Bolland and Frolik, the Blackhawks gained about $5 million in cap space for next season, increasing their total cap space to over $13 million according to CapGeek.com. With the signing of Bickell for a reported $4 million per year, that cap space now drops to around $9 million for next season. Obviously, people are going to be upset seeing the names Bolland and Frolik being traded. However, you need to look at the numbers in this trade.
Bolland and Frolik were a combined $5 million cap hit next season, which is an awful lot of money to be spending on 2 fourth line players. The Hawks knew that in order to sign someone like Bryan Bickell, they needed to free up some cap space. Trading Bolland did just that, and the Hawks wasted no time in extending Bickell. By trading Frolik, the Blackhawks have gained even more cap space to re-sign a guy like Nick Leddy. There have been talks of the Hawks trading Leddy, but I now doubt that will happen. Leddy is due to become a RFA this summer if the Hawks do not extend his contract.
So, now what do the Blackhawks do with their remaining $9 million?
They could do a number of things. My best guess is that they are going to re-sign Nick Leddy, and maybe even Ray Emery. They will also do what they did last year and sign some role players and depth players. I am not so sure that they will make a big splash by signing someone like Briere or any other big name, although that is not out of the question. It is no secret that they need a true number 2 center, and with their now high cap space, they could acquire a decent center.
One thing is for sure, however. Guys like Ben Smith and Brandon Pirri are going to get their fair shot at becoming impact players on the Blackhawks next season. Ben Smith will most likely be on one of the Hawks’ bottom 2 lines to start the season, and Pirri could even find himself as the second line center. Personally, I don’t think it is a good idea to put a rookie into that much important number 2 center position. I believe that going out and acquiring a good, veteran second line center would be the better option.
A lot can happen now with the Blackhawks. They have a ton of money to spend, even after signing Bickell. The question now is whether or not they will spend all of that money, and if they do, how will it be spent? On role players, or on a big name or two? Either way, Stan Bowman has really been working hard here the last 24 hours, and I am confident he’ll make the right decisions moving forward.