The Stanley Cup champs might find themselves in a world of salary cap pain this summer, but the Finnish youngster with a lot of finesse will help them past that hurdle and stay dangerous in the future.
Today, there is no salary cap in Chicago – just a lot of elated, exhausted Hawks trying to wring champagne out of their beards. Teuvo Teravainen won’t have that problem, since he was too young to grow a facebush en route to the 2015 title and that’s great news for a franchise that expects to contend for the Stanley Cup again next season. Because the cap will be of great concern to GM Stan Bowman right after the Hawks hold their latest victory parade.
There will be some hard decisions this summer for Chicago, just as there were in 2010 and 2013. Hard to believe the franchise shed players such as Andrew Ladd, Troy Brouwer, Dustin Byfuglien, Dave Bolland, Nick Leddy and Michael Frolik with little to no drop-off, but that’s what Bowman has been able to create thanks to his wicked core.
Teravainen’s mission from here on out is to elevate his game to the level where he becomes a complement to Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa. And there’s nothing to suggest the young center is incapable of that. I distinctly recall sitting in the Copenhagen airport after the 2014 world juniors in Malmo, coming across Teravainen and a bunch of his champion Finnish teammates wearing golden hockey helmets as they ate pizza, waiting for their flights home. Teravainen was a monster during that tournament, taking out Canada in the semifinal and then icing Sweden in their own building for the shocking gold.
During this Cup run, he had better advanced stats than veteran stars such as Kane and Brad Richards and more points in 18 playoff games than he had in 34 regular season starts.
Do I expect him to score a point-per-game next season? No, of course not. The kid can’t even legally drink in Chicago until September. But he now has an incredible learning experience in the books and a Cup ring to boot. I’m sure he took note of how long countryman Kimmo Timonen had to wait for his first Cup and if Teravainen’s smart, he will use this early win as motivation to get a second one in short order.
And while the defense corps will also take a few hits this summer – we know Timonen is done and Johnny Oduya is probably gone via free agency – there are options coming up. For me, the most intriguing is Ville Pokka, a Finnish prospect acquired from the Islanders in the Leddy trade.
Pokka was on the same golden Finnish world junior team as Teravainen and also won a Liiga championship with Finland’s Karpat Oulu squad last season. He made his first journey over to North America this year and was named to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team thanks to his efforts with the Rockford IceHogs. An offensively-inclined D-man who is aces on the power play, Pokka should push for a spot next year on what will clearly be a younger defense corps.
The best part of this rosy outlook is that neither Teravainen nor Pokka have to carry a lot of weight – that’s what the Toews/Kane/Keith cohort is all about. But if the two young Finns can eat up minutes and make match-ups difficult for opponents, then Chicago can find itself back in the final once again next year.