Chicago Blackhawks sophomore winger Artemi Panarin received a late Christmas gift on Wednesday, inking a two-year, $12-million contract extension. That new deal, however, will likely force Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman to make a couple of salary-dumping trades later this year.
With Panarin under wraps, Bowman shifts his focus toward re-signing or replacing such notables as goaltender Scott Darling, defenseman Brian Campbell and winger Richard Panik. Darling and Campbell are unrestricted free agents, while Panik is restricted.
The Blackhawks have over $66 million invested in 15 players for 2017-18. Assuming a marginal increase in the salary cap for next season to $75 million, Bowman will have less than $9 million to retain his key free agents and fill out the remainder of his roster.
Bowman doesn't have to make any cost-cutting trades this season. That is something that will take place in the off-season. Still, there's already speculation over his plans to address this issue.
The Chicago Tribune's Chris Hine suggests center Marcus Kruger ($3.1-million cap hit) could hit the trade block. Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times speculates Kruger or defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk ($825K) could get selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in June's expansion draft. Both agree Bowman could still face shipping out another salaried player.
Prior to Panarin's re-signing, Lazerus replied to a reader's question about whether the Blackhawks could trade a high-salaried star, such as goaltender Corey Crawford or defenseman Brent Seabrook, and use the savings to re-sign Panarin. He believes either move is a bad idea, pointing out Crawford is among the league's elite goalies, while Seabrook is enjoying a solid performance this season. He also notes they carry no-movement clauses.
Forget about Crawford, Seabrook, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith or Artem Anisimov being traded. All are invaluable core players and carry no-movement clauses. Aging Marian Hossa also has a no-movement clause, but it's doubtful the 37-year-old winger will agree to move on.
Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson ($4.1 million) could be the likely trade candidate. Like the others, he has a no-movement clause, but his also comes with a modified no-trade in which he submits a 10-team list of acceptable trade destinations. Trading Hjalmarsson and Kruger's potential departure via the expansion draft would free up over $7 million in cap room.
COULD STEPAN-FOR-SHATTENKIRK SWAP WORK?
Prior to Christmas, USA Today's Kevin Allen published a list of predictions for 2017. Among them was speculation the New York Rangers will trade center Derek Stepan for a defenseman.
Allen believes the Rangers' depth at center allows them to part with Stepan, who's in the second season of a six-year, $39-million contract. He thinks they'll move him before his no-trade clause kicks in on July 1.
It's an interesting suggestion. The Rangers also have Kevin Hayes and the currently sidelined Mika Zibanejad at center. The Blueshirts still haven't found a suitable replacement on defense for the departed Keith Yandle. Last summer's trade chatter frequently linked them to St. Louis Blues rearguard Kevin Shattenkirk, who's a UFA next summer.
Given the Blues’ lack of depth at center, a Stepan for Shattenkirk swap might be possible before the March 1 trade deadline. Doing so, however, would rob the Rangers of their best two-way forward. If Stepan is put on the trade block, it won't occur until Zibanejad returns from his broken leg.
In the past, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong was reluctant to trade away a pending UFA star. Perhaps an offer of Stepan might tempt him to part with Shattenkirk.
As the Blues carry less than $1 million in cap room and Shattenkirk earning an annual cap hit of $4.25 million, Armstrong would have to shed salary elsewhere to take on Stepan's $6.5-million cap hit. The Rangers could pick up part of it, but they would likely prefer to give themselves as much cap room as possible to re-sign Shattenkirk.
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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