Ok, so it’s time to get detailed. I’m not sure any of this will be anything you don’t already know, but we have to get through it anyway. So let’s do this. For this exercise, I’m going to assume the cap is at $71 million as that’s the number I keep hearing and even though the players have made serious noise about not using their escalator, I would be surprised if they didn’t help out their free agent brethren by bumping it a little, as well as the owners having the option of doing so as well and these guys want to sign their own and other players as well because they do want to win for the most part (and at this point, it feels like Rocky should say he wants it at $71 million and everyone else will fall in. Certainly Bettman should listen to the owner of his league’s signature franchise at the moment. This is all half in jest).
Ok, so let’s do it.
The Hawks stand at $64 million with what they have signed (actually 64, 045,000, but I can’t deal with tenths and hundredths very well which is why I never did well in high school math. Thankfully, Emerson didn’t require any math courses in college). I think it’s pretty safe to assume that there are three salaries going overboard this week, two for sure. That’s Patrick Sharp’s 5.9 hit, and Kris Versteeg’s 2.0. So that’s an additional 7.9 of freedom, though assuming no salary coming back is quite the leap. With no salary coming back, the Hawks have $56 million committed to next year, or about $15 million in space. We have to assume they’d love to scoop and toss Bickell’s $4 million, but there’s no way you can get rid of all that and not take anything back. So though this would be on the high side of what will happen, let’s assume that if the Hawks can dump Bickell anything they would have to take in return for all three probably washes out his salary. So let’s stick with that $15 million in space, yes? Thanks, you’re all so flexible.
There are two kids I’m certain are going to plug into the lineup next year to start, and that’s Danault (who fits on a 4th line immediately) and Johns. Together they have a $1.6 million hit, so we’re down to about $13.4 in space. TVR is assuredly going to be on the roster, and that’s another $925K so we’re at $12.5.
The next step is figuring out where the RFAs fall. There’s been a lot of teeth-gnashing about Saad’s contract, but the number I can’t really escape is four years at $16 million total (and the salaries will probably fluctuate to get him more money down the line in salary). Sure, if his agent holds him out past July 1 he could see an offer sheet of $5 or even $6 million a year, but I just don’t see that happening. Four years takes him right to unrestricted free agency, and if the Hawks wanted to buy out a couple UFA years it’s going to cost them more. So with that $4 million the Hawks have $8.5 in space.
Kruger is a strange case. He’s clearly valuable to this team, but I don’t see where he’s getting more than $2.2 million. We’re still talking about a third line center at best, and overpaying third line centers gets teams in trouble (hi there, Dave Bolland!). So we’re at $6.3 million in space and the lineup looks like this at the moment:
So there’s five forward spots to fill and a couple d-men. They still seem to really like Joakim Nordstrom, but he’s not going to get any more than 600-700K so let’s plug him in next to Danault and we’re at $5.6 million in space. I think Artemi Panarin is going to get every chance to stick, but I also think it’s worth noting he got a two year deal which means they won’t blink about having him spend some time in Rockford, so let’s not sign him up yet. I’m going to put Hartman in here, even though Q would hang himself to have a “kid” 4th line but I think they like his game and it also fits well in a role, just like Danault’s does. That’s another 800K, and we’re at $4.8. There’s still two forward spots to fill of course.
This is where it gets tricky. If the Hawks could bring back Richards at the same $2 million he got this year, they’d probably let Mark McNeill give it a go on the top six for a bit, though I’m highly skeptical that’s going to work. That would leave 2.8 million and about half of that is going to go to Andrew Desjardins I’m guessing. We’re down to 1.4 million in space, and a couple D-spots to go.
The guess here, and it’s only a guess, is that one of the d-spots is going to go to one of Paliotta, Svedberg (who needs to be re-signed as well), or Pokka. Pokka and Paliotta have hits of 925K, so that’s just about 500K left and you still need a 7th d-man. It’s tricky, isn’t it?
So Stan is going to really have to nickel and dime some stuff here. Desjardins made 750K last year, and I’m sure that’s the number the Hawks would love to have him back at but he can certainly get more elsewhere. This team’s success shouldn’t hinge on his presence, but you know they don’t want to fill the bottom six with Kruger, Shaw, and four guys who might not get into the bars they all want to go to after the game.
If they can get Desjardins to take a similar number to what he made last year, that’s about 1.1 million to toss at some tomato can veteran d-man to babysit either Johns or TVR, which you know they’re going to do. They also might save more money in the trades of Versteeg, Sharp and Bickell than I’m giving them credit for here.
So that’s the roadmap. It of course will not be this clean and we’ll update this as signings and trades happen.
Note: Panarin’s contract stipulates that he has to be on the team, or he can go back to the K. But his cap hit and McNeill’s are something of a wash, so just go with that.