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Watching the Waistline

November 27, 2020, 2:16 PM ET [1 Comments]
Theo Fox
Chicago Blackhawks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT


Hope everyone had a peaceful, reflective, and tasty Thanksgiving!

My family hasn’t had turkey in a long while and this year we ordered paella. For those in the San Francisco area, I highly recommend Cigala. I’m still stuffed yet satisfied as I type this blog.

Many of you may have taken a break from the internet during this holiday break. If so, I wrote another blog on Wednesday highlighting ten things that I’m thankful for regarding the Blackhawks.

Check it out if you missed it!

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Black Friday Sales are in full force today. Time for individuals and families to pounce on deals to get items they need -- and, of course, items they want -- even when money is tight for a lot of us.

There’s a similar mentality brewing in the NHL as well. Financial woes due to the pandemic are starting to plague the league and franchises making it tough not only this season but for years to come.

For the Blackhawks specifically, the organization has publicly stated that it’s looking to be sustainably competitive with a constant infusion of youth into the lineup year after year.

One way to interpret this is to not be top heavy as far as the salary structure. Along that wavelength is to also cease being overly reliant on a small set number of core players again.

With that in mind, there are a number of factors that Hawks brass needs to manage carefully and frugally moving forward. Many of these factors will make for interesting storylines down the road.

In no order of significance:

1. Bridge deal for Dylan Strome.

Cashing in big immediately after an ELC may not be viable in the present financial climate so a modest contract renewal for Dylan Strome would be best for both the player and the team. Consider a ballpark of 2-years at $2.5-$3.0M AAV.

If timing was aligned, this philosophy would have applied well to Alex DeBrincat’s extension.

2. Bridge deals for Kirby Dach and other youngsters.

Similarly to Strome as well as Dominik Kubalik, a humble extension to stay with the team after their ELCs expire would be much appreciated for top young guns like Kirby Dach who presumably is likely to command the highest pay out of them all.

In the next few seasons, we shall see who else may be in the same class as Dach or a notch below.

3. Contract renewals after the bridge deals.

Bridge deals are obviously short term so management needs to then decide who to invest in long term once those contracts are nearing the end. A guiding principle is if players have no one in line within the system to take their place, then re-up with them.

In contrast, players may be expendable if there are similar -- and perhaps better -- ones on the way.

4. Next contracts for the core.

Of the remaining core, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are the ones who I would consider worth the investment to lock in as long as the contract figures are more amenable and don’t financially handcuff the team again.

What about Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook? I could see them having a fate akin to Corey Crawford’s.

5. No more monster contracts.

Never say never but I think it’s safe to assume that there will be no more twin signings of two elite players at $10.5M AAV for 8 years each. My preference would be that if there is any player who is worthy of $10.5M AAV then the term is shorter.

Generally, though, no player should get 8 years. And heck to the no on a 13-year Keith-like deal.

6. No more big splashes in free agency.

Just like with monster contracts to retain one’s own, the Hawks should also avoid hunting for big fish during the annual free agency period. Monster contracts and big free agent splashes run counter to the franchise’s expressed desire and need to be sustainably competitive.

Free agency will always be a must to fill out the roster. Just be sensible about it.

7. Cap allocation to the goalies.

Until a bonafide #1 goalie emerges whether through homegrown means or by way of trade or free agency, the amount of salary cap going to both the starter and backup should be nominal. A $2-$4M total range for the pair seems realistic.

Once a #1 is found, I would then expect that range to inflate to the $6-8M total range.

8. Unearthing more impact European free agents.

Not counting performance bonuses, Artemi Panarin, Dominik Kahun, and Kubalik were steals at less than $1M AAV apiece. If I’m not mistaken, age is an element in determining term. Either way, striking gold with European free agents is a method to keep costs low.

The issue is when the gem is too good and becomes expensive to retain. Look no further than Panarin.

9. Spacing out of ELCs.

Having a large proportion of ELCs expire in the same year is a bad problem to have especially if many of the youngsters who need new contracts are playing at a high level. Bridge deals will help ease the impact on the salary cap but so would staggering when ELCs expire.

Another strategy is trading a budding asset with term left on the ELC to gain new futures (i.e. draft picks).

10. Taking advantage of AHL contracts.

Some draft picks may not have high upside yet still hold enough intrigue to play the long game with their development to see if they’re late bloomers. So instead of signing them to ELCs (i.e. NHL contracts), sign them to AHL deals so they can start their pro careers at the lowest level possible.

Jake Ryczek and Jack Ramsey are recent examples. Cole Moberg could be the next.

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See you on the boards!

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