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Gone to Carolina?

July 9, 2017, 10:39 AM ET [392 Comments]
John Jaeckel
Chicago Blackhawks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT

Over the last couple of years, Hawk GM Stan Bowman has made some big trades.

One of the criticisms that had been leveled at Bowman in prior seasons, grumblings from outside and even within the Hawk organization was that Bowman had a hard time committing to value for value player swaps.

But that really seemed to change as the arc of the Hawk franchise advanced from simply fine tuning around the league's best core of veterans to trying to remain competitive under a flat cap the iast few seasons.

And another thing about Bowman, he tends to like to work with regular "dance partners." For awhile, you could count on the Hawk GM doing regular business with Dale Tallon in Florida, then Arizona GM Don Maloney, or Bowman's own former assistants, Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and Montreal's Marc Bergevin.

But the last couple of years, Bowman has turned more anymore to two Eastern Conference GMs, Columbus' Jarmo Kekalainen and Carolina's Ron Francis, for pretty big trades.

Since June 2015, Bowman has pulled off two "mega-deals" with Kekalainen, both involving Brandon Saad either going or returning.

With Carolina, Bowman was able to ship off Bryan Bickell's contract—along with Teuvo Teravainen—last summer. Francis, in turn, was able to skip to the head of an allegedly long line for the services of Scott Darling this summer, landing negotiating rights to his now #1 netminder for a third round pick.

And oddly enough, the strange saga of the Hawks in this summer's expansion draft has ended not in Chicago (yet anyway) or Las Vegas as you might expect—but in Carolina.

There was an alleged linkage, long reported here and elsewhere, between then-Hawk defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk and center Marcus Kruger. The alleged gentleman's agreement between Bowman and Las Vegas GM George McPhee was that the team would expose van Riemsdyk for Las Vegas to take—if McPhee would agree to take on Kruger's deal in trade.

After some mysterious hiccups and delays, that essentially happened—with one unexpected wrinkle: both players were quickly flipped to none other than the Carolina Hurricanes.

All this is not terribly surprising—Vegas has been pretty active in dealing players it selected in expansion. But my interest was piqued when I heard a rumor about 6 days ago—building on an earlier rumor I reported that Carolina might become the destination for Marian Hossa's contract—that Bowman hoped to perhaps expand the deal enough to gain an asset back from Carolina.

Namely, van Riemsdyk.

If you're wondering whether the Hawks can re-acquire an expansion player, they can—as long as it does not appear there were a pre-determined deal in place with Las Vegas. So the flip to Carolina pretty much took that off the table. And van Riemsdyk's name (perhaps) back on it.

And if you think about it, especially in light of the relatively massive turnover on the Hawk defense corps this summer, van Riemsdyk has long been a favorite of Joel Quenneville.

Going to Carolina, along with Hossa's deal and likely eventual LTIR status, would be a pick and a "high" prospect.

So for Carolina—or really any team that might take on Hossa's deal—it's pretty simple. And it doesn't matter if it's a team trying to reach the cap floor or not. Hossa's contract involves a $5.25 million annual cap hit for four years—but only a $1 million annual salary.

Hossa's contact dermatitis condition is real—and severe—not to mention the nasty side effects of medication the player has taken to manage the condition for at least two seasons.

So "convenient" timing or not for Chicago, Hossa is in all likelihood (and by the reports I am hearing) going to end up on LTIR (nullifying the cap hit)—making the remainder of his deal a relatively easy pill to swallow for a lot of teams, depending on how much they value the pick and "high" prospect the Hawks are willing to include in the deal.

The point of all this?

No, the Hawks are probably not "done" this summer.

But exactly when their roster reconstruction resumes now seems dependent on how and when the Hossa situation works out—in terms of the league's "acceptance" of the validity of the underlying medical issue. As I hear it, once the Hawks and a trading partner are assured Hossa will end up on LTIR, the shackles come off.

The Hawks may get an asset back—like TVR or, if just limiting the discussion to Carolina, any of a handful of young, cost-controlled defenders not named "Hanifin."

And the Hawks would also likely open up a nice chunk of cap room to work with, if a team with cap space is willing to take on Hossa's deal this summer, in advance of the actual LTIR benefit that kicks in at the beginning of the season. This cap room could in turn be used to acquire another asset—especially via trade, which is less dependent on the summer free agent market.

And sure, the Hawks could just hold on to Hossa, recoup the cap space through LTIR after the start of the season, and go from there. It's just that the cost of acquiring talent through trade during the season is typically higher and the market overall is much less fluid—except before there trade deadline, but that's also when the cost of acquisition is at its highest.

The final destination here could be established yet the summer, and in fact it may lie with a number of teams. But if recent form holds true, Carolina may be the place in mind.

I'll be back with more as I hear it.

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