It’s never too early to get a head start on what the upcoming offseason might look like. Which players will still be under contract next season? Which players will be unrestricted free agents? Which players will be restricted free agents? Let’s take a look just to see how bad this offseason could be
Before we start, I should mention that I’m not going to go into much detail as the roster can change before next summer. For example, entering last season, it would have been a waste of time to speak in-depth about Marko Dano, Phillip Danault, Teuvo Teravainen, Andrew Shaw, Ryan Garbutt, Trevor Daley, and Jeremy Morin. At that point all those players were on the Blackhawks. Now they are all gone. So, I don’t want to talk too in-depth about a number of player as they could be gone before the trade deadline. This is simply an overview.So let’s look at the players under contract next season (2017-18)
At this point in time, the Blackhawks will return 9-forwards with NHL experience and 6-defensemen with NHL experience. Chicago has yet to sign Alex DeBrincat, so one can probably pencil him into the lineup next season as well. One of the players on the above chart will be selected by Las Vegas in the expansion draft. Depending on who Chicago protects, Marcus Kruger or Trevor Van Riemsdyk may get selected.
Every player with a minimum cap hit of $4M on the above chart has a no-move-clause. This means they cannot be traded unless they personally agree to the trade. A player with a no-move-clause can veto any trade involving themselves. Additionally, Marcus Kruger has a limited no-trade-clause. Kruger was allowed to select a certain fixed number of teams that he can veto a trade to. The number of teams ranges for each contract. For instance, a no trade clause might include a 8-team list, 12-team list, or 15-team list. It all depends on what was agreed to when the player signed the contract.
With many players having the right to dictate a trade, it will be tough for Chicago to move much salary out this offseason even if they wanted to.
Now let’s take a look at the free agents. Remember, unrestricted free agents can choose any team they want. Restricted free agents are still under team control, and Chicago can trade their rights. For example, last offseason’s trade of RFA Brandon Saad.
Artemi Panarin is the main concern for this offseason. He will probably receive a contract that averages a cap hit of $6M per season. If the salary cap ceiling rises and Chicago does sign Panarin to an extension, that’s good because Panarin is an elite player. However, it means less money for depth players. So again, Chicago will have to rely on young players on Entry-Level-Contracts and cheap, older veterans for the bottom-6 and depth position.
Chicago could trade the rights of Panarin like they did with Brandon Saad. The positives here would be Panarin and Saad have around the same value. In all likelihood, CHI could receive a couple NHL ready forwards and a middle round draft pick for Panarin. The negative is obvious as Chicago would be losing an elite player in Panarin. The positives here are an increase in forward depth as well as extra cap space to work with to re-sign players like Campbel, Panik, & Kempny.
I’m not advocating for signing or trading Panarin. I’m simply pointing out that either scenario, can be beneficial to Chicago.
Richard Panik and Michal Kempny will probably play well enough to garner a raise over the $1M mark. Re-signing Panarin could mean CHI loses these players. Again, as I’ve stated before, it’s extremely early to be speculating about the offseason. Everything I give you are scenarios that could happen under the current roster construction.
The rest of the RFA’s should all be under $1M if Chicago chooses to re-sign them.
Looking at Unrestricted Free Agents, Brian Campbell and Scott Darling are the only ones to worry about. Darling makes close to if not league minimum right now, while Brian Campbell left millions of dollars on the table to sign with Chicago. Both players seem to love Chicago enough to take team friendly deals in the offseason.
Overall, there currently isn’t much to worry about besides Artemi Panarin. Even then, if a deal does not get done, Chicago can still trade him for valuable assets. This offseason shouldn’t be as bad as 2015, where Chicago lost Kris Versteeg, Brandon Saad, and Patrick Sharp. They still might lose one big time player. However, when compared to other seasons, that would be extremely mild.