After dominating much of the competition throughout the entirety of the 2009-2010 NHL season, the Chicago Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in what feels like an eternity. In reality it was only 49 years. But the excitement from their accomplishment will be hindered by the reality that many of the pieces to the puzzle will be gone come next year.
Although they still have a large amount of celebrating to do, eventually they will have to face the music that is the salary cap in today’s NHL. This is the time when the contracts of players will be measured up against the cap space each team has, and then a decision has to be made whether or not the players are worth the room or will be made to pursue their careers elsewhere.
"It's a puzzle that you're trying to put together," Hawks general manager Stan Bowman remarked about the Hawks current situation. “We'd love to have everybody back, but that's just not a possibility.”
Three players that you will likely see traded are Patrick Sharp, Dustin Byfuglien, and Kris Versteeg. All three of them are very talented players and will be sought after by many teams come July 1st when the free agent market period begins, and made sure of that with their playoff performances where they combined for 52 points.
However, the Hawks have bigger fish to fry when it comes to resigning their most valuable assets. Names like Toews, Kane, Keith, and Hossa quickly come to mind. Some of them are already signed long-term, but they tie up so much of the cap space as it is, it leaves little room for third and fourth line players.
To make matters worse, Toews won playoff MVP, awarding him the Conn Smythe trophy for his efforts. Many of you are probably thinking, “Oh yeah, that must be awful.” But it really is. Because of the award he received, Toews met the quota for receiving his $1.3 million bonus which comes next year, and will count against the cap.
That number is a big figure in deciding their fate for next season, because that is $1.3 million that could have been used to re-sign a current player, or to bring in a new contract of a role-playing athlete.
However, this is why General Managers have jobs, they know these things are going to happen, and that it is their duty to make sure their team comes out of it healthy and mostly in-tact, when all is said and done.
Come next year how the team looks on paper will not be the biggest problem they will face. This will be outdone by the comradery and emotional bonds that will be broken by changing out the pieces of the team. Yes, it is a business, and yes, players will need to adjust, but all is not silver and shiny with this year’s Stanley Cup winners.