The champagne and beer have barely dried on the Stanley Cup and it’s already time to start thinking about a repeat in Chicago.
The Blackhawks have the talent and the youth, for the most part, so you would think that there would be nothing holding them back from repeating as Stanley Cup champs next season.
However, there is one thing that could splinter this team if they aren’t careful: money.
The Blackhawks have a lot of money tied up in just a few players, meaning that they may not be able to sign some of their free agents during the offseason. This could spell trouble for hopes of repeating next season.
So what do the Blackhawks need to do this offseason to ensure that they keep the integral parts of their team intact for another run at the playoffs?
First, they need to wisely choose who isn’t going to be there any longer in order to save money.
It can pretty much be considered a sure thing that John Madden won’t be in Chicago next year. His salary (around $2 million) and his age (37) will dictate that the Hawks won’t be able to keep him and some of the other (younger) players on the roster.
Kris Versteeg may also be heading out of Chicago as rumors show that he has other outside suitors.
Just like in football, hockey teams have a salary cap and they need to make sure that they are under that cap by the time the season starts. The Blackhawks built a great team, but they built it with players that have ended up costing them a lot of money.
So what else can the Blackhawks do besides let Madden and Versteeg go?
Looking at the list of free agents, the unrestricted free agents include Madden, Nick Boynton, Adam Burish, and Kim Johnsson. The restricted free agents include Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, Antti Niemi, and Niklas Hjarlmarsson.
So which players listed above could the Hawks do without?
Well, Madden is a no-brainer and Boynton may be easy to let go, while they may wish to make a play to keep Burish and Johnsson for the future.
Niemi, despite the fact that he played decently in the Stanley Cup playoffs, still leaves something to be desired, so the Blackhawks may decide to go out and find another goalie for next season.
Chicago may want to keep Hjarlmarsson, Eager, and Ladd if possible, as they are solid players that all had a hand in helping them win the Stanley Cup. They will have to work some magic to keep a lot of these guys, but the management staff of the Blackhawks put this team together and they will find a way to keep it together, for the most part, despite the salary cap.
Also, keep in mind that that the 2010 NHL Draft is coming, so the Hawks will be able to pick up some additional talent there as well.
Still, it would be difficult for them to let go of many of the players that they had on the team (during their run to the Cup), but this team has a great owner and solid management, and can put pieces back in where they need to, so as to create another contender for next season.