Blackhawks News & Rumors: Seabrook’s Playing Status, Contract & Carlsson

Brent Seabrook made headlines over the weekend as he reportedly wants to play if the season is restarted next month. Also, news on the future of the league’s salary cap doesn’t help the Blackhawks, especially with Seabrook’s contract being active. Finally, one of the team’s youngsters on the blue line celebrated another trip around the sun.

Seabrook Working on a Comeback

The 2019-20 season was not one to write home about for Seabrook. The veteran defenseman had to deal with poor play, decreased ice time and even being a healthy scratch. To make matters worse, he was doing all of this while battling a bevy of injuries. In mid-December, he shut it down to have operations on his right shoulder and both hips over a three-month span.

Brent Seabrook Blackhawks
Seabrook’s 2019-20 season may not be over, after all. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Many wondered if the Blackhawks’ 5-3 victory over the Minnesota Wild, on Dec. 15, 2019, was Seabrook’s last game in the league. It was definitely supposed to be his final game of the 2019-20 season, but now that might not be the case.

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According to Scott Powers of The Athletic, a source has told him that Seabrook will attempt to rejoin the Blackhawks’ lineup if the season returns as planned.

Just a month ago, the Blackhawks didn’t think Seabrook would be far enough in his rehab to be considered an option, but he’s made strides and has expressed his desire to try to play again this season.

Seabrook hasn’t been cleared for contact yet, but he has been skating. A source said time would tell whether Seabrook has a realistic chance to play this season, but Seabrook was on track to join the Blackhawks for training camp, which is expected to open July 13.

Source – “Source: Blackhawks’ Brent Seabrook will attempt to play if season resumes” Scott Powers – The Athletic – 7/4/20

If Seabrook is healthy enough to play and proves he can be productive rather than a liability, he will give head coach Jeremy Colliton another option for his already crowded defensive corps.

Seabrook’s Contract a Bigger Problem

When the team announced Seabrook’s shutdown there was plenty of speculation that his NHL career was over. There was a feeling among some that this was a way for the Blackhawks to get out from under his massive contract by putting him on long-term injured reserve, much like they did with Marian Hossa in 2017.

Brent Seabrook
Seabrook’s contract may have gone from bad to worse. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Seabrook’s reported comeback attempt has shot holes in that theory and it could cause even bigger headaches if he is still on the active roster whenever the 2020-21 season begins. He still has four years left on the eight-year contract he signed in 2015 that comes with an unfriendly $6.875 million salary-cap hit.

With the entire world in uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reported last week that NHL salary cap could remain flat, at $81.5 million, for the “next few years.” This would take already ready brutal salary cap situation for the Blackhawks and make it even worse going forward.

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Ben Pope wrote for the Chicago Sun-Time that this news and some reported stipulations in the next collective bargaining agreement could force the Blackhawks’ hand in tearing down for a complete rebuild.

In addition, compliance buyouts, which completely clear contracts from the books, are currently not expected to be made available, as they were after the 2013 lockout slowed revenue growth — similar to what’s happening during the coronavirus pandemic.

Those most likely to be affected by the stagnant cap and the absence of any easy escape routes are players hitting free agency this offseason or next; they could have a tough time convincing cash-strapped GMs to pay them fair value. A majority of NHL teams will feel the impact, not just the Hawks.

Source – “Brent Seabrook’s albatross contract will soon be even more problematic for Blackhawks” Ben Pope – Chicago Sun-Times, 7/4/20

Happy Birthday, Mr. Carlsson

While Seabrook’s contract doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the future, one potential bright spot on the blue line, Lucas Carlsson, celebrated a birthday on Sunday. The Swedish-born defensive prospect, now 23, has progressed nicely over the past two seasons.

Lucas Carlsson Rockford IceHogs
Carlsson has made tremendous strides over the last two seasons. (Todd Reicher)

Carlsson, a fourth-round draft pick in 2016, came over to North America for the 2018-19 season and scored nine goals and 33 points, in 69 American Hockey League (AHL) games, for the Rockford IceHogs. This season, he scored five goals and 26 points, in 48 games, before making his NHL debut for the Blackhawks on Feb. 23, 2020, versus the Dallas Stars.

Being able to cover Carlsson’s first two profession seasons in person, his growth from October of 2019 to his NHL call-up was immense. While there was concern that he may not have the speed to survive at the top level, he has shown that he’s very effective with his hockey sense and ability to keep the play in front of him.

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He’s also proven that he can be an effective power-play quarterback and has gained confidence in his sneaky good shot. The IceHogs named Carlsson their Defenseman of the Year after the AHL season was officially canceled.

With the salary cap ceiling likely to stay where it is for the foreseeable future, Carlsson is exactly the type of player the Blackhawks need; young, productive and most importantly, cheap.