We are all familiar with the belief that when teams handle the salary cap the correct way, the organization is harmonious. When it is not handled correctly, well, then look no further than the Chicago Blackhawks. They have set a precedent around the league of what not to do when handling the salary cap. The team is trying to turn the page with their good contracts as of late. This is highlighted in the first post of this two-part series, which discussed the Blackhawks’ best contracts for 2020-21. However, the bad ones are hard to ignore.
We could talk about how horrible Brent Seabrook’s contract is, but stating that again is like beating a dead horse. The harsh reality is that the Blackhawks still have a plethora of other bad contracts at hand. Here is a look at some of the worst contracts for Chicago going into 2020-21.
1. Zack Smith
Zack Smith’s contract was an issue the second the team traded with the Ottawa Senators for him in 2019.
The trade was a wash because they traded Artem Anisimov’s bad contract of a $4.5 million cap hit, for Smith’s $3.2 million cap hit. Some may say that was an improvement because Smith’s deal is for less, but it means so much more when discussing the value of the player. The 32-year-old Smith had two goals, seven assists, and 11 points in 50 games this season.
He also struggled with injuries and has been on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) since February. That means his salary isn’t going against the cap right now. It’s also a reason why the Hawks were not able to buy him out. However, he is expected to come back healthy next season. When he does, that is when his contract could prove troublesome.
The Blackhawks signed 27-year-old Mattias Janmark and 25-year-old Lucas Wallmark this offseason. They both play games that are similar to Smith. They are both left shots that can play center/left-wing. Also, they’re both younger. As it goes in the rebuild, youth is paramount.
Chicago also has a lot of prospects that will be fighting for those third and fourth-line roles with names like Philipp Kurashev and Brandon Pirri. When Smith comes back, his contract will most likely be one that takes up cap space with nothing to show for it. It’s hard to trade a player like him because his value right now is low, so the team is basically stuck until he becomes a free agent in 2021. It’s unfortunate because he can be a good player, but he doesn’t really fit with the Blackhawks’ direction right now.
2. Calvin de Haan
I really like defenseman Calvin de Haan, so I don’t like having to include him in this segment. But, I think there are a few things that are hard to overlook. When it comes to his contract, his cap hit is $4.5 million AAV until 2022. Going into the 2020-21 season, Chicago will have over $25 million tied into seven defensemen: de Haan, Connor Murphy, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Nikita Zadorov, Adam Boqvist, and Nick Seeler (Seabrook will be officially added to the group once he comes off of LTIR). When you have a group of players with big cap hits, and a very crowded defenseman pipeline, things are sure to get crazy.
Chicago has prospects that are going to be fighting to get into the rotation, like Ian Mitchell and Wyatt Kalynuk. With that, de Haan might find himself on the outside looking in. This is because he hasn’t been able to catch a break with the injury bug.
He hasn’t played a full 82-game season since 2016-17. Back then, he was with the New York Islanders. This season, with the Blackhawks, he was only able to play in 29 games before he re-injured his right shoulder. We know what an asset he can be when he is healthy. He is a career plus-37. The part where his contract could become an issue is if he can’t stay healthy, because if not, being stuck with his high cap hit could hurt his trade value, and even worse, could force another trade to compensate for it. So, I hope he is able to regain his form next season!
3. Andrew Shaw
This is another player that I hate to mention because I have always loved Andrew Shaw and what he has brought to the team. However, he finds himself in a similar state as de Haan. Shaw only played for 26 games this season, before heading to LTIR after suffering a concussion. The team, for precautionary purposes, kept him out of the playoffs, which, I think was absolutely the right move.
He has sustained quite a few concussions during his career and it is not something that should be taken lightly, especially because he has a young family. Health comes first, and that is where the hard part comes in. He stated that he is feeling well and planning on coming back next season. That is awesome to hear from a fan standpoint. But, health-wise, I’m worried about how his injuries will affect his play.
I’m worried that he could possibly sustain another concussion. If he comes back and isn’t able to play up to par, then that would put him and the team in an uncomfortable spot. He has a cap hit of $3.9 million for the next two years. He would be another hard one to trade because of his injury history.
And from a future standpoint, it looks like the Blackhawks have tried to find players that play akin to him, in the case that he can’t play at 100 percent. They have players in the pipeline like Brandon Hagel and Evan Barrett that are known for their grit. They also have Drake Caggiula, who is still a free agent. The Blackhawks could still potentially re-sign Shaw, too.
Whatever the case may be, his cap hit is hard to swallow if he isn’t healthy and unable to play, especially because there are players like him in the system that could take his place at a cheaper price. However, Chicago fans are rooting hard for him to come back strong and healthy, as players like him are hard to completely replace.
It seems like the Blackhawks will be facing salary cap issues for the foreseeable future. The bad contracts always seem to outweigh the good ones. However, if the players aforementioned can come back with a vengeance, that would help this team tremendously: financially and playing-wise.
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