The Chicago Blackhawks have finally unloaded the contract of Bryan Bickell after signing him to a four year, $16,000,000 deal prior to the 2013-14 season. The Carolina Hurricanes are a team that is looking to reach the salary cap floor, and the acquisition of Bickell seemed like a no-brainer for them. The caveat to the deal, however, was that the Hurricanes weren’t willing to help the Blackhawks free of charge.
The Carolina Hurricanes acquired both Bryan Bickell, along with Teuvo Teravainen in exchange for a 2016 second-round draft pick (50th overall, previously acquired from the New York Rangers in the deal that sent Eric Staal to New York), as well as a 2017 third round draft pick (originally sent to the Hurricanes along with Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom last season from the Blackhawks in a deal that was widely believed to be a salary-cap dump.)
While the Blackhawks may have traded away Bickell and cleared up cap space as a result, losing a player with the potential ceiling of Teravainen is questionable. The 21-year-old Finnish center is capable of playing multiple positions, and with an $894,166 cap hit this season, he would have been exactly the type of player Chicago could have used in a more prominent role due to their cap-crunch. In his brief time in Chicago, Teravainen had shown flashes of brilliance, especially in the 2013 playoffs where he looked like a blooming superstar.
Message from the General Manager
Following the trade, general manager Stan Bowman released this statement:
I would like to thank both Bryan and Teuvo for their contributions to the Blackhawks organization,” Bowman said. “Both players were drafted by our organization and developed to play important roles on Stanley Cup championship teams. We wish them the best as they continue their careers with Carolina. – Stan Bowman
With Teravainen’s potential, he could have a very good career in Carolina. The Finnish forward will be joining recently-signed Finnish-forwards Sebastian Aho and Aleksi Saarela who were just locked up to entry-level contracts on June 14th.
Immediate Response from Bryan Bickell
Todd Diamond, Bryan Bickell’s agent had this to say about the trade:
We are relieved that a trade was finally completed. Bryan thoroughly enjoyed his time in Chicago and we are appreciative of everything the organization has done for him and for Stan’s efforts to get this done early in the offseason. Bryan is looking forward to the new challenge and a new beginning. – Todd Diamond
After being restricted to only 25 NHL games last season, where he recorded two assists, and 47 games in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs, this trade is certainly good news for Bickell. The Carolina Hurricanes are looking to rebuild their identity, and adding a veteran like Bickell could be exactly what they’re looking for to help acclimatize their younger players to the NHL.
Bickell probably won’t be an effective player in the NHL moving forward, but given his experience with the Blackhawks along with the current timeline that the Hurricanes project to be on this deal makes sense.
Two Trades in Two Years
As mentioned by Mark Lazerus of the Chicago-Sun Times, Tervainen is the second potential cornerstone player who was traded by the Blackhawks in consecutive seasons. Brandon Saad was moved last year in a deal that saved the ‘Hawks from paying his $6,000,000 salary cap demands, while also allowing them to acquire a legitimate second-line center in Artem Anisimov. Using Teravainen as an incentive to take Bickell’s contract seems like it’s a bit much, but the Blackhawks usually have reasons for all of their cap-space moves. For the time being, it’s unclear if this move will enable them to re-sign Andrew Shaw, Andrew Ladd, or as part of another move.
#Blackhawks now have about $62 million in cap hit tied up in 15 NHL players. It's still tight, but they have some flexibility now.
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) June 15, 2016
What Does This Deal Mean for the Blackhawks Moving Forward?
The most probable scenario for the Blackhawk moving forward is that they re-sign Andrew Shaw with the money saved in the Bickell trade. The trade would also give Chicago some leeway to sign Artemi Panarin, and some additional depth to fill in at forward, and on defense. This deal likely isn’t the precursor to another major transaction for the Blackhawks as their salary cap situation is still tight following the deal.
The Hawks are currently projected to have $10,435,706 worth of cap space according to General Fanager. In terms of unrestricted free agents, the Blackhawks currently have Ladd, Dale Weise, Tomas Fleischmann, Brandon Mashinter, Christian Ehrhoff, and Michal Rozsival to look at. The restricted free agent list includes Shaw, Richard Panik, and Dennis Rasmussen.
It’s no secret that the Blackhawks have been rumored to be in on the Brian Campbell sweepstakes this off-season, but the veteran defender won’t likely be looking to sign a contract so inexpensive that it would make sense for Chicago. If the ‘Hawks do intend to sign Campbell, they will need to create even more cap space to take care of their free agents, AHL call-ups, and a contract worthwhile enough for Campbell to leave Florida.
With the draft quickly approaching and free agency officially starting on July 1st, it will be interesting to see how Stan Bowman handles his franchise moving forward. He’s been effective in the past when his back seemed pressed up against a wall, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t be effective this time around as well.