Last summer the Chicago Blackhawks were declared the big “winners” of free agency. But one year later that summer spending spree is shaping up as A FRANCHISE CRIPPLING EVENT –one that will lower the ceiling on an other wise outstanding collection of young talent. Last season the Blackhawks were not only one of the very best teams in the NHL teams, they were also one of the very youngest. All things being equal they should improve as part of the maturation process–even without adding any new talent.
The true test of a GM sitting on a gold mine of talent is not not screw it up (Mike Milbury = fail as NYI GM) and to find the key complimentary pieces that patch roster holes. This summer Chicago GM Tallon essentially swapped out Marian Hossa for Martin Havlat, unlike Eric Duhatschek I count that as a modest upgrade given Hossa’s health record and outstanding penalty kill skills. (Oh course he also had to throw $1.2 million at the gift-with-purchase Tomas Kopecky too.)
But the decisions that will haunt the Blackhawks for years were made last summer, when the team handed out $5.6 to G Christobal Huet and $7.1 million per year to Brian Campbell. That’s nearly $13 million in cap space allotted to a not-really-elite netminder and a defensemen who is skilled only at one end of the ice. Throw in the fact that Chicago already had an underperforming Stanley Cup goalie under contract and things only look worse.
Fast forward to the Free Agent Frenzy of 2009 and you can see that if Chicago had been content to wait out the final year of Nikolai Khabibulin’s contract, they could have landed an average goalie (Martin Biron) for far less than what they are paying Huet ($5.6 million) now. In fact, the goalie market is ended up being flooded with the return of Ray Emery and the arrival of “The Monster” from Sweden. There are only 30 starting jobs and more than 30 aspiring starters. In fact the goalie tandem of the Philadelphia Flyers (a playoff team) are still without jobs.
Now let’s move forward in time to next summer. Let’s say that NHL revenues hold steady next season–if revenue growth is flat the salary cap will fall by nearly $3 million next season. Why? Because the NHLPA invoked the 5% kicker. The kicker is essentially an assumption revenue will be growing and that teams can spend that revenue growth in the sames season that it is generated. So the 2009-2010 cap number assumes revenue growth of 5% but most people consider this assumption VERY unlikely. What if it falls as many expect? What if it falls by 5%? Well then the cap is going to drop not just $3 million but perhaps as much as $4-6 million. If the upper limit of the cap drops by $4 million it will be at about $54 next summer.
It’s longer; read the rest at How Much Did Dale Tallon Hurt Chicago Last Summer? – Bird Watchers Anonymous.