Reports began to surface this week regarding some significant moves by the Chicago Blackhawks. Five-year deals are coming for forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, and defenseman Duncan Keith is apparently going to sign a mammoth 13-year deal for less annual money.
This is all being thrown onto a team that is already up against the NHL's salary cap. Even if the cap doesn't fall as much as previously expected for next season, Chicago is facing a harsh reality: in order to get under the cap, it's likely they'll have to make some deals. With that in mind, we thought we'd take a look at what players are in the most danger of being dealt before the 2010-11 season.
While it's possible that Chicago will make some sort of cap-clearing trade before the March trade deadline, a move during the next offseason seems to be a greater likelihood. After all, if this team is truly a Stanley Cup threat, why break them up when you're safely under the cap for this season? It's next season that general manager Stan Bowman has to be more concerned about.
(Cap figures cited are from the ever-popular nhlnumbers.com.)
Brian Campbell, defenseman, $7.14 million
Campbell is the easiest target, thanks to his mammoth cap figure and somewhat underwhelming return. The Blackhawks are also deep on defense, thanks to guys like Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Cam Barker, all of whom are 25 or younger.
Of course, that cap figure and somewhat underwhelming performance are also reasons why Campbell can't be moved. If the goal here is to clear cap space for future seasons, the Blackhawks can't be taking on any big contracts, and there simply aren't a lot of teams who are looking for a $7 million defenseman who doesn't defend well and isn't that big of a factor offensively.
That said, Campbell was highly-sought as a free agent not even two years ago. If the Blackhawks were willing to listen, you would have to think teams like Nashville, St. Louis or Colorado would want to talk at some point. All of them have cap space, cheap guys who could be attractive to Chicago, and they're struggling badly on the power play right now.
Approximate Trade Odds: 50 to 1
Cam Barker, defenseman, $3 million
A guy like Barker is a better bet than Campbell for a number of reasons. For starters, he has a long-term deal for a low amount of money (he's signed for two more years after this season). At just 23, he clearly has a bigger upside than Campbell, and he has similar skills as a power-play quarterback. Because of his lesser salary, he's a more realistic fit on a number of teams who could use a little help on the blue line. While Chicago won't gain as much cap space, they can probably be a bit choosier about his destination, meaning Eastern Conference teams like Carolina, Ottawa, or Buffalo could come into play.
Approximate Trade Odds: 15 to 1
Cristobal Huet, goalie, $5.625 million
It's hard to identify teams who might be interested in Huet, but you have to wonder if Los Angeles -- with a ton of young players and even more cap room -- might be interested in adding an older goaltender, just in case Jonathan Quick continues his up-and-down play.
Approximate Trade Odds: 12 to 1
Dustin Byfuglien, forward, $3 million
Byfuglien is a valuable player, no doubt. He willingly goes into the tough areas, does a ton of dirty work, and uses his size and toughness to help protect his highly-skilled teammates. Given Brian Burke's philosophy, he'd be a great fit on Team USA for the Winter Olympics.
That said, this is Chicago's deepest position, especially once Marian Hossa returns from his shoulder injury. This will be happening sooner rather than later, by the way.
There should be a slew of teams beating down Bowman's door should he ever show a willingness to trade Byfuglien. Teams like Buffalo, Tampa Bay, and even Atlanta could use a little more grit around the net, and Byfuglien can give them that.
Approximate Trade Odds: 8 to 1
Patrick Sharp, forward, $4 million
While it would be an incredibly difficult decision for Bowman, this is the one that probably makes the most sense. Sharp is 27, so he's likely about to peak as an offensive threat. He is signed through 2011-2012 at a relatively reasonable number. It likely makes him expendable, because the Blackhawks already have big-time scoring threats like Hossa, Kane, and Toews, along with secondary guys Kris Versteeg and Troy Brouwer.
It's not that Sharp is not good enough or that he's not worth keeping. He's easily the best player on this list. However, his skills are not unique on this team, and while you are right to argue that Campbell and Huet would be better guys to trade, Sharp gives them the best combination of two important qualities: "Player they wouldn't miss a ton" and "Player other teams will actually want."
His addition would be huge on teams like Los Angeles, Colorado, or -- if Chicago wants to trade him to the East -- Ottawa.
Approximate Trade Odds: 5 to 1