Friday, October 30, 2009

Kane, Toews, or Keith?

So the Blackhawks seem to have the best team they've had in years. They currently lead their division with the NHL's biggest off-season acquisition, Marian Hossa, sitting on the sidelines recovering from rotator-cuff surgery, Jonathan Toews trying to get his mind right after a big jolt from Willie Mitchell which gave him a concussion, and their two ruffians (Adam Burish and Ben Eager) out for a long stint. It's hard to imagine what they'll be like when they are healthy. However, it seems that the Blackhawks will not be able to hold together all the talent at their core. The major names that come up are young phenoms: Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Duncan Keith.

These three guys have played at a level way beyond their years and losing even one of them would be a fairly big hit. As it stands, though, it seems that the Blackhawks might only be able to keep one of them. As I mentioned earlier, the Blackhawks signed Marian Hossa to a $62.8M/12-year deal. As great as the name sounds, the contract is crippling. Many praised the Blackhaws right after the signing for coming to terms on such a long deal in order to spread out the money enough to avoid paying such a high price per year. However, the Blackhawks have backed themselves into a corner that will make it difficult for them to excel after this year. The Blackhawks now have (and yes, I borrowed these stats from ESPN) 12 players for next year for $42.5M, leaving 11 roster spots to fill with $11M of cap space left. How can the Blackhawks afford more than one of these phenomenal young players?

Kane and Toews have been playing for $875K/year for the last 3 years, because they were still on their rookie signing contracts. I'm not sure what Keith was being paid, but he'll want more than that too. As a Blackhawks fan, you'd really want to believe that these guys would take a hometown discount to stay together and win some championships, but the likelihood is nil. First of all, these guys know they're worth a lot of money, and if they don't, I'm sure their agents will inform them. Either way, they're gonna want their payday. Second of all, it's not easy to take less than what you're worth because the Player's Association won't be too happy with you driving down the price of skilled hockey players.

What can we do?
1. Do what the Blackhawks organization will probably let happen: let them go. Wave goodbye to the guys that have earned you millions in attendance and merchandise sales; the guys who you built an entire advertisement campaign around; the guys who brought hockey back to life in Chicago. Say, "Thanks!" and let someone else pay them what they're worth.


2. Cut some minor characters

Dustin Byfuglien is a pretty interesting character. He's a big guy we can throw in front of the opponents net to completely blind the goalie, then have him move out of the way just in time for the puck to hit the net. However, this seems to be the only thing he can do (other than stuff in rebound goals), which a lot of people can do. We're paying him too much money for what he does ($3M)<---and no, that's not three Monopoly dollars, that's three million. Drop him like he's hot, put him on waivers. Save that $3M for someone who's worth it.

Cut Brent Sopel. There's $2.5M of defense that someone from Rockford could easily make up when he's gone. Put the $2M that he's gonna be paid next year to Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, or Duncan Keith.

Brian Campbell. Sounded like a good idea at the time. Get rid of him. He sucks. He's nothing close to what we paid him for. Twice last year, during the playoffs, Campbell turned over the puck to the Red Wings for breakaway goals. Here's where you could really cut some losses: $7.14M. I'd rather have Jordan Hendry.

Cristobal Huet. He finished the season 11-2 with the Capitals in the post-season prior to the Blackhawks signing him. Another guy who sounded like a good idea at the time. However, he's terribly inconsistent. Let him go. Antti Niemi has played just as well as he has and for less money. $5.65M back in the Blackhawks pockets.

This won't solve all our problems, but at least we might be able to sign one more of those guys. The rest of our spots can be filled by guys from Rockford. The Blackhawks have turned lots of minor-leaguers into success stories (Dave Bolland, Troy Brouwer, Niklas Hjalmarsson). I think that with enough solid players around the call-ups will help them develop enough that they can play at a high level.

I'm no contract genius. Maybe everything I've said is illegal or stupid, I don't know. But, all I know is I want to see Kane, Toews, and Keith in the red, Indian-head sweater next year.

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