Wednesday, July 14, 2010
The Hawks have already traded Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel, Andrew Ladd, and Kris Versteeg from their championship roster and almost lost RFA Niklas Hjalmarsson to the San Jose Sharks. Plus, John Madden, who is a UFA, won’t be re-signed. Additionally, Antti Niemi is going to arbitration and will certainly receive a large raise from the $800,000 he made last year. If the contract he’s awarded is too large it is entirely possible that the Hawks will walk away from the decision and attempt to sign another goalie for a cheaper salary.
Even after the Hawks bury Christobal Huet’s $5.625 million in the minors they will have a very small amount of money to fill out at least 5 roster spots. According to Tim Sassone of Chicago’s Daily Herald, the Hawks have 15 players under contract for $59.3 million (including Stanley Cup bonuses), while the cap limit is $59.4 million. Without Huet, Chicago's cap space isn’t even $6 million.
The Hawks will still be one of the best teams in the league next year because they have Kane, Toews, Hossa, Sharp, Bolland, Keith, Seabrook, and Campbell, but they will find it very hard to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions because they lack the tremendous depth that made them so successful last season. It’s also entirely possible that the Hawks will have to trade another player like Sharp to get under the cap, so I don’t see them repeating.
With the Hawks set to slip from their lofty perch it seems the Western Conference will send a completely different team to the Stanley Cup Final. It won’t be San Jose because even though they’ll be good, they’ll still be San Jose. The best team in the Western Conference, and likely the entire NHL, will be the most overrated team of the past two seasons - a team which is now probably underrated due to two straight second round beat-downs.