By Jay Zawaski–
(CBS) Well, it finally happened.
The trade we all knew was coming at some point was consummated Friday evening, as the Blackhawks traded decorated winger Patrick Sharp along with defensive prospect Stephen Johns to the Dallas Stars for defenseman Trevor Daley and winger Ryan Garbutt.
There’s a ton to digest here, so I’m just going to go item by item, so nothing gets lost.
Salary situation: Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman confirmed that the Stars will be retaining half of Garbutt’s $1.8 million salary, making him a $900,000 cap hit for Chicago. In trading Sharp ($5.9 million) and Johns ($800,000) for Daley ($3.3 million) and Garbutt ($900,000), the Hawks save $2.5 million in cap space. That’s not enough to end their salary cap crunch.
Depending on how you shape the roster, the Hawks are anywhere between $530,000 to $1 million over the cap. Here’s a link to my best stab at it. Obviously, Chicago’s roster isn’t final, but that’s a decent representation of where the Blackhawks stand right now.
Hockey impact: Sharp was a huge part of all three of the Blackhawks’ recent Stanley Cups. Despite a diminished offensive role this season, Sharp remained an effective player who could play in every game situation. He was, however, clearly declining in both speed and overall quality of play. With improved ice time and a bigger role in Dallas, his numbers may jump a bit next season (he also had a career-worst 5 percent shooting percentage), but the trend is still downward for Sharp.
In Daley, the Blackhawks are getting what one source has called a Nick Leddy/Johnny Oduya hybrid. He’s a great skater and solid puck mover. His advanced stats look pretty bad, but Dallas was one of the league’s worst defensive teams, allowing 260 goals, behind only Edmonton, Buffalo, Arizona and Toronto. Like Johnny Oduya before him, Daley should see a significant boost in both his numbers and metrics when he’s paired with Niklas Hjalmarsson.
Johns was the Hawks’ top defensive prospect and was expected to play a big role on next year’s roster. To me, losing Johns is the most difficult aspect of the trade. Bowman said that moving Johns was the only way to get the deal done. I expect him to be featured on the Stars’ opening night roster.
Garbutt is a bottom-six left winger with a good amount of speed and grit. He can kill penalties and score a bit. Think of him as a less intense Andrew Shaw or a more intense, faster, cheaper Bryan Bickell.
What does this mean for Marcus Kruger? It’s unlikely that the Hawks are done dealing, and most expect Kruger to be back with Chicago next season. Remember, the collective bargaining agreement allows teams to be 10 percent over the salary cap until they take the ice for opening night of the regular season. The Hawks can now sign Kruger and figure out the rest later.
What does this mean for Johnny Oduya? The acquisition of Daley makes Oduya a bit redundant. They’re similar players (Daley is two years younger), both left-handed shots. I still believe the Hawks will try to find a way to bring Oduya back, but I think this trade makes that less likely. If they can somehow fit him, the Hawks defense is much better than it was in 2014-’15. If Oduya doesn’t sign in Chicago, Dallas is rumored to be one of the teams interested. That would be interesting, eh?
What does this mean for Bryan Bickell? I’ve been told by a source that Bickell is, for all intents and purposes, unmovable. If the Hawks truly can’t move Bickell, they have a couple of options.
They can send him to Rockford. He’d have to clear waivers first. If he cleared, he would cost the Hawks $3.1 million against the cap. That’s only a savings of $950,000, but it makes the Hawks cap compliant.
The other option is basically to live with him and have the cheapest possible roster in Chicago. For example, that would mean Corey Tropp ($620,000) instead of Jeremy Morin ($800,000), etc. This isn’t ideal, because there’s virtually no flexibility should a minor injury occur. These lesser players would have to play, and the Hawks would have to be a man down, roster wise.
Of course, if the Hawks made another salary-clearing trade, this is all moot.
What other moves can be made? Kris Versteeg’s $2.2 million cap hit makes him an option to trade, but without Brandon Saad or Patrick Sharp, the Hawks’ left wing situation is pretty thin. Versteeg provides versatility in his ability to play on all four lines and play on special teams. That could be attractive to a team looking to add an experienced veteran presence but could prove invaluable for the Hawks as well.
Andrew Shaw, at $2 million, is another option, but his playoff performance this summer may have kept him around. He was one of the Blackhawks’ most consistent forwards. He also provides grit and a willingness to play in front of the net that the Hawks sorely lack. I’d be shocked if Shaw was moved at this point.
So do the Hawks stink now? Not at all, actually. They’re still one of the best teams in the league. Yes, losing star players like Sharp and Saad hurts, but remember that both were replaced with proven NHL talent. Artem Anisimov provides the Hawks’ best second-line center play since, well, since the Hawks were relevant. Marko Dano is an exciting prospect who looks to be a pretty sure thing at this point. He’s won’t be Patrick Kane, but he looks to be solid top-six winger already. Artemi Panarin was one of the most sought-after international free agents, and the Hawks expect him to be a major part of things next year. He was one of the best and most electrifying players in the KHL last year and should have an immediate impact.
One thing’s for sure: The 2015-16 Blackhawks are going to look very different from their 2014-15 predecessors. Time will tell how they compare on the ice.
Jay Zawaski is the executive producer of the Spiegel and Goff Show on 670 The Score and the Blackhawks columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JayZawaski670.