By Jay Zawaski–
(CBS) On Wednesday morning, the Blackhawks rid themselves of the horrendous, miserable, albatross that was winger Bryan Bickell’s contract.
That’s the good news. The bad news?
They also had to move 21-year-old forward Teuvo Teravainen to get the deal done.
Both Bickell and Teravainen are headed to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a second-round pick (50th overall) in this year’s draft and a third-round pick in 2017.
Anyone who reads my work knows that I have been — and continue to be — a big fan of Teravainen’s game and potential. With that in mind, I can safely say that this is the first Stan Bowman move that I truly hate. The Hawks are hurting themselves in the long term with no real benefit or replacement coming the other way.
What it does is free up $4.925 million and allow for the re-signing of gritty forward Andrew Shaw, whom I expect an extension announcement for in the next few days.
Now, here are some random thoughts on the deal:
— It must be said that Bickell’s contract once made sense, believe it or not. When Bickell was re-signed to a four-year deal back in summer 2013, he was coming off a couple of very strong Stanley Cup playoff performances and was seen as one of the top available forwards of his unrestricted free-agent class. The Hawks paid him close to market value and made the assumption that he would get better or, at worst, level off. Bickell regressed, and Bowman has been dealing with the side effect of this deal since. It was a case of putting too much stock in the past. When Cubs executive Theo Epstein discusses the signing player, he stresses the importance of not paying for past performance, instead needing to have the foresights to see what’s ahead. The Hawks didn’t judge Bickell correctly.
— Simply put, I hate the trade of Teravainen. Don’t even start with the “he’s too soft and doesn’t hit” rhetoric. At 21, Teravainen is still considered a prospect, and I assure you that the Hurricanes are thrilled to bring in a player this young, skilled and experienced. Remember, Teravainen played a valuable role in the 2015 Stanley Cup run. I like Shaw, and I’m glad he’ll (likely) be back with the team. However, if I’m making the choice between a supremely skilled, still-improving and maturing player over a grinder who may have already hit his peak, I’m taking the former.
— At the same time, I don’t want to make this the Shaw teardown story. It’s really not. I really like Shaw, but if I’m a GM looking at the Hawks organization, I see a lot of players who can jump in to a Shaw-like role. Ryan Hartman, Mark McNeill and others play a similar game, and while they might not be quite as good as Shaw, they can fill the shoes of a grindy bottom-six forward. There’s no one in the organization — with the exception of Nick Schmaltz (who still hasn’t signed) — who can play the game Teravainen plays.
— I feel robbed of the opportunity to watch Teravainen grow into a top-six player. I’ve had beautiful daydreams of the Teravainen-Artemi Panarin-Patrick Kane line. Sure, in that dream they’re often digging the puck out of the net behind Corey Crawford, but there are way more pucks whizzing past spooked opposition goalies. I still believe Teravainen is going to be a 55/70-point player when he hits his peak.
— There could be a hidden angle to this deal. On Tuesday, news broke that the NHL will be expanding to Las Vegas. Whenever expansion takes place, there will be an expansion draft. Because players with no movement clauses are protected from expansion drafts, Teravainen very well could have been a victim and off the team after next season anyway.
— Even if Bowman is looking forward to the expansion draft, why not keep Teravainen for this year? They’re certainly a better team with him than without him.
— Scratch the idea of winger Marian Hossa transition to a third-line checking role. With Teravainen off the roster, there’s no other top line right wing option. Good news for star Jonathan Toews, huh?
— I want to know what’s next aside from Shaw. As it stands after the Bickell-Teravainen trade and with forward Richard Panik’s re-signing to a one-year deal, the Hawks have $7,735,705 for eight roster spots. Cross as much as $4 million off that number for Shaw’s new deal, and you’re looking at $3,735,705 of cap space for seven guys. Do the math, and you can see this isn’t ideal.
— Here’s a look at how the lines could shake out next season: (875K)
Jay Zawaski is the executive producer of the Spiegel and Goff Show on 670 The Score and the Blackhawks columnist for CBSChicago.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast with James Neveau of NBCChicago.com that you can listen and subscribe to here. Follow him on Twitter @JayZawaski670.