By Jay Zawaski–
(CBS) For the second time this season, embattled winger Bryan Bickell is headed to Rockford.
On Saturday, the Blackhawks waived him, and after going unclaimed, Bickell’s now expected to be the IceHogs’ highest profile player. With the move, the Blackhawks save $950,000 off the salary cap.
Since signing his four-year, $16-million deal with the Blackhawks in the summer of 2013, Bickell has been one of the most frustrating and infuriating players in the league.
Seemingly everyone — coaches, teammates, media and fans — knows what Bickell needs to do on the ice to have success.
1. Play physically
2. Go to the net
3. Be a factor
It seems like Bickell understands this as well. When he returned after his first demotion in December, he was a major factor in his first game against Winnipeg. He played physically, knocking Dustin Byfuglien to the ice once and standing him up on another big check. He was a difference-maker in all three zones.
It seemed so. But since that solitary game, Bickell has gone back to the floating, 60-foot shot-taking, often invisible player he’s been far too often. Most nights, Bickell seems totally unwilling to engage. At 6-foot-4, 225 lbs, it’s hard to disappear, but often I’ll say to myself, “Oh, Bickell’s in the lineup tonight? I hadn’t noticed.”
There are so many built-in excuses for Bickell, and we’ve heard them all.
Yes, he’s been dealing with an ocular issue since late last season, but isn’t it safe to assume that if that was an issue on gameday, he’d be out of the lineup?
Yes, it is difficult to get your game back with limited ice time, but how can coach Joel Quenneville justify giving ice time to a player who has managed a whopping two points in 23 games? Even Brandon Mashinter has managed those numbers … and in fewer games.
Yes, confidence is an issue. Hockey players are human beings, after all. But at some point, you have to make your own luck. Playing a passive game isn’t the way to get your game jump started. How many times have we heard it? “Go to the net, and good things happen.” Well, whenever you’re ready, Bryan.
So what can the Hawks do to rid themselves of Bickell’s contract? It’s no secret that they’ve been attempting to trade him all year, but no team is just going to take on an underachieving player with a $4 million cap hit. If the Hawks were to move him, it would likely require the team to eat part of Bickell’s contract. Is it worth absorbing $2 million of his salary to move him? I’d say yes.
Even if the Hawks did find a taker on a reduced salary, there’s a good chance that it would take a sweetener to get the deal done, such as a second- or third-round pick or a mid-level prospect. That’s a lot to simply move $2 million, but in this salary cap era, every penny counts., especially for a perennial Cup contender.
The Hawks are on the cusp of another Stanley Cup run. They can’t afford to wait for Bickell to figure it out. They have too many options that are willing, better and cheaper.
The Bryan Bickell era is likely coming to a disappointing end.
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.