By David Schuster–
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (CBS) — So now what?READ MORE: Transgender Attorneys Says Judges And Clerks Have Harassed Her; Fights For Change
On Monday night, the Blackhawks made their earliest postseason departure since 2011-’12 when they were ousted by St. Louis in a 3-2 loss in Game 7 at the Scottrade Center. This felt like uncharted territory, as Chicago has become synonymous with playing into May and June in the last half-dozen years. And with an early ouster comes the inevitable questions of who stays and who goes.
General manager Stan Bowman — who has adeptly navigated the salary cap in the past — will have once again have his work cut out for him. And once again, he will be saying goodbye to longtime Hawks players who just won’t fit either due to salary imbalances or because they just can’t perform up to standards.READ MORE: Death Investigation Underway After Man Found Unresponsive On CTA Red Line Platform In Old Town
Let’s start on defense, where it was beyond evident that the Hawks back-liners were short a man — or two or maybe three. Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson still are at the top of their games, but Brent Seabrook has started to wear down and the rest of the corps has become a weak spot. David Rundblad, Michal Rozsival and Erik Gustafsson just aren’t the caliber needed, and this first-round series reminded of just how much Johnny Oduya was missed all year.
Up front, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane weren’t productive in this series, but they’re still in the prime of their careers and will need to be built around again. The Hawks need some big wingers who will throw their weight around and situate themselves in front of the net. Andrew Shaw will likely be a salary cap casualty, and Andrew Ladd was this year’s expensive trade deadline pickup who will also be gone. It would have been nice if Bryan Bickell lived up to the salary that the team gave him, but after repeated chances, he hasn’t done that. It’s proved impossible to date to move his contract, which runs through 2016-’17.
Artemi Panarin’s terrific 2015-’16 earned him performance bonus money, which will roll onto the 2016-’17 cap. Toews and Kane each have won three Stanley Cups and have earned their large paydays, but those salaries will now make it hard to build a deep team moving forward. As mentioned, Bowman has worked around the salary cap in the past, but this might be his most difficult maneuver this offseason, which comes way too early for Hawks fans.MORE NEWS: Food Delivery Driver Shot And Killed While Sitting In Car In Little Italy
David Schuster is a reporter, update anchor and weekend host for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @Schumouse.