By Jay Zawaski–
(CBS) Since the Blackhawks promoted Stan Bowman to general manager in 2009, I’ve been a pretty staunch supporter of him. Over the past six-plus years, he’s done a good job of managing the Blackhawks’ annual salary cap dilemmas while keeping the team on the ice among the league’s elite.
My faith has been shaken over the last week-plus, however.
Last week, Bowman traded wingers Bryan Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen to the Carolina Hurricanes for two draft picks. I hated losing Teravainen, but it seemed pretty clear that Bowman had to choose between keeping Andrew Shaw or Teravainen.
He chose Shaw — or at least we thought he did.
As the NHL Draft approached this weekend, we started hearing rumors of Shaw being shopped. On Friday afternoon, the Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reported that Shaw was seeking $4.5 million per year. That number was well out of the Hawks’ price range, and subsequently Shaw was moved to the Canadiens for a pair of second-round picks in this year’s draft. (Note: Brian Hedger of NHL.com tweeted Shaw was willing to accept $3.2 million.)
Now, it’s not the fact that Shaw was traded that concerns me. Two second-round picks are a pretty fair return for a restricted free agent’s rights, and there’s no way could the Hawks afford to pay him fair market value.
Three possibilities exist here:
1. Bowman traded Teravainen assuming Shaw would take a hometown discount.
2. He used Teravainen as a “sweetener” in moving Bryan Bickell.
3. He traded Teravainen because they just wanted to trade him.
If the first scenario is true, Bowman missed huge. Didn’t Bowman know that Shaw would be asking for this money? Did he have no idea of what he’d be seeking? The Hawks should have been talking to Shaw about a new deal all spring, right? Before you make that assumption, you should have indications from the player or agent first. If Bowman knew Shaw’s camp was seeking upward of $4 million or more, he shouldn’t have included Teravainen in a trade.
If the second scenario occurred, then Bowman grossly overpaid to get a bad contract out of town. The option to buy out Bickell existed, and while it would hurt the Hawks this year and next ($1 million and $1.5 million cap hits, respectively), it hurts less than losing one of your most skilled and up-and-coming players. I said on the Madhouse Podcast that you don’t move Teravainen without getting a first-round pick or an equivalent prospect in return. Bowman got neither.
If the third scenario is true and the Hawks just wanted to move Teravainen along, it shows that Bowman isn’t in control of the roster. We know coach Joel Quenneville has never been Teravainen’s biggest fan, and we know some teammates had concerns with his day-to-day efforts, but for the love of God, he’s 21. He was developing at the right pace and was key in the Hawks 2015 Cup title.
For a cap-strapped team seemingly in transition, Teravainen’s talent, combined with his $894,167 cap hit, made him invaluable. Even if they weren’t thrilled with his work ethic, as I wrote last week, isn’t it worth hanging on to him to see if he’d mature a bit this season?
So now here we are, looking at a Hawks roster without Shaw, without Teravainen and with a ton of question marks. On Friday night, Bowman said the Hawks don’t have a salary cap problem. We’ll see.
As it stands right now, the Hawks have $5,690,705 to spend on five players (assuming defenseman Michal Kempny makes the team). Many of those players will be prospects who makes less than $1 million a year.
The Hawks are looking to add a bit of tenacity and grit to the lineup, a source said. With that in mind, perhaps the Hawks will take a look at bringing back Tomas Flesichmann and/or Dale Weise on inexpensive deals.
Unrestricted free agent defenseman Brian Campbell has made it known he wants to return to Chicago as well. The Hawks have interest and now have the cap space. I’d call it a huge upset if he doesn’t end up in a Hawks sweater come July 1.
Whatever happens, the Hawks roster will look very different next season, and even if the Hawks do add a few veteran players via free agency, Quenneville will be forced to play more kids than ever before.
Stay tuned. It’s going to be a crazy week ahead.
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.