By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) You probably noticed the divergent coverage of the announcement early Wednesday morning that Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa will miss the 2017-’18 season with a skin condition and reaction to medication, which will necessitate a move to the long-term injured reserve. Locally, it was almost uniformly songs of praise, and anywhere outside of the Chicago media bubble, the move was met with eye rolls and groans.
Paeans to Hossa poured in across Chicago, with little or no mention of the fortuitous timing that allowed the cap-strapped Blackhawks significant relief from a contract for a diminishing 38-year-old player at the end of his effectiveness despite having four years left on a deal at a cap hit of $5.275 million per season.
Placing him on LTIR and avoiding a public description of retirement allows the Blackhawks more cap relief amid the complicated salary cap machinations, freeing up flexibility for other moves that would otherwise have been impossible. It fits a pattern well-established in the NHL, a tactic used for the contracts of Chris Pronger and Johan Franzen to take advantage of a loophole to avoid onerous salary cap claw-backs.
There’s no question Hossa has been dealing with a skin problem for some time. While speculation has centered on the contact dermatitis prevalent in the league decades ago, doctors contacted by 670 The Score speculated that an issue necessitating the kind of medication that could cause the side effects Hossa and the team doctor described was more likely to be autoimmune and more exacerbated by equipment than caused by an allergy to it. Regardless, there’s truth to the physical problem.
But that doesn’t mean ignoring the obvious and understanding what’s actually happening here. Yahoo’s Puck Daddy blog called the move “sickening” and “one of the saddest, oddest, most uncomfortable and most convenient bits of hockey news.”
We should be able to handle all of it honestly, that a once-great player is retiring without saying so after a brilliant career and that the Blackhawks are using this to circumvent the salary cap in exactly the same way other teams have done.