Latest on the Blackhawks, Blue Jackets and Sharks – April 22, 2017
Calls for changes for the Chicago Blackhawks, suggested offseason moves for the Columbus Blue Jackets and the futures of San Jose Sharks forwards Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau in your NHL rumor mill.
ESPN.COM: Craig Custance suggests the Chicago Blackhawks should explore trading veteran defenseman Brent Seabrook, leave center Marcus Kruger unprotected in the expansion draft and find a suitable, affordable replacement for backup goalie Scott Darling.
The Blackhawks need salary-cap flexibility. Moving Seabrook would clear over $6 million annually off the Blackhawks’ books. If Kruger is selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft, it would free up over $3 million. Darling is likely to depart via unrestricted free agency. Custance acknowledges moving the 32-year-old Seabrook, who has seven years left on his contract with a no-movement clause, “may be mission impossible.”
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Steve Rosenbloom notes the Blackhawks blueline lacks youth and speed, suggesting general manager Stan Bowman will have to be an aggressive trader to address this issue. He believes the Blackhawks would ideally trade Seabrook but he has a no-movement clause. Even without it, he doubts anyone would take “a 32-year-old defenseman with seven years left on a deal that swallows $6.875 million of salary-cap space annually.”
Rosenbloom discounts the possibility of trading 38-year-old winger Marian Hossa, who has four years left on his contract at $5.2 million annually and dismisses the notion of dealing goalie Corey Crawford, who also has a no-movement clause. He doesn’t see Bowman trading Nick Schmaltz, especially given the possibility of Kruger’s departure in the expansion draft. Ryan Hartman, however, could be a trade candidate. He also suggests packaging some “highly rated minor leaguers” for a young blueliner.
David Haugh singles out the expensive contracts of Seabrook, Hossa, Kruger and Artem Anisimov for the inflexibility of their roster. He suggests defensman Niclas Hjalmarsson as a trade candidate, as he has a limited no-movement clause and is the Hawk most likely to bring back something in a deal.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Mark Lazerus also points out the Blackhawks lack of salary-cap flexibility this offseason, even if Kruger departs in the expansion draft. “It would be insane to trade Corey Crawford to save only a couple of million dollars, and Brent Seabrook’s albatross of a contract and no-movement clause will make him difficult to unload.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve heard the suggestion of trading Crawford and re-signing Darling, but I don’t see Bowman doing this. Frankly, I don’t see any of their players carrying full no-movement clauses to waive them. Hjalmarsson has a modified no-trade (his no-movement clause is merely to prevent demotion to the minors) with a 10-team trade list. Yes, he’ll be easier to move than the others, but 10 teams leaves a limited number of possible destinations. Bowman obviously can’t shed his younger players. It’ll be interesting to see what he does to shed salary while improving his blueline.
ESPN.COM: Craig Custance believes the Columbus Blue Jackets must find a way to avoid losing a useful player in the expansion draft, find a way to shed some salary and try to re-sign forward Sam Gagner. They have several players carrying no-movement clauses who must be protected in the expansion draft, including forwards Scott Hartnell and Brandon Dubinsky.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jackets have over $70 million invested in 21 players and must re-sign pending RFAs Alexander Wennberg, Josh Anderson and backup goalie Joonas Korpisalo, provided the latter isn’t lost in the expansion draft. Custance seems to suggest the Blue Jackets try to move Hartnell and/or Dubinsky, but that’s easier said than done. Hartnell was willing to waive his clause last summer but when no takers emerged he changed his mind. He might not be as accommodating this year.
THE MERCURY NEWS: Mark Purdy reports (stick tap to G.J. Berg) this could be the final playoff series for Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau with the San Jose Sharks. Both are 37 years old and slated for unrestricted free agency in July. “Both say they wish to continue playing hockey. But if the Sharks can’t go farther than the first round at this stage of their careers, does the team still want or need them? Or should the salary cap money go to younger players? Likewise, do Marleau and Thornton still want or need the Sharks? Or would they prefer joining another Stanley Cup contender in need of a final missing piece? Will they demand multiyear deals at major money or give a hometown discount?”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of the two, I’d say Thornton stands a better chance of re-signing with the Sharks, thought he decline in his stats this season could be cause for concern. He could get a one-year, bonus-laden deal. If the Sharks opt work out a two-year deal with Thornton for less than his current cap hit of $6.75 million (like around $5 million annually), perhaps Marleau gets a one-year deal with a low base salary and bonuses.