Struggling Blackhawks Have Fascinating Future
The Chicago Blackhawks re-signed winger Alex DeBrincat to a three-year, $19.2-million contract. The annual average value is $6.4 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Looks like Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman wanted to avoid with DeBrincat the drama that enveloped this summer’s top restricted free agents. A wise move on his part and a cost-effective signing for a 40-goal scorer.
DeBrincat, 21, was the Blackhawks leading goal scorer (28) during his rookie campaign in 2017-18. As a sophomore, he finished second to Patrick Kane with 41 goals and third in points with 76. Another 40-plus goal effort this season would’ve pushed his asking price much higher than $6.4 million.
This bridge deal works well for both sides. DeBrincat will be able to pursue a more lucrative long-term deal with the Hawks by age 24 when he’ll also have salary-arbitration rights. By that point, the Blackhawks will have considerably more cap room to work with.
The lengthy deals for Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Duncan Keith will expire at the same time as DeBrincat’s, assuming they’re still skating with the Blackhawks. The youngster could be well-established as their first-line scoring star.
Cap Friendly indicates the DeBrincat signing leaves the Blackhawks with over $69.9 million invested in 13 players for 2020-21. Goaltenders Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner are slated to become UFAs but the Hawks will likely only re-sign one of them. Another 60-point season will put UFA defenseman Erik Gustafsson in line for a big raise.
Dylan Strome, DeBrincat’s linemate, is also a restricted free agent coming off an entry-level contract. After just six points in 20 games with the Arizona Coyotes, he netted 51 in 58 games with the Blackhawks. Another performance like that and he’ll also look for a big pay bump. It’ll be interesting to see if Bowman gets Strome signed up before the season’s end.
No April Foolin’ here, check out the latest on Tyson Barrie and an update on the Blackhawks in today’s NHL rumor mill.
MORE SPECULATION OVER BARRIE’S FUTURE WITH AVS
THE DENVER POST: Mike Chambers recently noted promising defenseman Cale Makar could soon join the Colorado Avalanche roster. The 20-year-old is considered a younger version of Avs blueliner Tyson Barrie. While the Avalanche can afford to carry Barrie and Makar, Chambers suggests the Avs could potentially trade Barrie if Makar plays up to expectations and use the saving to put toward re-signing restricted free agent star Mikko Rantanen.
Barrie is signed through 2019-20 with an annual salary-cap hit of $5.5 million. Makar would be earning less than $1 million annually on his entry-level deal.
On Saturday, Chambers followed up by noting Barrie’s value to the Avs blueline this season. The 27-year-old became the franchise leader among defenseman for goals (73), assists (231) and points (304). However, Chambers once again suggested the potential addition of young Makar could cast Barrie’s long-term future with the Avalanche into doubt.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Avalanche have just over $46 million invested in 12 players for 2019-20. Assuming the cap reaches $83 million as projected, they’ll have around $37 million to work with if they become a cap team. Rantanen is their only core player without a contract and will be their priority. The remainder of their free agents can be re-signed or replaced on affordable contracts.
It could cost around $7 million annually on a long-term extension to re-sign Barrie. It’ll be interesting to see if the Avs attempt to re-sign him this summer or wait and see how next season plays out. They could trade him but I don’t think they’ll go that route. As promising as Makar is, he’s yet to make his NHL debut and it’ll take time before he gets up to Barrie’s standard.
LATEST ON THE BLACKHAWKS
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Jimmy Greenfield believes the Blackhawks’ most pressing need is their defense and he anticipates there could be some changes there this summer.
Aging blueliners Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have expensive contracts with full no-movement clauses. Erik Gustafsson is having a breakout performance and is signed through 2019-20 with a $1.2-million contract. Connor Murphy is steady and has a decent contract while rookie Henri Jokiharju should be back for a full season.
Greenfield anticipates one or two of the Blackhawks’ top-five defensemen probably won’t be back next season.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Scott Powers anticipates it could cost the Blackhawks between $13 million to $15 million to re-sign young forwards Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome. Both have one year remaining on their entry-level contracts but general manager Stan Bowman will have to plan ahead to ensure he’s got sufficient room when their new contracts kick in next July.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $60.6 million invested in 15 players for 2019-20, Bowman will have around $23 million to work with this summer if the cap reaches $83 million as projected with all his core players under contract. He’s got room to add to his roster but I daresay he’d like to free up some additional long-term cap space to make room for DeBrincat and Strome.
Moving Keith or Seabrook would free up precious salary-cap room for additional moves this summer or next. Despite their impressive careers, however, both are in the mid-thirties, their best seasons are behind them, and moving their contracts won’t be easy even if they agreed to waive their movement clauses. If the Blackhawks blueline changes, I expect Keith and Seabrook will still be part of it.
A possible salary-dump candidate could be center Artem Anisimov, He’s signed through 2020-21 with an annual cap hit of $4.55 million and his limited no-trade clause expires on July 1.
Game recaps, Capitals clinch a playoff berth, Masterton Memorial Trophy nominees revealed, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Third-period goals by Jakub Vrana and Nic Dowd gave the Washington Capitals a 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. With the win, the Capitals (100 points) clinched a playoff spot and hold a three-point lead over the New York Islanders for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Before the game, Hurricanes captain Justin Williams said his club’s popular “Storm Surge” postgame win celebrations have come to an end for the remainder of the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That should delight Don Cherry and Brian Burke as they are the most vocal critics of the Hurricanes’ postgame antics.
The Islanders, meanwhile, scored three unanswered third-period goals to overcome a 4-2 deficit to upset the Winnipeg Jets 5-4. Jordan Eberle tallied twice for the Isles. The loss leaves the Jets (94 points) two points ahead of the Nashville Predators for the top spot in the Central Division.
The Columbus Blue Jackets regained the second-wild card spot in the Eastern Conference by thumping the Montreal Canadiens 6-2. Both clubs have 90 points but the Jackets hold a game in hand. Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella was furious at Canadiens’ forward Andrew Shaw’s second-period hit to the head of defenseman Adam McQuaid, who left the game and didn’t return. Shaw received a two-minute interference penalty. Tortorella believes the hit was “Suspendable. Ridiculously suspendable.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We’ll find out later today if the NHL’s department of player safety agrees.
The Dallas Stars rallied back from a 2-0 deficit to nip the Edmonton Oilers 3-2. Shootout goals by Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn completed the comeback for the Stars. Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl became the first German national to reach 100 points in an NHL season. He and Connor McDavid are also the first Oilers teammates to reach 100 points since Jari Kurri and Jimmy Carson in 1988-89.
The San Jose Sharks suffered their seventh straight loss by falling to the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4. The Sharks (95 points) remains six points behind the first-place Calgary Flames in the Pacific Division. Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat became the youngest player in franchise history (21) to scored 40 goals in a season. The Hawks (78 points) sit five points out of a Western Conference playoff spot.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Earlier this month, the Sharks were rolling through a six-game winning streak. Shaky goaltending and the ongoing absence of sidelined defenseman Erik Karlsson have contributed to their current slide.
Tanner Pearson tallied the only goal in a shootout as the Vancouver Canucks edged the Los Angeles Kings 3-2. Kings captain Dustin Brown became the franchise leader in games played (1,112). Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler set a franchise record for most goals by a defenseman with 94.
Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov reached the 90-point plateau for the first time in a 5-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators. Teammate Jonathan Huberdeau also scored twice. Panthers defenseman Brady Keeper made his debut and became the first member of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation to play in the NHL.
The Detroit Red Wings blew a 4-2 lead but went on to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 5-4 in overtime. Tyler Bertuzzi tallied the game-opening and game-winning goals while Dylan Larkin reached the 30-goal mark for the first time and Anthony Mantha collected three assists.
Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, Calgary Flames blueliner Mark Giordano, Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford, New York Islanders netminder Robin Lehner, and St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester are among the nominees for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
THE DENVER POST: Good news for the Colorado Avalanche as sidelined captain Gabriel Landeskog (separated shoulder) makes his return tonight against the Arizona Coyotes.
NBC SPORTS: Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug (285 career points) recently became the highest-scoring American-born player in franchise history.
Matt Read has been placed on waivers to get him back down to Iowa, a sign Joel Eriksson Ek and/or Zach Parise will be returning tomorrow in Vegas#mnwild
— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) March 28, 2019
Game recaps, stars of the week, injury updates, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: NHL scoring leading Nikita Kucherov scored twice and set up three others to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 5-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Kucherov is now one point shy of 100 on the season. He was also named the league’s first star for the week ending Feb. 17. St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko and Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby were the second and third stars.
The Lightning didn’t escape from the game unscathed as defenseman Victor Hedman left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury. However, Lightning coach Jon Cooper doesn’t think it’s too serious.
San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton tallied his first hat trick since 2010 but it wasn’t enough to prevent his club from dropping a 6-5 overtime decision to the Boston Bruins. Charlie McAvoy tallied the winner for the Bruins, who extended their win streak to six games. Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci each had three-point performances.
Chicago Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat also had a five-point game (three goals, two assists) as the Chicago Blackhawks nipped the Ottawa Senators 8-7. Blackhawks star Patrick Kane collected three points to extend his points streak to 18 games. Colin White and Thomas Chabot each tallied twice for the Senators. The Blackhawks (59 points) sit one point out of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
The Colorado Avalanche also moved to within a point of that wild-card spot by blanking the Vegas Golden Knights 3-0. Semyon Varlamov made 40 saves for the shutout.
Alex Ovechkin scored twice and John Carlson collected his 300th career point as the Washington Capitals hung on for a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings. Ovechkin leads the league with 42 goals.
The Calgary Flames (79 points) took over the top spot in the Western Conference by downing the Arizona Coyotes 5-2. Mark Giordano, Mikael Backlund, and Michael Frolik each had a goal and an assist.
WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres winger Kyle Okposo has returned to Buffalo for evaluation after not feeling well over the weekend. Defenseman Marco Scandella is listed as week-to-week with an upper-body injury.
SPORTSNET: Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen will be sidelined for a month with a fractured rib.
NEW YORK POST: Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei is expected to return to the lineup tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes after suffering a minor leg injury over the weekend.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers placed forwards Jujhar Khaira and Jesse Puljujarvi on injured reserve, recalled defenseman Andrej Sekera and Josh Currie, and placed defenseman Brandon Manning on waivers.
TSN: The Chicago Blackhawks acquired center Peter Holland from the New York Rangers in exchange for defenseman Darren Raddysh.
THE SCORE: Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’amour doesn’t care what critics think of his club’s elaborate post-game victory celebrations. “It’s about our players engaging our fans and thanking them for sticking with us, being there (for us), and trying to provide a little levity to a pretty serious game. We push these guys pretty hard,” he said.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Scott Powers interviewed former Chicago Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa, who explained how a serious skin condition changed his life and brought his playing career to an end. The condition began about six years ago and worsened over time, while the treatments also took a toll. Since he stepped away from the game in 2017, the condition has cleared up and Hossa said he can now lead a normal life. He’s also finally accepted that his playing days are over.