Celebrating History, An Angry Dressing Room, Trade Winds Blowing, Bettman Updates Salary Cap Projection, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Celebrating History, An Angry Dressing Room, Trade Winds Blowing, Bettman Updates Salary Cap Projection, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

Last night we watched history happen at the United Center. I was there, and shared some thoughts this morning on watching one of the greatest the game has ever seen reach a seemingly unattainable benchmark.

  • After the game, Jonathan Toews stood in front of his locker stall to answer questions from the media and he was as down as I can remember him being this season. As a future Hall of Famer in his own right, Toews was asked about being witness to history. While he appreciated how special the achievement is and what Ovechkin has been able to do in his career, he was more concerned with the performance of his team. He was not happy — I wouldn’t be alone in saying he was pissed off — about the third period collapse that turned a fairly competitive game into a blowout loss.
  • Toews was asked which “one thing” might be the first item to address to fix the defensive issues that cost the team seven goals last night. He took a measured breath and shrugged. There isn’t one thing to start with, according to the Blackhawks’ captain. The entire performance sucked. It was bad. And there’s a lot of work that needs to be done.
  • Similarly, Connor Murphy said the revolving doors in the lineup haven’t made things easy, but that’s just an excuse. And he’s not here for making excuses. Both Toews and Murphy were emphatic in saying every player on the roster needs to be better at their job, no matter who’s missing or who’s coming back after missing time because of an injury.
  • Head coach Luke Richardson, who has done his best to be positive the entire year, was on the same page as two of his veteran leaders. And he pointed out that the schedule isn’t giving them any time to work on things; Chicago has games on Thursday and Friday night against two good teams again. The NHL is a tough league to win in, and the steamroller doesn’t slow down to accommodate you if you want/need to work on things.
  • My guy Dave Pagnotta of The Fourth Period reported on Tuesday that the two faces of the Blackhawks’ franchise, Toews and Patrick Kane, will meet with the front office to discuss their future in January. This is about what we’ve expected since the draft when we watched GM Kyle Davidson trade away Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach and let Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome walk as free agents. Because of their status in the history of the franchise — but, more specifically, their cap hits and ages — it wasn’t likely either player would be able to go before Valentine’s Day, if not all the way to the trade deadline of March 3. And, even then, the Blackhawks would likely need to retain salary on either/both deals.
  • This new report is really a reminder that time flies when you’re having fun (or whatever this season has been), and the “we’ll find out more closer to Christmas” is now here (it’s Dec. 13 already).
  • Another name that’s been hot in trade speculation recently — because his team sucks and he’s really good — is Bo Horvat. The whispers have become loud enough that he issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon saying he isn’t saying anything. Because, you know, that’s how these things work.
  • In the TFP article I reference in the Kane/Toews piece, he also brings up Horvat’s recent conversations with the Canucks:

As Rick Dhaliwal first reported on Monday, the Vancouver Canucks recently pitched captain Bo Horvat a new long-term contract that was rejected. For now, the Canucks have indicated that they will explore trading the 27-year-old between now and the trade deadline.

According to sources, the Canucks’ offer, which was presented roughly two or three weeks ago, is believed to be under $7.5 million per season over eight years.

  • If a team is looking for an exceptional center to help them win faceoffs and drive some offense, the Blackhawks’ have two major competitors if Toews ever hits the market: Horvat and Ryan O’Reilly in St. Louis (because the Blues also suck). Like Toews, ROR has a Conn Smythe at home. All three are UFAs this summer.
  • The guy the Blackhawks picked in the 2022 NHL Draft that seems to get talked about the least is defenseman Sam Rinzel. That’s probably the case because he’s the furthest away from the NHL; he’s skating in the USHL this season and has committed to play for Minnesota in the Big Ten next season. The Blackhawks traded up into the first round to make a third selection to grab Rinzel, who many had mocked to the Blackhawks in the second round (this was the one trade that I wasn’t on board with; Davidson should have been able to trade a lower pick to Toronto to take Mrazek’s paper off their hands).
  • Rinzel having a nice season and gets to wear the stars and stripes for the US in the upcoming World Junior A Challenge. He talked about that challenge in an interview that posted recently.
  • How do we feel about a play-in tournament for the NHL postseason? According to Pierre LeBrun, that’s one of the more intriguing takeaways from the Board of Governors meetings over the past couple days.

I asked 12 governors. It was a 12-0 in favor of the NHL adding a play-in round. I couldn’t find a single voice of dissent.

  • That’s a fun idea that Bettman isn’t biting on. The more important piece of news was Bettman acknowledging that hockey-related revenues aren’t going to quite meet the projections from October, and the NHL’s salary cap does not appear likely to jump by $4 million next year. If HRR doesn’t erase the entire debt from the pandemic, the cap will go up by just $1 million again this coming summer, and the more significant jumps will begin in 2024 (at which time the Blackhawks have zero current NHL forwards signed).

“Based on current projections, there will still be an escrow at the end of the season, and if that’s the case we will move the cap up by $1 million,” Bettman said. “The budgeting projections that we have now are pretty robust — we’re anticipating having a very good season — but if we do even better, by ballpark an additional $140, $150 million, it’s conceivable the escrow will go away and then the cap will go up to in the mid-range $86 [million] plus. We’ll have to see. We’re just going to watch it. Clearly, it appears that if we don’t finish paying off the escrow this year, after next year it should be all gone and there shouldn’t be any issue about that.”

  • This could be good news for the Blackhawks, who have a little wiggle room under the cap this year and a ton next year to work with if the right opportunity presents itself. It also helps teams like Chicago who are looking to move pure rentals vs players with term left on their contracts.
  • This is a pretty cool video. Kelowna Ten put together this video of Colton Dach‘s teammates congratulating him for making the Canadian roster for the upcoming World Junior Championship.
  • Finally, when I got home from the United Center last night I saw a series of texts about the Cubs not getting their big fish in free agency. Carlos Correa is going to San Francisco on a massive, 13-year contract. And our guys had thoughts on the deal and the Cubs’ offseason failure so far.

Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab