Congrats To The Chicago Blackhawks….Now The Vultures Circle

Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, Chicago’s in quite a bind. They have a huge bullseye on their back, and not just because they’ll skate next season with the “defending Cup champ” tag on them. Thanks to some mis-management and foolish free agent signings the Blackhawks are in quite the pickle. They have about $57.6 million on the salary cap next season accounting for just 15 players, with the expected salary cap at the $58.8 million range, give or take a little.

In short, their lineup in October is going to look quite a bit different from what they iced this past playoffs.

Other than Jonathan Toews , Patrick Kane , Duncan Keith , Marian Hossa , Brent Seabrook and Antti Niemi, almost every single signed player has been mentioned as a possibility to be traded for some salary cap relief. To be sure, they’re going to have to wheel and deal a little bit. Might they demote a guy like Brian Campbell ($7.14 million with an amazing six more years to go on his contract) or Cristobal Huet ($5.625 million with two more years) to the minors and eat that salary? Seems hefty and potentially too costly to wash away.

There’s an area for exploitation here, and that’s the name of the game. Chicago may not be interested in trading with Pittsburgh — what would be their rationale to trade a solid player to a potential contender, even if it’s out of conference? On top of that, Pittsburgh really doesn’t have that many young, good, inexpensive players that would be valued by Chicago. If Ray Shero wants to take the next step, it may have to come from poaching a RFA that the Blackhawks just can’t afford to match.