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Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane hoists the Stanley Cup beside teammates Kris Versteeg (L) after scoring the winning goal against the Philadelphia Flyers during overtime in Game 6 of the NHL Stanley Cup final hockey series in Philadelphia June 9, 2010. REUTERS/Shaun Best (SHAUN BEST)
Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane hoists the Stanley Cup beside teammates Kris Versteeg (L) after scoring the winning goal against the Philadelphia Flyers during overtime in Game 6 of the NHL Stanley Cup final hockey series in Philadelphia June 9, 2010. REUTERS/Shaun Best (SHAUN BEST)

Globe on Hockey

Blackhawks exceed salary cap by millions Add to ...

In case you missed it, Eric Duhatschek had a good look at all the work facing Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman this summer to squeeze his team under the cap.

What wasn't clear until today, however, is just how far over they went this season - and how that will hurt them in 2010-11.

The NHL's cap this season was $56.8-million, and it's expected to rise for next year close to $58.5-million. According to capgeek.com's archives, Chicago finished 2009-10 with less than $300,000 in available space under the cap - before bonuses are added in.

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And that's where things get really grim.

The only two Blackhawks regulars with bonuses on their contracts this season were Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, who had a combined $5-million of them available. We heard yesterday from TSN's James Duthie that Toews earned a $1.3-million bonus for winning the Conn Smythe Trophy, which puts Chicago over the cap at least $1-million.

What wasn't revealed was the fact that both players hit all of their entry-level bonuses this season, meaning an extra $5-million in addition to their base salaries against the cap. It's exceptionally complicated to calculate exactly how far over the Blackhawks now are, but in looking at the numbers and talking to a few people today, I believe it to be about $4-million.

Teams are only allowed to exceed the salary cap due to bonuses and long-term injury exemptions and only then by a maximum of 7.5 per cent. Chicago came very, very close to that mark this season.

Here's the relevant portion of the CBA on how that "excess" is dealt with:

"To the extent a Club's Averaged Club Salary exceeds its Upper Limit as a result of: (i) Exhibit 5 Individual 'A' Performance Bonuses and 'B' Performance Bonuses paid by the Club that may be earned by Players in the Entry Level System and (ii) Performance Bonuses that may be earned by Players pursuant to Section 50.2(b)(i)(C) above, then the Club's Upper Limit for the next League Year shall be reduced by an amount equal to such excess."

That $4-million (or whatever the number ends up being), in other words, is coming off next year's cap.

Both Kane and Toews were still on entry-level deals this year, and a Conn Smythe bonus fits under the 'B' Performance Bonus category as a major league award (a bonus category that maxes out at $2-million in a given season). Toews received $1.3-million from the Blackhawks and another $250,000 from the league for being named MVP.

'A' Performance Bonuses, meanwhile, are things like number of goals, assists and points, targets that are set by teams, players and their agents when the contract is signed and that max out at $850,000 a season.

Both players maxed out all of their 'A' and 'B' bonuses this year to push their team over the cap, meaning that while every other team will be working with about a $58.5-million cap next season, Chicago's cap "penalty" will mean a ceiling of closer to $54.5-million.

And the Blackhawks already have $57.6-million in salary commitments with only 14 players signed for next season (Rk: ice time rank in postseason):

Rk

Forwards

2010-11 salary

6

Kane, Patrick

6.300

4

Toews, Jonathan

6.300

9

Hossa, Marian

5.275

10

Sharp, Patrick

3.900

7

Bolland, Dave

3.375

11

Versteeg, Kris

3.083

12

Byfuglien, Dustin

3.000

13

Kopecky, Tomas

1.200

16

Brouwer, Troy

1.050

14

Ladd, Andrew

RFA

18

Eager, Ben

RFA

21

Fraser, Colin

RFA

20

Bickell, Bryan

RFA

DNP

Skille, Jack

RFA

15

Madden, John

UFA

19

Burish, Adam

UFA

Defencemen

2010-11 salary

5

Campbell, Brian

7.143

1

Keith, Duncan

5.538

2

Seabrook, Brent

3.500

8

Sopel, Brent

2.333

3

Hjalmarsson, Niklas

RFA

17

Hendry, Jordan

RFA

DNP

Johnsson, Kim

UFA

22

Boynton, Nick

UFA

Goaltenders

2010-11 salary

Huet, Cristobal

5.625

Niemi, Antti

RFA

One solution often discussed is for Chicago to demote Huet to the minors and trade away a player like Versteeg or Byfuglien, moves that would free up roughly $8.6-million and leave Bowman with about $5.5-million to pay four or five forwards, two or three defencemen and get Niemi under contract.

Three restricted free agents in Ladd, Hjalmarsson and Niemi will eat up far more than that space easily, however, meaning it's very likely we see more than just Huet and a well salaried forward punted away. Bowman has to make some significant changes.

Any moves that are made will require cheap personnel coming back, too. The Blackhawks have a couple young players to work into the lineup like netminder Corey Crawford and forward Jack Skille, but they'll need to add to that mix. There's going to be plenty of opportunity for others to get in.

Don't expect anyone on the fourth line or third defence pairing, meanwhile, to be making much over the league minimum.

It'll be an interesting off-season in Chicago. My guess is they're going to have a heckuva time trying to repeat next spring given the depth about to leave town.

 

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