The Chicago Blackhawks had a bumpy season off the ice, starting with the Patrick Kane rape investigation, then an incident with a prospect, and offensive remarks made by Andrew Shaw. On the ice, however, they had another solid season despite their first round exit. They ended with a 47-26-9 record, 103 points, and 3rd in the division. Kane scored 46 goals and tallied 60 assists, finishing with a league leading 106 points. Artemi Panarin, playing on the same line, emerged as a lethal scorer. He ended his rookie season with 30 goals and 47 assists, winning the Calder Memorial Trophy.
Unfortunately for them, they lost in the first round in what was a thrilling 7 game series. Trailing 3-1, they win an intense game 5 in overtime. They then force a game 7 with a win on home-ice. In what was probably the game of the entire playoffs, they lose 3-2 after Brouwer scored the go-ahead goal and the Blackhawks coming inches from tying the game with a shot ringing off both goal posts. In the words of Doc Emric, “The defending champions are defending no more.”
Then comes the offseason. Again, they are left with cap issues. They had to let go of Andrew Ladd, who they acquired as a rental at the deadline from Winnipeg. Realizing they need space for Shaw, as well as Panarin in the future, they had to unload some more. Chicago knew they had to ship off Bickell with his $4 million cap hit. Carolina, needing to reach the cap floor, decided they’d help the Hawks out, but only if they were given Teravainen in the package. Turning their attention to Andrew Shaw, they attempted to renew his contract with the freed up cap space. Unfortunately, he asked for much more than Chicago was willing to give, so they were given no option but to trade him. Like the trade with Carolina, they acquired two draft picks.
This is what happens when you put $24 million into two players. To re-sign Kruger, Anisimov, and Seabrook, each getting $1 million pay raises, this is the price they had to pay. It might come back to hurt them, however, they always find a way to stay in the hunt. They’ll make the playoffs, but I don’t see them as Stanley Cup champions this season.