The Cost of Winning

Edmonton fans know well the cost of winning. They even know well the cost of almost winning.

Back in the glory days of the Edmonton Oilers, the Oil won so much that the pieces detrimental to creating that winning record became simply too expensive to keep. As a result, the team that was once so good, eventually became the 30th place team we know today.

It started with trading Wayne Gretzky and it ended with Chris Pronger, all along the way trading big names for unfair value coming back.

The Edmonton Oilers

When the Oilers took themselves to the Stanley Cup finals in 2006, even though they didn't win it all, it became clear that players that contributed to the Oilers getting that far were due for raises -- significant ones.

Names like Dwayne Roloson and Fernando Pisani received big time contracts and players like Shawn Horcoff got huge inflated contracts down the road thanks to their assistance during a winning time for an otherwise not so winning team.

Players like Jaroslav Spacek got a raise in another city and one of the most hated Oilers in history, Chris Pronger decided among other reasons that he was too under appreciated after taking his team to the finals to stay and play for the big fat contract he'd signed.

Chicago Blackhawks

The cost of winning is now something Chicago will have to face. Just mere days after the Blackhawks took home the Stanley Cup, how much so became extremely clear today.

A team that was already facing cap issues is now really in a troubled situation as it's been reported by the Globe and Mail, that Chicago is now faced with exceeding the 2010/2011 salary cap by more than $4 million dollars.

Because of the Blackhawks win and the star players on that team being rewarded with healthy entry level and performance bonuses (ie. a $1.3 million dollar bonus to Jonathan Towes for winning the Conn Smythe), Chicago is in a world of hurt and GM Stan Bowman admittedly has some serious work ahead of him.

As the Globe and Mail explains, here’s how the CBA and salary “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 for the Blackhawks who already have to deal with being over the cap by about $800,000 (according to This is all without noting the status of players like UFA's John Madden and Nick Boynton and/or RFA's like Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, Antti Niemi, and Niklas Hjalmarsson.

When it comes to their superstar core, Chicago is in good shape. They're not forced to deal with losing the likes of Kane, Toews, Hossa, Keith, or Seabrook to offer sheets or UFA bidding wars, as everyone that can be considered the face of that franchise during this recent run and subsequent runs to follow are long term Blackhawks.

Antti Niemi might be the closest key component not on the books and due a raise thanks to his being the goalie to take them to Lord Stanley's Cup (that's always rewarded), but that's about it.

That said, the Blackhawks will have to lose either a great deal of their depth (something very underrated and significant in their cup victory) or will have to try and convince some NHL teams to take on some of their bigger cap hit problems, which won't be easy to do.

They'll likely start with Cristobal Huet. Huet has turned out to be a glaring error and a contract that still requires $5.6 million per year for the next two years -- terrible when you consider he hardly played throughout the playoffs and has yet to establish himself as a starting goaltender. Chicago might look to the minors or a buy-out, but it seems unlikely considering the cost.

Even if Chicago were able to dump Huet's contract, it would only solve the cap overages, not assist in getting those key RFA and UFA's back in the Blackhawk fold for 2010/2011. More moves would have to come and since Huet's contract is about as moveable as Shawn Horcoff's, maybe less so, Huet isn't a strong bet for solving Chicago's problems -- not that they won't try.

Another option would be to trade high priced defenceman Brian Campbell. He was key to the Blackhawk turn around upon his arrival and still has a lot to offer a team needing an offensive veteran blueliner. The issue is that $7 million plus over the next six seasons due Campbell. It's simply too much for 90% of NHL teams to absorb and by todays standards a gross overpayment even though Campbell brings a lot to the table.

Might Edmonton consider Campbell for Souray? Maybe. But, even the Oilers, who would be happy to get a star defencemen for a disgruntled star defenceman would think twice, maybe three times about taking on that kind of money.

The more likely scenario, is that the Blackhawks start moving some depth with value and trading RFA's for picks or low priced prospects.

Kris Versteeg is an obvious choice. Toronto is rumored to have interest as I'm sure other teams will, but I might suggest the Oilers consider Versteeg as he's a very well rounded winger with tremendous upside. Given more of a break-out opportunity on a team not quite as stacked as Chicago, Versteeg could become a 25-30 goal scorer. He gives you powerplay and short-handed ice time, he can score big goals at big times and he's young enough to be a part of a rebuilding franchise. In Edmonton's case, he'd be a natural to switch back and forth with MPS as the 2nd/3rd line wingers behind Dustin Penner; giving MPS time to establish himself as an NHL'er.

Might Chicago move a $3 million plus Kris Versteeg for a $2 million Robert Nilsson or Ethan Moreau? They might.

Some will mock at that idea, especially Chicago fans because Versteeg offers so much more than either Nilsson or Moreau do, but consider that Chicago wouldn't make these trades if they had other choices and you quickly realize the Blackhawks won't be getting value for any of these players. They are almost 100% salary dumps.

If Chicago really struggles to find suitors, Dustin Byfuglien and Patrick Sharp would be the cats meow in terms of scoring on an opportunity if one were there for an NHL team.

Byfuglien seems more likely than Sharp considering he's due for a raise after next season and if his play remains anywhere near what he showed in the post season, there is no way Chicago can afford him. Perhaps they do some forward thinking and make a move now considering his value is at an all time high. Byfuglien would likely gather you an assortment of decent prospects and/or picks. For Chicago that would be important since they can't take on any additional money.

Finally, if the Hawks are in real cap trouble, they see what's out there for Patrick Sharp. If I'm the Oilers, I make every pitch outside of the drafts and prospects core that Edmonton has built up like Eberle, Gagner, MPS and our first overall in 2010. Players like Penner and Hemsky can't be included thanks to their salary, so it leaves other longer term prospects and picks. Perhaps the right package offer would be too hard for Chicago to ignore.

Obviously 28 other teams will want to put something together to steal some talent from the defending Stanely Cup champions. Columbus needs to make the playoffs and might be willing to move the 4th overall pick to do it. Would Sharp and Byfuglien help them get there? Likely. Would Chicago do that kind of trade? Doubt it, but it's one a few type of similar offers Chicago might receive. If I'm Tambellini, I at least throw something out there.

If Chicago considers it, we know for sure, that's the cost of winning and the choices were few and far between.


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