The Chicago Blackhawks announced Wednesday that longtime winger Marian Hossa will not play for the team during the 2017-18 season and will be placed on long-term injured reserve.
That LTIR designation has sparked a bit of controversy around the league, as some people around the NHL are upset that the Blackhawks will likely get out of paying Hossa his full $5.275 million salary next season. Instead, Hossa will only accrue a cap hit of $1 million for the 2017-18 campaign. Of course, the NHL will officially make a ruling on this situation by July 1, but other teams have used this loophole to get out of massive contracts in the past (see Chris Pronger and the Philadelphia Flyers). This situation shouldn’t be any different, even though the circumstances are almost convenient for Chicago.
The question is what happens after next season. Hossa hasn’t formally retired and that word has serious cap ramifications for the Hawks. If Hossa were to actually announce his retirement, the Hawks would be slapped with a cap recapture penalty of $3.675 million per year through the 2020-21 season. He still has four years remaining on the 12-year, $63.3 million contract he signed with Chicago in 2009. The collective bargaining agreement penalizes teams if a player with such a long-term deal retires before completion of the contract.
That could be a perilous blow to the Hawks, who are currently $2.52 million over the $75 million salary cap for the upcoming season. The Blackhawks also must wait until July 1 before they can place Hossa on LTIR, but are allowed to be 10 percent over the cap in the summer until the regular season gets underway.
But that potential recapturing penalty makes the latest nugget from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman even more interesting. He speculated the Hawks could try and trade Hossa away to rid themselves completely of his contract.
Friedman: "I wouldn't be surprised if the Hossa contract goes somewhere too. Chicago does what it needs to get the contract off the books."
— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) June 22, 2017
This is where things could get weird. Obviously, the team and fans would prefer Hossa finish his career as a Hawk, but it appears as if the future Hall of Fame winger’s career is essentially finished. Perhaps it’s best for the Hawks, who are constantly banging their heads against the cap ceiling, to deal Hossa away with plans for a commemoration ceremony when he’s officially retired.
The bigger question is whether the Blackhawks could find a willing trade partner to take on Hossa’s salary even though there’s a very slim chance he’ll ever take a shift for them. As we saw when the Flyers dealt Pronger to the Coyotes in 2015, there’s definitely a possibility.
But which teams might be willing to give the Blackhawks a break?
Per Cap Friendly, the salary floor for the 2017-18 season will be $55.4 million. As of right now, 14 teams are currently below that threshold. When you throw out contenders such as the Penguins, Capitals, Canadiens, Predators, Lightning and Oilers, you’re left with eight teams. Let’s assume Central Division foes Winnipeg, Colorado and Dallas aren’t interested in helping their division rival financially and throw them out too.
That leaves us with the Panthers, Devils, Sabres, Hurricanes and Coyotes as possible partners. Panther general manager Dale Tallon was the man who signed Hossa to that monstrous contract eight years ago. The Hurricanes have acquired Teuvo Teravainen, Bryan Bickell and Scott Darling through recent trades with the Hawks. The Devils and Sabres are still in rebuilding mode and could afford a draft pick or two to speed up the process, and the Coyotes have done this before and probably wouldn’t mind doing it again.
Hossa won’t factor into any of Chicago’s decisions on the ice this season, but his absence could play an enormous role in how the roster is managed.