Ask Wirtz and team president John McDonough about the Blackhawks’ turnaround, and their response often includes some variation of hire the right people and then stay out of the way. The steady leadership in the front office is one of the reasons Chicago is the first franchise with two titles since the NHL instituted a salary cap in 2005.
“I think Stan Bowman and Al MacIsaac and Norm Maciver and everybody in our hockey operations, they do a meticulous job,” McDonough said, “and they’ve been planning for this offseason as we did before for months and months, so we’ll be ready for it.
“We’re going to do everything we can and try to keep as many of these guys as we can and just keep this rolling.”
But with the salary cap dropping to $64.3 million next season, it’s going to be next to impossible for the Blackhawks to bring everyone back.
According to CapGeek.com, forwards Bryan Bickell, Michal Handzus, Viktor Stalberg and Jamal Mayers, defenseman Michal Rozsival and goalie Ray Emery are eligible for unrestricted free agency.
Bickell is likely headed for a big pay day that would put him out of Chicago’s reach unless it decides to shed salary to make room for the physical winger. The 6-foot-4 Bickell had nine goals and eight assists in the playoffs, including the tying score at the end of the third period in the Blackhawks’ title-clinching 3-2 victory at Boston on Monday night.
Stalberg and Emery probably won’t be back, as well. Stalberg was in and out of the lineup during the playoffs after he had nine goals and 14 assists in his third season with Chicago. With Crawford’s emergence, Emery didn’t make a postseason appearance, and the Blackhawks also signed Antti Raanta of Finland in June.