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Why Do the Blackhawks Continue to Overpay Players?

General manager Stan Bowman has a huge offseason ahead of him. Especially after the two blockbuster deals that occurred last offseason involving Artemi Panarin and Niklas Hjalmarsson and the Chicago Blackhawks lackluster season.
The biggest problem for the Hawks this season has been their defense. People could argue that it’s been the absence of Corey Crawford, but with a decent defense, the Hawks could still be in the playoff conversation. Crawford has covered up many of the Hawks issues on the backend for multiple years now. That’s exactly what you want your goalie to do. On the flip side, when he goes out those problems that have been covered up are exposed in broad daylight for everyone to see.
If the Hawks were able to get the deals for Marian Hossa and Artem Anisimov off the books this offseason they would actually have money to spend in free agency for the first time since Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews signed their new contracts. That money could and would go into fixing the defense. This week, the Hawks have put a kibosh on that plan.
It started when the team decided to re-sign Erik Gustafsson to a two-year contract extension. The deal will pay Gustafsson $1 million in the first year and $1.4 million in the second year. That is way too much for a guy who is, at best, a sixth or seventh defenseman on a good team. Sure, the kid can skate and score, but his abilities as a true defenseman are average.
Gustafsson was also going to become a restricted free agent at the end of the season, so it’s kind of strange why the Hawks would give him a two-year deal worth that amount of money. Don’t get me wrong, Gustafsson has some upside and is still young at 25, but no one else was going to give him this kind of money. Once again the Hawks were competing with themselves and still managed to overpay.
The smart thing to do would have been to give Gustafsson a qualifying offer worth around $800,000. Again, no one else was going to give him that kind of money. If he didn’t want to take it, you tell him to have fun in the KHL or wherever else hockey is played these days besides the NHL.
On Thursday, it was announced that the Hawks were also re-signing Jan Rutta to an extension worth $2.25 million. Once again this an example of overpaying for a player, who’s had issues staying in the lineup with injuries and because of bad play. He did start off the year off well. However, he is not worth anything near or around two million dollars, let along two million and change.
I don’t have a problem bringing one of these guys back—I do have a problem bringing everyone back and that’s what Bowman has just about done. As of today, here are the defensemen that will be on the books for next season.
Brent Seabrook: $6.875M
Duncan Keith: $5.538M
Connor Murphy: $3.85M
Jan Rutta: $2.25M
Erik Gustafsson: $1.2M
Gustav Forsling: $872K
Carl Dahlstrom: $751K
Jordan Oesterle: $650K

(Hockey Reference.com)
That’s eight defensemen already. Most teams don’t carry more than that. So, basically, the Hawks are bringing back the same group as last year, which we’ve learned, isn’t very good.

Blackhawks
Brent Seabrook (Source: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America)

They are not going to be able to trade Seabrook either, so let’s stop acting like that is an option. He has a full no-trade clause. If the Hawks were able to find a team that Seabrook would be willing to waive his clause to go to, they still would have to eat a good portion of his contract, which would eat into too much cap space.
Do they still have money to spend on an unrestricted free agent defenseman? Absolutely, but now they don’t have a roster spot for a UFA. To win another Stanley Cup (which should be the goal as long as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are on the roster), the defense needs to be upgraded, not kept the same.
Bowman’s plan seems to be to get Crawford back and try the same group of defensemen that were awful this year, next year. News flash: that’s not a good plan. In fact, that’s a terrible idea in general. This was supposed to be the offseason Bowman finally had money to spend. Instead, he’s using the money to sign players he already likes on the team, who are not very good.
This isn’t the first time Bowman has fallen for his own players and overpaid them. Anisimov was given a huge contract after being acquired in the original Brandon Saad deal. Note that Anisimov received that contract before he ever stepped foot on the United Center ice. He’s been fine for the most part, but not worth the money he was basically handed.
Then we have Seabrook, who was given a monster deal after the 2015 Stanley Cup victory. At the time, it seemed like the right thing to do, Seabrook played a key role in all three championships. In hindsight, Bowman overpaid once again. Now, it will take a miracle to get Seabrook’s legs back or to move him in a deal that makes sense.
The most recent example of Bowman overpaying a player comes in the form of Richard Panik. Panik was one of the Hawks best players in 2017. Did he deserve the two-year contract that paid him $2.8 million a year? No. Panik would have taken another one-year deal worth around $900,000 or $1,000,000. Thank god for the Arizona Coyotes, who didn’t care about the money attached to the deal and just wanted to unload a player of their own.
Say what you want about Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, but they don’t overpay or overvalue their players. Instead, Belichick will sell off a player one to two years early to receive the most value. That’s why the Patriots dynasty is alive and well, while the Hawks may be over.
One word to describe these moves would be frustrating. It just doesn’t make much sense, unless a big trade is coming, which is doubtful given the contract situations of both Anisimov and Seabrook. At this point, it’s hard to trust Stan Bowman heading into the draft. Since the last Cup, he has done a great job of running this team into the ground. Hopefully, he has something up his sleeve, but I wouldn’t count on it.

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Nick is a recent graduate of Northern Illinois University and passionate about everything Chicago sports (except the Cubs). He has run his own website, been featured on Bleacher Report, and tried to sell his soul on eBay (which he hasn’t gotten back). He hopes to one day see his beloved Bears win the Super Bowl and is still trying to figure out why Jay Cutler gets so much hate.

1 comment on “Why Do the Blackhawks Continue to Overpay Players?

  1. alfonso maiorana

    BANG ON!!! I have been saying it for years, Bowman has no clue what he is doing. His trades have been awful with no return. (TEUVO, LEDDY, DANAULT, SHARP & JOHNS, just to name a few) The signings of RUTTA and GUS (whom is skilled but not worth that much money) is another huge mistake. But most of all, his arrogant childish behaviour last year after the PREDS series, firing the coach’s best friend Mike Kitchen, and then trading two players who had great years was just stupid. COACH Q has not helped what’s so ever in building the confidence of rookies but this GM is not a hockey guy. When Tallon was availble last year to fix this mess, Wirtz should have fired the BOWMAN family. Coach Q has no respect for Stan who signed a bunch of slugs at the beginning of the season (FRANSON, OSTERLE, BOUMA, WINGELS, KERO) And one more fact, the NHL clan knows how bad Pierre Gauthier’s pro scout abilities are and how he empties every farm system he drives by. Mark Kelley is another one who needs to move on. Not one goalie drafted since Crawford nor a Dman since the HAMMER???

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