The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks have themselves a salary cap dilemma on their hands. The team is currently $189,710 over the salary cap, and need to get themselves below the cap ceiling before the team opens the season on Wednesday night against the New York Rangers.
Bickell signed a four-year extension with the Blackhawks following the 2013 season worth $16 million and an average annual salary of $4 million.
On Friday, the Blackhawks placed Bickell on waivers after the team has been trying to trade Bickell since the season ended June. If Bickell clears waivers and is sent to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League, the team would save $950,000 on the salary cap, which is just enough to put them below the ceiling.
The Buffalo Sabres are still the team that would have “first dibs” at claiming Bickell off of waivers if they wish to do so.
With that being said, should general manager Tim Murray claim Bickell from the Blackhawks?
Bickell, 29, is quite possibly the highest paid fourth line left winger in the NHL. This season alone, he would be the fourth highest player on the Blackhawks’ salary cap.
In the 2013 season, Bickell played all 48-games of the lockout-shortened season posting nine goals and 14 assists. In the playoffs, Bickell earned his new contract with nine goals and eight assists in 23 postseason games. Bickell went from a $541,666 annual salary, to a $4 million annual salary in just one season.
Since signing his new deal, the 6′ 4″, 233-pound winger has 25 goals and 18 assists in 139 games. This past postseason stretch, Bickell only played 18 games and only registered five assists. Bickell still has two years left in his current deal.
This season, Bickell is on the short-end of a roster that has some talent that has surpassed the level of Bickell’s.
Bickell is a force in front of the net, and can play some key shut down situations on the ice. However, Bickell is not the goal scorer he seemed to be in the 2013 season, and he has had some issues staying healthy.
If the Sabres were to claim Bickell off waivers, the team would be stocked piled at left wing. Bickell would join a list that already includes Evander Kane, Matt Moulson, Jamie McGinn, Marcus Foligno, and Nicolas Deslauriers.
The Sabres have the cap space to keep Bickell and take his full cap hit for this season. Next season could be difficult with players like McGinn, Foligno, Deslauriers, Johan Larsson, Zemgus Girgensons, and Rasmus Ristolainen as free agents.
If the Sabres do claim Bickell, who would be left out and have to be scratched, traded, or sent to the Rochester Americans in the AHL?
There are a lot of options that the Sabres have to make room for Bickell. The Sabres could send Sam Reinhart to the Americans. They could also try to send Larsson, Deslauriers, or even David Legwand to Rochester, but all three would have to clear waivers in order to be sent to the AHL.
If the Sabres do claim Bickell, they could find a trade to move a player on the roster to make room for Bickell.
Or, if Bickell goes unclaimed by a team, the Sabres could swing a trade with the Blackhawks to move a roster player already on the Sabres.
Who would be an asset to include in a trade with the Blackhawks?
Johan Larsson would probably be one the number one target for the Blackhawks if they were to trade Bickell. Larsson has only scored six goals and has added 14 assists in his 67 games with the Sabres. However, head coach Dan Bylsma has liked Larsson’s game, and the Sabres want to give him another shot with the Sabres roster.
Marcus Foligno could be another trade asset for the Sabres in a deal with Chicago. Foligno has posted 15 goals and 24 assists in his 131 games in the past two seasons. Foligno, like Bickell, has not been the player the Sabres had hoped he would become, and his health issues have been a cause for concern. However, maybe a change of scenery for both Foligno and Bickell would be a positive for both players.
Nick Deslauriers would be the final possible option for a player to move in a trade. In 99 career games with the Sabres, Deslauriers has compiled just six goals and 10 assists, but his ability to affect a game with his physical play could be valuable to a team like Chicago.
Even if the Sabres make a trade with Chicago, it would take more than just a roster player to get Bickell in a trade. Most likely a draft pick is going to be added to the trade to sweeten the deal. However, the Blackhawks are not going to get back the return they originally wanted for a Bickell trade. The Blackhawks may agree to retain some money in Bickell’s remaining contract, but the Sabres may decide to take on his full salary cap hit.
At this point, it may not be worth it to claim Bickell off of waivers, or to acquire him in a trade. Bickell may be able to regain some of his past success with a new team, but the Sabres would have to scramble the lineup around more in order to make room for him.
If Bickell clears waivers, the Blackhawks would most likely ship him to the AHL and wait for the right deal to flourish. Until then, the Bickell signing could be one of the worst signings the Blackhawks have made in recent memory.
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