Blackhawks GM Stanley Bowman could have a salary cap problem next season. Photo: Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune

At season pause the Chicago Blackhawks lay bottom of the Central Division on 72 points, but still had an outside chance of making the playoffs through the wildcard. No other division had that, once again showing the strength of the Central. Since their last Stanley cup win, Chicago have reached the playoffs twice, going out in the first round to the Blues in 2016 and swept by the Predators in 2017. The last two years they have failed to even qualify although in the process have picked up Adam Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin and Kirby Dach to help rebuild on the fly. Any team with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will go full rebuild mode, partially due to the respect both players command from the franchise but also because of the contracts both players are locked into.

The forwards makeup $21 million of the Blackhawks current cap hell and just like the Toronto Maple Leafs whom we spoke about earlier the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent effects it could have on the NHL salary cap next season could hurt the Blackhawks even further. As things stand they could have just less than $7 million in the off-season to work with should the cap not increase and let’s face it why would it?

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews contracts are big reasons the Chicago Blackhawks can’t do a hard reset on a rebuild. Photo: Mark J. Terrill/AP

With this $7 million they have decisions to make concerning restricted free agent forwards Drake Caggiula, Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome along with defenseman Slater Koekkoek and goaltender Malcolm Subban. Then there’s the big question of unrestricted free agent goaltender Corey Crawford. No matter what way you look at this it’s a tight fit that is going to require some tough decisions by General Manager Stan Bowman.

If a Chicago fan you hope that Caggiula re-signs in or around his current $1.5 million AAV and you can convince Koekkoek to accept the same as what he currently earning. That gives you $4 million to try to convince Dominik Kubalik to stay long term which, given his numbers (46 points 68 games), might still not be enough as other teams weigh the possibility of an offer sheet. That means moving on from Crawford who is a living legend in the city but at 35 years old is not getting any younger. If Colin Delia is going to be his long term replacement it needs to start now.

This leads to Malcolm Subban. Nobody should be surprised when the Toronto, Ontario native moves on given that the perennial backup, a part of the Robin Lehner trade with the Vegas Golden Knights earlier in the season, was brought in purely to replace Lehner as number two for the Blackhawks. If the cap increases and Kubalik doesn’t eat it up there’s the possibility he stays, as releasing both goaltenders would leave them extremely light. Otherwise, Subban will be looking for his fourth career team.

And lastly Dylan Strome. Unless he accepts a one-year qualifying offer from Chicago I fail to see how he stays beyond this season. Despite his numbers being decent Strome has never lived up to expectations as the third overall pick in 2015. A one year deal gives him what you would think would be his last opportunity to showcase his talents in Chicago and that’s if they don’t trade him first as has been the rumor.

How much trouble are the San Jose Sharks in!?! A lot!

They also have Brent Seabrook, Andrew Shaw and Calvin De Han to come off the LTIR which would add another $15.325 million to their already limited salary. This all means the Blackhawks are not exactly in an ideal situation to challenge for the Central let alone the Stanley Cup, but as long as Kane and Toews are around they will continue to try rebuild on the fly instead of hitting the button on a hard reset like they probably should.