Monday, August 2, 2010

Modern Day Leaches

Ever since the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup a few months ago they have been systematically blowing up their team. So far this off-season the Blackhawks have lost Kris Versteeg, Bill Sweatt, Andrew Ladd, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager and Dustin Byfuglein. Well now you can add Antii Niemi to that long list.

On Sunday Niemme, who made $875,000 last year was awarded $2.75 million by an arbitrator meaning that the Blackhawks had 48 hours to either sign him to a contract worth that much money or let him become a free agent. The Blackhawks predictably let him walk and replaced the young playoff hero with aging veteran Marty Turco who signed a 1-year deal worth $1.5million.

That is a significant amount of contributing players to lose in one off season and no doubt these moves will severely hamper the Blackhawks chances at winning a 2nd consecutive Stanley Cup. It must also be pointed out that the Blackhawks have not received much in compensation as they are desperately trying to dump salary.

So why is General Manager Stan Bowman making all of these moves that are seemingly ruining his team? There are two answers to that question: Brian Campbell and Cristobel Huet.

Brian Campbell is the highest paid player on the Chicago Blackhawks. In 2008 he signed an 8-year $56.8 million deal that made him the highest paid defenseman in the league and also the most overpaid player in the NHL. Campbell's cap hit is a whopping $7.14 million a season and is the most crippling contract in the NHL.

Campbell isn`t the only problem however as the Blackhawks currently pay their back-up goaltender Cristobel Huet $5.62 million a year. Huet was signed to a four year $22.5 million deal on the same day as Campbell and has yet to make an impact in Chicago. Last year he played in only 48 games before being replaced by Niemi and never regaining his spot as the starter.

These two men are the sole reason the Blackhawks will not win the Stanley Cup next year. Their contracts are too large to be moved and therefore Chicago must keep them on and trade away talent in order to make it under the cap.

So instead of keeping Byfuglein (who had 16 points in 22 playoff games last year), Ben Eager and Andrew Ladd (who played great defensive hockey and shutdown some of the best players in the league during the Stanley Cup run), Kris Versteeg (who was just starting to develop into a top 6 forward) and Niemi (who went 16-6 in the playoffs and stole a couple games down the stretch) the Hawks had to trade them all.

You can look at this one of 2 ways. You could blame the General Manager at the time, Dave Tallon, for handing out these ridiculous contracts or you could blame Campbell and Huet. Obviously it is easy to here and say Campbell and Huet should have gone to Bowman and said they would restructure their contract to take less money to help the team but shouldn`t it be easy for them as well?

Huet is 34 years old and has a 0% chance of ever being a true starting goalie in the NHL again. Brian Campbell is 31 and will always be the 3rd or 4th best defenseman on the Blackhawks as long as Keith, Seabrook and Hjalmarsson are there. Why wouldn`t these two guys take a little less money in order to possibly create a dynasty?

Did we not just see LeBron James and Chris Bosh agree to take $15 million less each in order to sign with the Heat and allow the team flexibility to sign other players. Can Huet and Campbell not learn a lesson from these guys? Put the team ahead of yourself and gain the respect of not only every fan in Chicago but also of the players in the locker room.

What must that locker room be like now? Everyone in there knows that Bfyuglein, Versteeg, Niemi, Ladd and Eager are gone because Campbell and Huet make too much money. These guys must get treated like crap by their own teammates. Who would want that?

The Chicago Blackhawks built an amazing team. A well rounded team that could score, play defense, be physical or beat you with finesse and skill. They won a Stanley Cup and seemed primed to possibly one or two more. They had an amazing core of young players and great role players to compliment them.

Now they are a team with quality players but no depth. They lack any real presence on the 3rd and 4th lines. Their goalie is a a 34 year old coming off the worst season of his career. Can they really win another cup with the team they currently have assembled. I don`t think so. And as long as Huet and Campbell are on the team (Huet is signed until 2012 and Campbell until 2016) they will struggle every off-season to keep players.

Brian Campbell and Cristobel Huet are literal leaches sucking the blood from their own teams.

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