Exactly one year to the day after they celebrated their third Stanley Cup win in six years, the Chicago Blackhawks had to say goodbye to yet another key player from that team when they traded Teuvo Teravainen to the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday morning.
The move was part of the trade to help jettison Bryan Bickell's salary cap hit from the books, continuing what has been a year-long purge of the roster.
Such is life in the NHL's salary cap era.
When you look at all of the moves the Blackhawks have made of the past year, it has resulted in a ton of talent leaving the organization, including a couple of players that were at one point expected to be long-term building blocks for the organization.
Looking back at all of the roster moves, after Wednesday's trade with Carolina the Blackhawks have now traded the following players from their organization after their 2015 Stanley Cup win: Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp, Stephen Johns, Teuvo Teravainen, Bryan Bickell, and their 2016 first-round draft pick.
Some of it was out of necessity (specifically the Sharp and Bickell deals) because of the salary cap, and the fact Bickell's contract had become a sunk cost for them financially. But losing players like Saad, Teravainen and even Johns (as part of the Sharp trade) has to sting because those were young players that looked to be Chicago's next wave of talent that could become core players for years to come.
Instead, they became trade chips. Obviously things can change pretty quickly in the NHL.
In return for that collection of talent, the Blackhawks have the following players under contract for next season and the following assets: Artem Anisimov, Richard Panik, a 2016 second-round draft pick, a 2016 fourth-round draft pick, a 2017 third-round draft pick, 2017 seventh-round draft pick, a restricted free agent in Matt Fraser, and $1.25 million in empty cap space that they are still paying to Rob Scuderi so he can play for the Los Angeles Kings.
Here is how they got to this point.
The Saad trade and its aftermath
The first major move after the 2015 Stanley Cup was to trade Saad, at the time a restricted free agent who was going to cost more than they could afford under the cap, to Columbus for Anisimov, Marko Dano, Corey Tropp, Jeremy Morin, and a 2016 fourth-round pick. Anisimov proved to be a huge upgrade to their second-line center spot and remains under contract for several more years. He is a fine centerpiece to have in return for Saad.
As for the rest of the pieces in that trade...
Morin was traded on Jan. 3 to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Panik, who just re-signed with the Blackhawks on Wednesday on a one-year deal.
From there, Dano was traded along with Chicago's 2016 first-round draft pick to the Winnipeg Jets just before the trade deadline on Feb. 25 for Andrew Ladd, Jay Harrison and Fraser in an effort to take another run at another Cup.
Ladd played 19 regular season games and all seven playoff games for the Blackhawks. He is an unrestricted free agent and is not likely to re-signed due to the salary cap. Harrison, 33, is also a UFA and unlikely to be back. Fraser remains under team control as a restricted free agent.
It was a steep price to pay because Dano is a really promising young player (and another one that seemed like he could be a part of something long-term in Chicago), but can you really fault the Blackhawks for going for it? At the time the Blackhawks looked like a team that was going to be a contender for the Stanley Cup and Ladd absolutely made them a better team. In the end, it did not work out as planned, but sometimes you have to take a shot at it.
On Feb. 29, Tropp was traded to Anaheim for Tim Jackman and a 2017 seventh-round pick. Jackman never played in a game for the Blackhawks and is a free agent this summer.
The trade as it stands today: Brandon Saad for Artem Anisimov, Richard Panik, a 2016 fourth-round pick and a 2017 seventh-round pick.
The Sharp trade and its aftermath
Sharp being traded was one of those things that seemed inevitable given his age and contract situation, and on July 10, not even two weeks after Saad was traded to Columbus, Sharp and Johns were traded to the Dallas Stars for Ryan Garbutt and Trevor Daley.
Before the 2015-16 season was over neither player the Blackhawks received in the trade would remain with the team. They now have nothing to show for it in terms of players on the ice.
On Dec. 14 the Blackhawks traded Daley, who never seemed to fit on their blue line or earn the trust of Joel Quenneville, to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Rob Scuderi. Daley would go on to be a key part of the Penguins' defense and play a huge role in their Stanley Cup run (he was the first person to get the Cup from captain Sidney Crosby) before he broke his ankle in the Eastern Conference Finals.
A little more than a month later, Garbutt was traded to the Anaheim Ducks for Jiri Sekac, who the Blackhawks would eventually lose on waivers to the Arizona Coyotes after he played in six games for the team.
Three days before the trade deadline, Scuderi was traded to the Kings for Christian Ehrhoff with the Blackhawks retaining a portion of his contract that will remain on the books through the end of the 2016-17 season. Ehrhoff played in eight games for the Blackhawks and is an unrestricted free agent.
The trade as it stands today: Patrick Sharp and Stephen Johns for salary cap space.
The Teravainen/Bickell trade
On Wednesday they finally found a taker for Bickell's contract -- one that seemed to be a mistake the moment it was signed -- and the cost of doing so was giving up one of their best young players.
We are still years away from seeing what those draft picks turns into (unless they use the draft picks themselves as trade chips), while the team also gets some much needed salary cap space which will probably get used to keep a player like Andrew Shaw. Is Andrew Shaw the type of player you have to go out of your way to keep at the expense of a younger, more talented, and -- for this year anyway -- cheaper player? In the eyes of the Blackhawks ... yes. We will see how that works out. The possibility of the Blackhawks being unable to protect Teravainen in a potential expansion draft is also something that could have played a role.
Whatever the reason, this is what the salary cap does to teams that are loaded with talent. Eventually those players start to cost a lot of money -- and when it comes to the top guys, you have to keep them and pay them if you want to keep winning -- and tough decisions have to get made.
The Blackhawks have been through this before (2010 and 2013) and have always found a way to work through it and rebuild a team that can still compete for the Cup.
They have remained committed to their top players no matter what they cost and have been willing to trim around the edges.
With a core that still includes Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Artemi Panrin and Corey Crawford they are still going to be a top team in the Western Conference, so it is not like they are going to suddenly miss the playoffs or something drastic like that. Plus, those Stanley Cup banners they did win with those players hang forever.
But they are also a long way from the team that was hoisting the Stanley Cup just one year ago and have quite a bit of work to do when it comes to rebuilding the supporting cast that made them so tough to beat between 2010 and 2015.