For the second straight offseason, the Chicago Blackhawks are in a position where the salary cap is going to force them to move out money. They started that maneuvering on Tuesday by trading promising young forward Teuvo Teravainen and veteran forward Bryan Bickell to the Carolina Hurricanes for a 2016 second-round draft pick and 2017 third-round draft pick.
The Blackhawks really needed to get rid of Bickell's $4 million cap hit, but in order for someone to take it on, they had to sweeten the pot. The sweetener was one of their prized young players and a former first-round draft pick.
Teravainen has been a little slower to live up to the promise he showed in his draft season and in the following year in Finland's top pro league, but he is only 21 years old and has plenty of time to develop into the top-six forward he was projected to be. Bickell, meanwhile, spent most of the last season in the American Hockey League as he couldn't seem to get things together at the NHL level with a mere two assists over 25 games.
Carolina is taking advantage of Chicago's tough situation and adding a player in Teravainen who can help them in their continued rebuild at a fairly light cost. He'll join a stable of younger players led by Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk, that the Hurricanes can continue building around. If he hits his potential, Teravainen could end up as a core player on that roster.
The 21-year-old Finn had only 35 points in 78 games last season as head coach Joel Quenneville moved him around the lineup trying to find the right fit. A natural center, Teravainen can also play on the wing and provides some high-end passing and stickhandling ability to contribute offensively. He could end up thriving in an elevated role in Carolina.
Meanwhile, Bickell's contract will allow Carolina to stay above the cap floor, unless they decide to buy him out. For now, at least, it sounds like they plan to use him with their NHL lineup though. He only has one year left on his contract anyway.
Bickell was a hero for the Blackhawks during their 2013 Stanley Cup run. He parlayed that success into an expensive multi-year extension that he never came close to living up to with 48 points in 164 games since signing that deal.
The Blackhawks' challenges heading into next season were exacerbated by the new extensions kicking in for Artem Anisimov and Brent Seabrook, which account for more than $11 million in cap space. They also have eyes on signing Artemi Panarin to an extension before his entry-level deal expires after next season, so there may not have been much room to keep Teravainen anyway.
This trade also should perk up pending restricted free agent Andrew Shaw, who is due a raise and would like to return to the club. The Blackhawks have some more room to get that done now, if they so choose. Quenneville has made it known he wants Shaw back, but that will be up to the front office to figure out.
Trading Teravainen could not have been something general manager Stan Bowman was too keen on, given that he was a homegrown talent and affordable. But the ability to shed Bickell's contract was going to require a lot of sweetener with how poorly the veteran played last season. Credit to Carolina GM Ron Francis for swooping in and taking advantage of that situation to acquire a young player that already has some NHL time and is still developing.
With that, it appears that the 2016 summer of player movement is off to a flying start. It could be a busy offseason for general managers throughout the NHL with expansion looming and another year with limited salary cap movement.