Hawks Cap Nightmare Alllllllllmost Over

CHICAGO - MAY 21: (C) Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Atlanta Thrashers reacts with former teammate Jonathan Toews #19, homeless Adam Burish #37 and Toronto Maple Leaf's Kris Versteeg #32 after Byfuglien scores the game-winning goal in overtime to defeat the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in Game Three of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on May 21, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Maybe at some point the Chicago fans who decided I was crazy will notice that Stan Bowman is apparently exactly as crazy as I am because he has done nearly everything I said he would have to do to disentangle himself from the Hawks' cap situation he most inherited from Dale Tallon.

Kris Versteeg has been traded to the Leafs. For whom? I don't know. Somebody who makes $800K, give or take. So, the casualty list is now Cam Barker, Andrew Ebbett, Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel, Kris Versteeg, John Madden, Nick Boynton, Adam Burish, Colin Fraser, and, ultimately (we all know it's coming) Cristobal Huet. Factoring in the Hawk's presumed $3.7MM bonus cushion penalty, this puts the Hawks where exactly?

If you assume they re-sign Niemi, Ladd and Hjalmarsson at $3MM, $2.5MM and $2.25MM, respectively, and assume that Corey Crawford will be promoted as the back-up, the Hawks are now $1.66MM UNDER the cap with 16 players signed.

So close to being out of the woods, they can see sunlight breaking through the trees. Or whatever.

If you assume they fill out their roster with five more cheap players -- I use $700K as the average cap hit, just for convenience -- that's 5 times $700K, or $3.5MM. That will put them $1.8MM over with a full roster. Or you could call it $1.05MM over with a bare bones league-minimum roster of 20, if you're willing to live dangerously.

There really is no clear and obvious way to get rid of that last $1.05-1.8MM. Kopecky and Brouwer don't make enough to be worth dumping. The best solution I can come up with is not going to make some people happy, but really I don't see any way around it.

Sign and trade Andrew Ladd. Replace him with a $700K guy, and you have a net cap savings of exactly $1.8MM. You will have a roster of 21 and you will be exactly at the cap ceiling.

The only alternatives I see to that are (1) sign and trade Niemi or Hjalmarsson and replace with cheap people, or (2) pray that this whole bonus cushion penalty thing is actually a nightmare within a bigger nightmare. Maybe they'll catch a break. Who knows?

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