Bowman on Salary Cap: "We exploited it in a way."

Chicago Blackhawks: You do the math - chicagotribune.com
Turns out the 2010 Stanley Cup champions' tricky winning equation depended on spending slightly more than $60 million when last year's cap was set at $56.8 million. The roughly $4 million overage came in the performance bonuses paid to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, money the Hawks chose to count against next season's cap, as league rules permit, instead of affecting the go-for-it-all 2010 season. 

Almost makes it sound like it wasn't a penalty.

Had Bowman decided to apply the anticipated $4 million hit to last season,

It did count against the cap last season. All bonuses count against the cap. Even unearned bonuses count against the cap until they definitively cannot be earned.

the Hawks likely would have attempted to win the Cup without, say, Andrew Ladd and Ben Eager. "Perceptions are, 'Geez, the Blackhawks mismanaged the salary cap, but I'd say we did the opposite — we managed the hell out of it,'' Bowman said. "We exploited it in a way.''

That last bit is funnier if you picture Jon Lovitz's liar guy from SNL saying it. The truth is, Bowman did a great job managing the mess that Tallon left behind. Of course, it would have been a much less great job if they hadn't won the cup, but they did, and that catapults Bowman to some lofty place mostly out of the reach of criticism.

[...] unprecedented exodus of players from a championship team that has created hockey panic in Chicago. [...] shedding nine players [...] comparisons to the fire sale of the 1997 World Series-winning Marlins [...]  A month after Bowman took the job in July 2009, he showed newly hired assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff the books that revealed the contract reality that lie ahead — projections showed the Hawks would have been at least $10 million above the 2010-11 cap. "I laid it out for him and he was like, 'Wow,'" Bowman recalled.

Which is hilarious because I said the same thing the month before:

Chicago's options to not totally f*** itself are none too pretty - Jewels From The Crown
Chicago is holding steady at $1.34MM over the cap with three players left to sign. If they simply promote their prospects under contract to fill the spots (which is the cheapest option), that adds another $2.1MM, which makes the magic number $3.45MM (over the cap).

Candidates for salary dump: Brian Campbell - cap his of $7.14MM for SEVEN MORE YEARS. If you ask me, that contract is literally untradeable. They would have to thrown in valuable assets as freebees just to make it palatable, and even then, there is no one who can afford it. Next... Cristobal Huet - $5.625MM for another three years. See Campbell, Brian above. No, he's their goalie, for awhile. Brent Sopel - $2.33MM for another two years. I doubt anyone will take him at that price. (note that these are Chicago's three UFA signings from last year; how's that working out so far?)

So it's going to have to be one of these guys, two of them if they have to take salary back... Sharp Bolland Versteeg Byfuglien Seabrook Barker (or, of course, Hossa. And wouldn't that be hilarious. Won't happen though, because Tallon would immediately be fired. No, it'll be one of the "core.")

Tallon was fired anyway, a couple of days later. And I was wrong, of course. They didn't lose one of Sharp, Bolland, Versteeg, Byfuglien, Seabrook and Barker. They lost three of them. Plus, Sopel. So four. It's a little alarming that the assistant GM didn't already know what Bowman was telling him. It's not like these are state secrets.

I did a second post last year which laid out the hideous 2010-11 picture:

Chicago 2010 Cap Madness Watch - Jewels From The Crown
So that's, at minimum, a cap hit of $57.6MM for next season. Over this year's cap by about a million; and we are all assuming the cap is going to go down a bit (or a lot, depending). Oh, and then there's the small matter of actually fielding a team... ...because that $57.6MM only buys the hawks 10 forwards, 4 defensemen and a goalie.

Luckily for the Hawks, the economy picked up a bit, otherwise, can you imagine how much worse the fire sale would have beenif the ceiling for 2010 was a few million lower? Back to the Trib article:

Throughout the season and playoffs, Bowman had been consistent about reminding Coach Q his roster would change after the season [...] "The details were an eye-opener for Joel, but then he was like, 'Geez, I wish we could keep this guy, but I see what you mean,'" Bowman said. [...] At the NHL draft, Bowman was quoted saying he didn't need to make any more trades to fit under the cap. Days later, he dealt Ladd and Versteeg. "You have to be honest with people but you also have to hold your cards close to the vest because I'm dealing with 29 (GMs) who are my adversaries," Bowman said. "The question was: Do you have to make any more moves for salary-cap reasons. Remember, the contracts for Toews, Kane and Keith began July 1, so in terms of being in compliance with the league, we didn't have to. I knew I had to make more trades. But if you broadcast (that to other GMs), … then I'm in trouble. I didn't lie to people. Technically I had until Oct. 1."

I wonder if it's harder to speak Bowman or to speak Lombardi.

[...] A famous Theodore Roosevelt quotation sits in a frame on Bowman's desk: "It is not the critic who counts. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly."

And at best you win the cup while daring greatly. Yeah, TR would have made a pretty good GM, now that I think about it. It really is too bad though, that Tallon had to make the Campbell and Huet deals and screw up the RFA contracts last summer, because without those three gigantic snafus, Byfuglien, Versteeg, Ladd, Eager, Ebbett and Barker (and several others) would probably still be hawks.

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