Should the Leafs target the Hawks for a potential trade?

The cap strapped Blackhawks will have to unload a contract this offseason. Is there a fit with the Leafs?

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The Chicago Blackhawks have been one of the NHL’s most successful franchises over the past decade. With three Stanley Cups in the past seven seasons it’s hard to argue with their success, but, as with anything in life, there’s a price to pay for success.

That price will come this summer when the team is forced to move a high-priced veteran or two in an effort to alleviate over $4.5 million in salary cap overages. Keep in mind that this is nothing new for the Blackhawks and general manager Stan Bowman, as he’s had to move core players like Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad in previous offseasons. This offseason however, it appears as though Bowman will look to move a defenseman in his quest for cap compliancy.

So, what does this mean for the Leafs? Could a player like Brent Seabrook or Nicklas Hjalmarsson fit into the team’s lineup and salary structure? While there’s little doubt that either player would improve the team’s lineup for 2017-18, the long term implications of such an acquisition could prove to be too costly. 

Seabrook is signed to a MONSTER 8 year, $55 million contract that runs through 2023-24 and carries an annual cap hit of $6.875 million. While he fills a gaping hole on the Leafs right-side defense, his contract is simply too prohibitive for the Leafs to take him on. In any case, NHL insider Pierre LeBrun was adamant on radio earlier this week that the Blackhawks will not move him.

Hjalmarsson, however is an intriguing target. The 30 year-old, defensive defenseman shoots left-handed but typically plays the right side, so he could fit the team’s needs in that regard. His contract is much more palatable than Seabrook’s, as well. His 5 year, $20 million contract runs through 2018-19 and carries an annual cap hit of just $4.1 million. This would slot him just ahead of Jake Gardiner but below Nikita Zaitsev’s in terms of value, which is relatively equatable to the value he’d bring on the ice.

The mitigating factor in any potential deal, of course, is the cost of acquisition. In this case however, with a team desperate for cap relief, a player like Hjalmarsson could be acquired for pennies on the dollar. Does this mean it’ll happen? Maybe not. Worth pursuing? Definitely.