Hawks' cap crunch should be over

I think it’s over. You can come out from behind your desk.

The Blackhawks are done ripping apart their championship team. Though it had to be done, I’m not sure anyone thought it would go this far.

At this time last week, most felt either Kris Versteeg or Andrew Ladd would be moved, but not both. The funny thing is, with Thursday’s moves, including saying goodbye to Adam Burish, the Hawks didn’t remove any more current salary from their roster. Both Ladd and Burish were free-agents. But they are both getting raises. That’s not something the Hawks were interested in.

“It became apparent it wasn’t the right mix as far as salary and our situation here,” General manager Stan Bowman said about Ladd.

While it may come as a shock to the system for most fans, Bowman said this was all foreseeable -- at least on his part.

“We planned for this,” he said. “We accomplished exactly what we’ve had to do from the very beginning.”

I’m not sure if that’s reassuring or not.

The Hawks sit at about $51 million in salary committed to next year and that includes Cristobal Huet but doesn’t include the bonuses both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane received after the season, which counts against next year’s salary cap.

Between Toews winning the Conn Smythe and Kane finishing in top 10 in scoring, the total is near $4 million dollars. Bowman confirmed as much on Thursday. That’s what Versteeg and Burish will make next year. Those bonuses were worth two pretty decent pieces to the Hawks puzzle. Ouch.

So who will replace all the grit and size the Hawks lost over the last 10 days? Bowman pointed to one player in particular.

“Jake Dowell has a really good chance to be on our team next year,” Bowman said of the Rockford captain. “Have to look at filling some other spots as well. [Free agent] players we’ve been calling on and having discussions with. We’re not going to stand on the sidelines.”

Dowell was hanging out with Burish when the latter agreed to his deal with Dallas. His leaving helps open the door for the gritty center/wing. Bowman isn’t only going to look in-house for replacements, though.

“We’re going to see what we can add to the mix now,” he stated. “I think we have alleviated the situation we were in.”

I sure hope so. There’s not much left of the third and fourth lines as well as the bottom pair of defense, though Jordan Hendry is expected back.

But that’s what Bowman has been preaching all along. The Hawks have plenty of stars locked up for quite some time, now it’s his job to find the right complements to go with them from year to year. The team also locked up former Minnesota Wild enforcer John Scott on Wednesday.

And of course there is that little matter of signing his goaltender and solid number four defenseman.

“I’ve had discussions with all their agents,” Bowman said of Antti Niemi and Niklas Hjarmalsson in particular. “It’s a back and forth. No real updates per se. Things are going along as you’d expect.”

If he can get those done, it would be the first piece of good news since they hoisted the Cup. Seems like ages ago already.