BUFFALO — For more than a decade, the Blackhawks had been up against the salary cap ceiling as they aimed to keep their championship window open for as long as possible. The space became so valuable that, on some occasions, they attached future assets to bad contracts to help create more of it.
With the Blackhawks now in a full-scale rebuild, cap space has become important for different reasons. Long-term financial flexibility is one of the top priorities for GM Kyle Davidson and he's cleared the decks in an effort to accomplish that, with Connor Murphy and Seth Jones being the only two NHL players on the roster locked up beyond 2024-25.
As of Thursday, the Blackhawks have more than $37.5 million of cap space available, which is the second-most among any team. You better believe Davidson is hoping to weaponize some of that for future assets.
"That's definitely started," Davidson said on Thursday at the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo. "Those discussions have started. I don't necessarily know what the market is. I don't have a good feel for it, but it's a flat cap, some teams are in tight spots.
"That doesn't mean you do or don't get the value you want or believe you should get based on past precedent. Maybe it's more, maybe it's less. But those conversations have certainly started. The likelihood that drags closer to the draft is probably more likely, but you can't handicap it."
Davidson pulled off two notable trades this past season that helped the Blackhawks land a pair of second-round picks. He traded Riley Stillman to Vancouver in October for Jason Dickinson and a second-rounder in 2024, and also assisted Ottawa in getting Nikita Zaitsev off their books, which fetched them a second-rounder in 2023.
The Blackhawks will look to take advantage again, if possible, because the cap isn't expected to increase much next season. Which means if you're a playoff contender that's looking to move money out, the Blackhawks are a team that could help, as long as the return is worth it for them.
"I guess ideally, if you can get value for your cap space, then sure," Davidson said. "But I don't know if that's going to be available to us. And I don't think we'll spend to the cap, that would be pretty tough given our situation and the contracts we have on the books. But I like where we're at from a cap perspective — we've got tons of flexibility moving forward; we've got tons of flexibility this year."
The other part of the equation? The salary cap floor is $61 million, and the Blackhawks aren't anywhere close to it. Davidson, however, doesn't seem worried about not reaching it.
"I have no concern about getting to the cap floor; that's going to happen with general ease," Davidson said. "It's just how we get there will be an interesting road. There will be options, should we go into free agency, there's options via trade, whether there's players we proactively go out and get, or contracts people are looking to move. I'm open to anything.
"We don't have a limit on how much we're willing to spend, but there's also just so much realistically that we can spend, as well. We'll see where we end up on the cap."