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Keeping Bryan Bickell will be tough with lower salary cap

Chicago Blackhawks v Detroit Red Wings - Game Six

Chicago Blackhawks v Detroit Red Wings - Game Six

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Updated: June 25, 2013 10:52PM



Bryan Bickell is going to sign his name to a hefty contract in the next couple of weeks. The only question is which team’s logo will be on the letterhead.

Bickell wants to stay in Chicago. The Blackhawks want to keep him. But it’s not always so simple. While winning the Stanley Cup is the hardest part, keeping a championship team together isn’t much easier. The Hawks learned that in 2010.

While the Hawks’ superstar core will be back in the fall, general manager Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville face some decisions with the role players. At the top of the list is Bickell, the breakout performer of the postseason with nine goals and eight assists, including the game-tying goal Monday in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. Bickell made $600,000 this season and is likely to command somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million a year as an unrestricted free agent.

With the salary cap dropping from $70.2 million to $64.3 million, the Hawks will have to get creative to keep him. That could mean trading a player for picks, perhaps Dave Bolland ($3.375 million), who struggled throughout the season before emerging as the hero of Game 6, scoring the winning goal 17 seconds after Bickell’s.

Defenseman Nick Leddy is another player the Hawks surely want to re-sign, despite his postseason struggles. Puck-moving defensemen with his speed don’t come around often, and he’s only 22. As a restricted free agent, he likely will be back.

Winger Viktor Stalberg, however, likely has played his last game for the Hawks after finding himself in Quenneville’s doghouse throughout the playoffs. With his speed and skill, he’ll find plenty of suitors on the open market. Goalie Ray Emery, who was 17-1 this season, could command more money than the Hawks are willing to pay for a backup.

As for veterans Michal Rozsival and Michal Handzus, both unheralded additions who played key roles in the playoffs, their returns could be up to them. At this stage of their careers, they might be willing to give hometown discounts to keep chasing championships. Handzus and Jamal Mayers, both UFAs, also could choose to retire on top.



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