Wednesday July 1st, 2009

So much for dreams of fiscal restraint.

Marian Hossa, the player widely acknowledged as the best free agent on the market at the start of the day, has cashed in big time by signing a 12-year, $62.8 million deal with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Adding a player with Hossa's skill set for just $5.166 million per year makes the Hawks a more formidable team over the short term. But the deal makes you wonder if Dale Tallon has completely lost sight of the team's future.

Don't get hung up on the duration. That's what keeps the cap hit reasonable. But even if the durable forward comes in at a decent value, this deal could come back and bite the Hawks hard next summer.

Remember, the contracts of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith all expire after next season, setting up Tallon for a troika of tough negotiations. Best case -- and I mean absolute pie-in-the-sky -- scenario: he gets the trio for something in the range of $15 million per year. Add that to about $36 million that's already committed to just nine players plus the likelihood that the $56.8 million salary cap will shrink significantly, and it looks like Tallon has painted himself into a very tight corner with this deal.

Fools rush in? Unless Tallon has a couple of suckers lined up to take the contracts of Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet off his hands, it's hard to read it any other way.

Hossa is a 40-goal man and a terrific defensive presence, but this isn't a zero-sum game. After all, Hossa's addition all but ensures the departure of Martin Havlat, the team's best forward last season. Hossa's a better all-around option, but how much better?

Maybe Tallon feels he's close enough to go for it this year and Hossa gives him his best chance to win. Time will tell. The deal certainly alters the balance of power in the West to some degree, if only because Tallon has weakened the defending conference champs in Detroit. But he's put his career on the line with this contract, because it's not just Havlat who is headed out of town. And it's not just next year that Tallon has to worry about.

The deal also makes current restricted free agent defenseman Cam Barker and Calder candidate Kris Versteeg prime targets for an offer sheet over the next few days.

Hossa's a great player, but it's hard to envision this contract as anything but an albatross for the franchise in the future.

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