The price of salary cap space is going up. And the Chicago Blackhawks were desperate enough to pay it.
The Hawks finally managed to get out from under Bryan Bickell's onerous contract, sending the veteran forward and his $4 million cap hit to the Carolina Hurricanes. The cost though was steep. In order to get the deal done, Chicago was forced to part with promising young forward Teuvo Teravainen.
In exchange, the Canes sent a 2016 second-round draft pick and a 2017 third-round draft pick to the Blackhawks.
The salary dump allows the cap-strapped Hawks to take their best shot at retaining restricted free agent forward Andrew Shaw, and signing Calder Trophy favorite Artemi Panarin to an extension this summer. But in making the deal, they created another massive hole in their roster.
Just 21 years old, Teravainen had already established himself as a versatile and valuable member of the Blackhawks. He notched 13 goals and 22 assists in 78 games this season, and was developing into a reliable defensive presence. A first-round pick in 2012, he was expected to mature into a solid top-six option. Now he'll fill that role for a young and improving Hurricanes team.
Chicago GM Stan Bowman has made some tough sacrifices at the altar of the cap over the past couple of seasons. Players like Dustin Byfuglien, Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, Andrew Ladd and Nick Leddy are ex-Hawks simply because there was no way to squeeze them in. Each of those losses was deeply felt, but this one, because of Teravainen's youth and vast potential, is one of the most painful.
Bowman does have options for replacing Teravainen. It's possible now to retain Richard Panik (update: done) and/or Dennis Rasmussen, along with Shaw, if that's how he chooses to use his space.
He can also look to the minors, where several young hopefuls appear ready to graduate. Winger Kyle Baun is the most likely to make the jump after signing a one-way deal at a cap-friendly $625,000. Ryan Hartman, the team's first-round pick in 2013, can bring high energy and some scoring touch to a bottom-six role. Vince Hinostroza, Tyler Motte and Tanner Kero will also contend for a job.
Watching this deal closely: the Detroit Red Wings. If Pavel Datsyuk decides to return to Russia next season, they'll be highly motivated to clear his crippling $7.5 million hit off their cap. Seeing the cost of moving of Bickell has to leave both GM Ken Holland and the team's fans feeling a bit queasy.