Are the Blackhawks pursuing Ryan Suter for the wrong reason? - FOX 32 News Chicago

Are the Blackhawks pursuing Ryan Suter for the wrong reason?

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

On July 1, 2008 theBlackhawks made a huge splash in the hockey world and signed free agent defenseman Brian Campbell. The cost for Campbell was steep, an eight year contract with an approximate $7.1 million salary cap hit per season. This was a bold move and was done for a couple of reasons.

The Hawks were becoming a relevant sports story again in 2008 and the resurgence was due in part to marketing guru John McDonough who was hired in November of 2007. Shortly after McDonough arrived there were rumblings the Blackhawks would pursue Campbell.

Back then the word going around indicated two main reasons the Hawks desired to sign Campbell.

First they wanted to make a big splash to let fans and players around the league know the Blackhawks wanted to be serious Stanley Cup contenders. Up until then free agents often shunned Chicago and when they did sign here a bad team premium had to be paid. Campbell was in the right place at the right time in a soft free agent market and GM Dale Tallon had a fat check book.

Campbell was also viewed as a valuable on ice commodity as he fit into the fast paced, transition game the Hawks sought.  No doubt Campbell was overpaid but he became an important member of the Stanley Cup winning squad. What may have begun as a more of marketing/media splash worked out on the ice as well.

Now rumor has it the Hawks are very interested in upcoming UFA defenseman Ryan Suter. This sounds very similar to the Campbell whispers around in late 2007 and the summer of 2008. Rumblings indicate the Hawks want to make another big splash and blow away some of the stink that has surrounded the franchise this summer.

There is bad optics to overcome, starting with Patrick Kane's shenanigans and a front office mentioned to be in disarray on Canadian TV.  So far this must be a spring from hell for McDonough who has to be concerned with preserving the image of his resurrected Blackhawks.

Suter like Campbell could be a big on ice addition.  With Suter the Hawks could boast the finest top three defenders of any team. Suter could take some pressure off of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook as he is a very good all around defenseman.

There are some questions surrounding Suter and it remains to be seen if he will leave Nashville. Some believe much of his success is due to his defensive partner Shea Weber, and that could be true. Unfortunately there is no way of knowing unless the two are separated and there seems to be a good chance that will be the case next season.

Suter strikes me as a solid player but according to some he has limits. It has been mentioned by those who should know, Suter needs to play the left side because he doesn't turn well the other way. That could be so but shouldn't represent a huge issue here. The main concerns have to do with playing with a different partner and the financial impact of Suter's new contract.

The major drawback to signing Suter is the Hawks would be back in a similar salary cap position asthey were with Campbell.

Suter has let it be known he doesn't want to move his family again, so his next signing could be his last. The 27 year old defenseman could be looking for a seven to ten year contract. The yearly cap hit will vary depending on term but should be in the $6.5 million range.

As it stands today one could conclude the Hawks dealt Campbell and received nothing of value in return. They then wasted a season by not wisely using the cap space saved and now will pursue a player looking for a similar mega contract as the one they dumped.

There are other ways the Hawks could spend $6-$7 million next season.

Plan B could be to go after free agent Matt Carle, who now plays for the Flyers. Carle is considered by many as the second best UFA defender who could be available on July 1 and is also 27 years old. He is a very good defenseman but has indicated staying with the Flyers would be his first choice. Carle may require around a $5 million per year commitment.

If not Carle, the same amount of cap space needed to sign Suter could be spread around to sign two or three defensemen. Jason Garisson who plays for Florida and has one of the best slap shots in the league and would fill a need here. If available Garisson could help the power play and the remaining cap space could be used to sign one or two other blueliners.

If rumors are correct the Hawks first choice is to take a big swing at Suter. Supposedly Minnesota and Detroit will also make a strong play for his services. Signing Suter to play in Chicago could also me another division rivals would be without his services.

There are good reasons to pursue Suter, although those who worried about the salary cap consequences of Campbell's huge contractmay have similar concerns soon. Some said Campbell was pursued for the wrong reasons but his signing helped bring a Stanley Cup to Chicago.

Signing the top free agent defenseman would get the Blackhawks marketing machine something to brag about. Hawk fans will look past the reason as long as the end result is the same as with Campbell and another Stanley Cup soon follows.

Al's Shots

From a media standpoint the NHL has never been more popular in the United States and ice hockey participation at the youth level has never been greater. It would be a profound mistake if there was another work stoppage.

Although Donald Fehr has a reputation as a hard line negotiator the NHL isn't major league baseball.  The NY Islanders are not similar to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In baseball a perennial losing team like the Pirates can develop players and then dump them as soon as they require a large contract. The Pirates can follow that script and still turn a profit, let's say $20 million season. A franchise in the NHL with poor on ice results can easily lose the same amount of money or more.

It also shouldn't be taken for granted the NHLPA is as unified as it appears now. Many players need their income for next season; they aren't sitting on huge bank accounts. Every player has one vote, no matter if they earn the league minimum or $7 million per season. There are many who can't afford losing an entire season of salary.

Without knowing specifics it could be time for the players to not push for more and maybe give a little back. At the very least they shouldn't look for a bigger piece of the revenue pie until fewer franchises are bleeding red ink.

My biggest concern is there will not be enough time to change things in the last CBA agreement and another work stoppage does occur. The September 15 deadline is closer than it appears. The NHLPA wants to negotiate a new deal, and there should be an improved agreement but there is no time to waste.

I am also of the opinion the salary cap limit for next season most likely won't be any less than this year's $64.3 million.  If it does go down big market teams won't get stung. There will be a rollback adjustment.

Big market clubs that have carried the weak sisters for years are not going to be caught holding the bag. One way or the other the teams which have spent the most and have been the lifeblood of the league will not be disadvantaged.

Next week we will look atsome specific CBA changes I would like to see happen.

Follow me onTwitter@AlCimaglia

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