Joel Quenneville didn’t want to lose Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien in 2010. He didn’t want to lose Troy Brouwer in 2011. Or Dave Bolland in 2013. Or Nick Leddy in 2014. Or Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya last year.
But Quenneville really doesn’t want to lose Andrew Shaw this summer.
“Every guy’s merits are stronger than others, and Shawzie’s argument is as tough as you’re ever going to get, because he brings so much to the table that you appreciate,” Quenneville said as the vanquished Blackhawks went their separate ways on Wednesday. “He’s irreplaceable in that regard.”
Quenneville might not have much of a choice. While everyone (including Shaw himself) would like the feisty winger to return next season, the odds are slim.
Shaw will be a restricted free agent on July 1, and as a two-time Stanley Cup champion, a former 20-goal scorer, and a proven playoff performer, he’d have to leave millions on the table in order to stay with the cap-strapped Hawks. A qualifying offer, which would keep Shaw from being an unrestricted free agent, would be worth $2.5 million. On the open market (or maybe even in arbitration), he could command more than $4 million.
While Quenneville deemed Shaw “irreplaceable,” Bowman was far more measured with his words as he awaits the official salary-cap number. The Hawks have nearly $69 million tied up in 17 players (that includes Artemi Panarin’s bonus overage), with the cap expected to be around $74 million at best. Unless the Hawks manage to finally unload Bryan Bickell’s $4-million cap hit as he enters the last year of his contract — Bowman didn’t rule out buying out the contract, which would give the Hawks a $1-million cap hit next year and a $1.5-million cap hit in 2017-18 — then it’s highly unlikely they can make Shaw fit.
Since even the qualifying offer could be too expensive for the Hawks, there’s a good chance the Hawks simply trade Shaw’s rights before July 1.
“We’ll get that [cap] number over the next two months, and once we get that, we’ll make it work and put a team together that fits, and is competitive,” Bowman said. “So I can’t answer that [yet]. I don’t have enough information to answer that. But certainly, we’d like to try and do what we can to bring him here.”
Shaw, for what it’s worth, said it’s not about the money.
“Look where I’ve made it, and look where I came from,” the twice-undrafted 24-year-old said. “I’ve overachieved from what I thought I was going to get out of life.”
Of course, on last year’s locker cleanout day, Brandon Saad said he’d be willing to take a hometown discount to stay with the team that drafted him and turned him into a two-time Stanley Cup champion. But when his agent asked for $6 million a season, Bowman shipped Saad to Columbus, where he wallowed in last place all season. Saad — and Leddy before him — are two of Shaw’s close friends. So Shaw knows how the other half lives, for better or worse.
“I want to be back here,” Shaw said. “I’ve been in Chicago for five years now, and I’ve made this place my home.”
Shaw’s value is tough to characterize. He’s not the most skilled guy around, and he’s certainly not the biggest. But he scored 49 goals over the past three seasons, and is one of the Hawks’ more versatile players — he spent much of this season on the top line after making his name as a bottom-six forward. He has 16 career playoff goals, including a four-goal, two-assist performance in six games against St. Louis in the Hawks’ first-round exit (he was suspended for one).
He’s one of the few Hawks who plays with much of an edge to his game, and despite being generously listed at 5-foot-11, he’s the Hawks’ best net-front presence, with his willingness to take hits in the crease and his ability to screen goalies and deflect pucks.
“He’s a big part of our team, whether it’s his personality or the way he plays on the ice,” Patrick Kane said. “We all love a guy like a Shawzie, so it would be sad to see him go, for sure. I think we’re all expecting to see him back next year.”
It might be wishful thinking.