Bryan Bickell had an infected tooth pulled earlier this week, and the vertigo symptoms that kept him out of all but one game of the Stanley Cup Final have mercifully subsided. So that’s one mystery (hopefully) solved.
The next one, however, could take a while.
Bickell is still a member of the Blackhawks. But according to multiple sources, it’s not for a lack of trying on Stan Bowman’s part. The Hawks general manager — who still needs to clear cap space before the season begins in October — has been unable to find a taker for the power forward’s $4-million cap hit. Bickell’s trying not to worry about it. He’s been fishing a lot during his offseason, and has avoided the TV, the radio and his phone as much as possible. He knows the sound and fury is out there. He hopes it signifies nothing.
“I feel like I’m staying,” he said Friday as the Hawks opened their annual fan convention at the Hilton Chicago. “I don’t feel like I’m leaving. I feel comfortable, and I’m sure they feel comfortable with what I bring to this team. I don’t want to say I’m [not] replaceable, but hopefully I can stay. I’m looking to come here for training camp as a Blackhawk, and hopefully, I can stay that way.”
Kris Versteeg, another Hawks player believed to be on the block, is taking a much more Zen-like approach. That might have something to do with the fact that he’s been traded five times before. He was even part of the summer salary-cap purge after the Hawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010. And he’s seen the likes of Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad dealt away already this summer, so he knows he’s hardly untouchable.
“Nothing shocks me in this league anymore,” Versteeg said. “For myself to be moved, it wouldn’t shock me at all, ever. It’s part of the game and you understand that.”
With 21 players signed and about $750,000 in bonus overages to account for, the Hawks are just about right at the $71.4-million cap. And they still have to sign restricted free-agent Marcus Kruger and add a defenseman, either via free agency, trade, or a call-up. But they can be as much as 10 percent over the cap during the summer, and don’t have to be cap-compliant until the season opens on Oct. 7.
“We’re here in the second week of July, and our season doesn’t start until October,” Bowman said. “So we have a lot of time still. I know it looks like it’s been a long time since July 1 rolled around, but it’s really only been a couple weeks.”
Bickell and Versteeg watched as Nick Leddy twisted in the wind during training camp last season, knowing he’d likely be traded for cap reasons. He wasn’t sent to the Islanders until after the preseason finale. Versteeg acknowledged that it’d be far better to spend training camp with the team you’re actually going to play for, but in the cap era, there’s not much you can do about it.
“It’s part of the system,” Versteeg said of the cap. “I think it’s [hated more by] the fans; they get pretty attached to some players so when they’re gone, I think it’s maybe more tough on them. As a player, you just try to focus your energy on your job and what you need to do. I don’t think it affects you too much.”