Re-signing starters is where free agency needs to begin for Sky

Keeping the championship core together is the goal.

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Kahleah Copper and Candace Parker

Candace Parker (right) and Kahleah Copper (left) of the Chicago Sky celebrate after defeating the Phoenix Mercury in Game Four of the WNBA Finals to win the championship at Wintrust Arena on October 17, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois.

Stacy Revere/Getty Images

A week before contract negotiations can begin, there are a lot of questions surrounding how the Sky’s 2022 roster will look.

One thing fans can bet on is that it won’t mirror the championship roster.

Coach/general manager James Wade kicked off free agency by sending qualifying offers to restricted free agents, Diamond DeShields and Lexie Brown. The only other move Wade can make before Jan. 15 would be to extend the core designation to one of his unrestricted free agents.

Should he choose to use it, this move will have a significant impact on what he can do with the rest of his roster.

The core designation comes with a qualifying offer of a one-year deal worth the

supermax salary, which in 2022 is $228,094. That contract could be negotiated beginning Jan. 15. While Wade hasn’t given any indication on who he would put this designation on, it could belong to Courtney Vandersloot or Kahleah Copper.

Assuming Wade exercises this option on Copper, that leaves Wade with the difficult task of keeping the rest of his core together.

Contingency plans surround every player on the Sky’s roster.

Sue Bird announced on Instagram that she will return next season. Does that guarantee Vandersloot’s return to the Sky?

If Allie Quigley retires, could the Sky go after another local star, such as Jewell Loyd?

If Wade re-signs Vandersloot and Quigley, will there be enough cap space to re-sign Dolson and feel good about the end of the roster?

Let’s start with what we know for sure. Vandersloot will test the waters in free agency. She has indicated that she would consider returning to Seattle. Vandersloot is a skilled guard off the ball. She proved that last year playing alongside Candace Parker and in her time overseas with UMMC Ekaterinburg. Bird and Vandersloot sharing the same backcourt is possible but unlikely. Also, Vandersloot’s loyalty to the Sky and Wade is undeniable.

Right now, Quigley is overseas playing for UMMC Ekaterinburg and showing no signs of letting up. She’s averaging 14.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 27.7 minutes.

“Everything is going to be a challenge,” Wade said. “It’s a challenge to know for certain if Quigley is going to play next year. Right now, we have to put the best team on paper and make it realistic.”

Re-signing all of the starters needs to be the top priority for the Sky if they are going to contend for back-to-back titles.

Realistically that means parting ways with either Dolson or DeShields, or possibly both. Re-signing Astou Ndour-Fall for the league minimum, considering she’s being paid over $100,000 from Dallas in 2022, ensures frontcourt depth without taking the cap hit of Dolson’s salary.

Factoring in the Sky’s No. 7 pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft, along with the assumption Wade re-signs his starters, leaves three more roster spots for the Sky to hit that 11-player roster requirement.

There are a lot of scenarios that could unfold beginning Jan. 15, and you can guarantee Wade has considered all of them.

“That’s my job, to be ready to pivot if I have to,” Wade said.

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