February 23, 2024

Salaries Sink the Blackhawks | Can Coby White Win MIP?

By Red Line Project Staff

By Brandon Wilson

The Chicago Blackhawks were a dominant team in the early to mid-2010s, winning three Stanley Cups in six years. They left no doubt that during their dynasty era, they would be named team of the decade. Stars such as Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa led the team to many victories and memories that Blackhawks fans will hold for a lifetime.

However, many fans believed that after the dual-signing of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to $10.5 million contracts hurt the team moving forward. Taking effect after the 2014–15 season, in an era where the NHL’s salary cap was maxed out with an upper limit $71.4 million, these two contracts were just over 29% of the team’s cap space for only two players. Both players were critical to the team’s success, responsible for the three previous raisings of the Stanley Cup.

But how much is too much?

This pie chart offers a visual representation of not only player salaries but also detrimental losses that the Blackhawks had to take to be compliant with the salary that gradually increased over the years. The contracts of Kane and Toews stay virtually the same, with the exception of Toews taking a step away from professional hockey for a while to focus on his health.

Key losses represented in the graphic include Brandon Saad, Teuvo Teräväinen, and Artemi Panarin all due to salary cap issues. Saad (signed with Columbus in 2015) and Teräväinen (signed with Carolina in 2016) left Chicago with the intention of getting more money elsewhere due to Chicago not being able to pay them the amount they wanted. Panarin, who won the Calder Trophy in his rookie season, was ultimately traded along with other assets to Columbus in exchange for Brandon Saad and other assets. Chicago Fans believed this trade occurred due to the rumor that Panarin was going to ask Chicago for $8+ million. Turns out he took the same amount that Saad was already signed to.

How did these moves end for Chicago? After being traded back to the Blackhawks, Saad did not produce the points he did during the dynasty days. Teräväinen ended up staying with Carolina long-term, becoming a key player with its organization. Panarin ended up on the New York Rangers in 2019 and is currently having the best season of his career with 75 points in 56 games played.

Before stepping out as General Manager and President of Hockey Operations for the Chicago Blackhawks, Stan Bowman would sign defenseman Seth Jones to a $9.5 million contract in 2022 that would last until 2030. Chicago fans would be enraged by this signing as Jones has received endless criticism due to his sub-par performance.

By Joe Reyna

The Most Improved Player Award is one of many prestigious awards given to up-and-coming players every year in the NBA. Some of the contenders this season are Tyrese Maxey from the Philadelphia 76ers, Coby White from the Chicago Bulls and Alperen Sengun from the Houston Rockets.

Maxey is one of the favorites to win Most Improved Player due to his performance in helping the 76ers be a contender in the Eastern Conference. He was the 21st overall pick of the 2020 draft, and proved to be a solid part of the Sixers’ offense.

Sengun the center for the Houston Rockets due to his ability to be a threat on both sides of the court. Sengun was the 16th overall pick of the 2021 class, and he was originally drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder and traded to the Rockets. Sengun’s performance is a bright spot for the young Rockets.

White, a fifth-year guard who was the 7th overall pick in the 2019 draft, has had a resurgent year due to stepping up after star shooting guard Zach Lavine got injured. White was benched during the 2022–2023 prior to White’s resurgence since November. White’s first game leading the bulls after Lavine’s injury was on the Nove. 30 upset against the Milwaukee Bucks. Prior to the All-Star Break White was able to turn the Bull’s season around and currently the Bull’s are the 9th seed in the East with White’s role increasing.

Despite what the stats say, these three players are proving themselves to be close to being All-Star caliber. In a head-to-head analysis between the two guards White and Maxey. White’s case for Most Improved Player shows with the amount of games he started. Moreover, White this season gained a massive increase in points he had compared to his past seasons as well as his shooting ability increasing. Similarly, Maxey had grown into his position due to Sixers moving on from star guard James Harden and Maxey benefited from the change.

The race is still going on, and Maxey is making a case to win the award. However, players like White and Sengun show how competitive this year’s race is.

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