A fireworks display over the Chicago River and Chelsea Dagger, that burrow-into-your-brain-and-lay-larvae song that accompanies every Blackhawks goal, concluded the rally. The bouncy do-do-da-doo tune was written and recorded by an alternative Scottish band, The Fratellis, which, according to its website, split up indefinitely in April. These things happen, in rock and in hockey, although The Fratellis had no apparent salary-cap issues.
The Blackhawks do. With only 14 players signed and the team already nuzzled up against a cap that is expected to be $58.8 million next season, Chicago surely will have to excise one significant piece of the current group, maybe more. The quickest path to salvation could involve burying backup goalie Cristobal Huet in the minors, which would still cost the team his $5.63 million paycheck but relieve it of the cap hit. Even without that millstone contract, Chicago might be obliged to trade one of its top-nine forwards, possibly the versatile and gifted Patrick Sharp, Versteeg or Byfuglien, who ramped up his value in the playoffs. (The problem was exacerbated by Toews' $1.3 million bonus for winning the Conn Smythe, an amount that counts against the cap in 2010--11. Said a half-smiling Stan Bowman, "I would have been happy if someone else had won it, to be honest.") Throughout the playoffs the fiscal implications of some bad contracts and newfound success hung over a team that appreciated that this, despite an exceptional core of young talent, might be its best if not only shot.
"You like to have this moment frozen in time," McDonough said. "You never want anybody to age. You always want to be Stanley Cup champions. And you don't want anybody to leave. It's kinda like a family. Certainly that's on our mind, but we're going to do the best we can."
The fun-with-numbers corner of life will consume the Hawks in the next few months, but looking ahead is never as rewarding as peering out through a shower of red, black and white confetti. In Chicago this is what matters: 2010 will never be about decimal points as much as the restorative power of a 35-pound silver trophy that is capable of turning men into nail-biting boys.
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