Buried cap space makes Blackhawks trade deadline buyer

Patrick Kane recorded a four-point night as the Chicago Blackhawks absolutely pounded the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Stan Bowman continues to limbo with the salary cap, but has his Chicago Blackhawks in position to be buyers with less than two weeks to go before the NHL’s trade deadline.

The decision to send veteran defenceman Rob Scuderi to the American Hockey League after he cleared waivers Wednesday was done with an eye on creating roster flexibility, and leaves Bowman with the ability to add $3.9-million worth of players on Feb. 29.

Of course, he’ll be able to do even more than that if he ships additional money out in the meantime.

The Blackhawks are now carrying $4.45-million in buried cap space – the most among NHL teams, according to generalfanager.com – with Bryan Bickell and Scuderi in AHL Rockford, and David Rundblad loaned to the ZSC Lions in Switzerland.

Each of those players represents a cap savings of $950,000 to Chicago.

Bowman has had to be creative while constantly reshaping an organization that has won the Stanley Cup three times in the last six years. He currently has more than $40-million of the $71.4-million cap tied up in his forwards.

The Scuderi move underscores the fact he’s made some missteps along with way – Jiri Sekac is all the Blackhawks have left to show for the pieces acquired in the Patrick Sharp deal with Dallas – but with a core as strong as any other in the league they are contenders again.

With the deadline approaching, Bowman is believed to be interested in adding another forward. Someone who could play left wing alongside Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, when he returns from a left leg injury, would be ideal.

Like basically every team with its eyes on a championship, Chicago could also use more defensive depth.

If Bowman needs to free up additional cap space before the deadline, he could elect to place Hossa or Marcus Kruger on long-term injured reserve – Kruger suffered a dislocated left wrist in December that carried a four-month recovery – but so far he’s avoided going that route.

At least he has options.

As for Scuderi, he may have reached the end of his road at age 37.

The two-time Stanley Cup winner has one year remaining on his contract but has seen his minutes dramatically reduced while playing 42 games for Pittsburgh and Chicago this season. The Penguins retained $1.125-million of Scuderi’s salary in that trade – another move allowing the Blackhawks to continue maneuvering under the salary cap.