If there’s one thing the Chicago Blackhawks can offer Leaf Nation, it’s hope. The Hawks were the one team with a longer Stanley Cup drought than the Maple Leafs before they ended 49 years of disappointment with a championship in 2010. The Leafs now have the longest drought in the NHL at 46 years, and counting. The Hawks’ salary cap management lesson is one the Leafs can apply this year. After the Blackhawks successful Cup run, the team ran into cap issues. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane had new contracts kicking in for 2010-11, at a cap hit of $6.3 million (U.S.) each. GM Stan Bowman had to find the cap space somewhere. The team was forced to break up its roster to the point where there are only eight members of this year’s contender with Cup rings from three years ago. The has recovered but were not able to repeat or even come close the last couple of years after key players were out the door almost as soon as the parade was over: Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien were traded to Atlanta, Kris Versteeg was shipped to Toronto; Antti Niemi was allowed to walk as a free agent. Some felt the team made a mistake in keeping Dave Bolland instead of Ladd. Bolland was making $3.375 million on a long-term deal and had a tremendous playoffs, endearing himself to fans and management. A third-line centre, he was at the height of his tradability. Ladd was a restricted free agent and was shipped for a second-round pick (Adam Clendening). Ladd ultimately signed in 2010-11 for $2.35 million for one year before cashing in at $4.4 million, his current salary as captain of the Winnipeg Jets. Bolland is not nearly as effective a player today as Ladd, but the Hawks salary situation backed them into the corner.