The Chicago Blackhawks were one goal away from the Stanley Cup Final this season, and a shakeup in the off-season could be the key to winning the Cup in 2014-15. Stan Bowman and Blackhawks management wouldn’t have to wait very long to make a splash; the upcoming 2014 NHL Entry Draft possesses a great opportunity for the Blackhawks to make a trade.
It seems that a trade for the First Overall Pick, currently held by the Florida Panthers, in this year’s draft could take care of several issues for the Blackhawks: Too many quality forward prospects of value, too many NHL-ready defensemen, and too low of a first-round draft pick.
Johnny Oduya‘s name popped up in trade conversation almost immediately after the Blackhawks were eliminated by the Los Angeles Kings. With his stock seemingly never higher, and the Swedish Olympian entering a contract year next season, it seems that the time has never been better to explore trade options with the 32-year old.
Oduya has been a big contributor for the Blackhawks, earning a second-pairing role with Niklas Hjalmarsson that has a defense-first mentality. Oduya was a stalwart in the offensive zone, with 3 goals and 16 points during the regular season, as well as seven points in 19 playoff games. His vision to pass the puck up-ice is nearly unprecedented for second-pairing defenseman league-wide, but on a Blackhawks team that already has Norris Trophy favourite Duncan Keith, it may be one stick too many.
The Blackhawks will look to make room for up-coming defenseman Adam Clendening, who was the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs offensive leader in 2013-14, despite being a blue-liner. Clendening is 21 years old, and coming off his second season in the American league, he is ripe for a shot to crack the Blackhawks’ roster next season. Prospect Stephen Johns is also in the mix for a spot, but with only eight games of professional experience (All with the IceHogs in 2013-14), it seems that Clendening is the more likely option.
The Blackhawks are blessed with a ‘good problem’ to have in the system, with a plethora of offensive-minded forwards, just a season or two away from being NHL-ready. Kevin Hayes is certainly in that group, with four years of college experience behind him. In a system like the Blackhawks’, Hayes could be one or two seasons away from a legitimate shot at the Blackhawks’ roster, but a team like the Florida Panthers are starving for the kind of young, raw talent Hayes provides. Hayes would join his older brother Jimmy once again, who currently plays with the Panthers after a trade mid-season that sent him south from the Windy City.
Sadly for the Blackhawks, Hayes and Oduya won’t be enough for the Panthers’ first overall pick, and Florida will still want to have a selection in the first-round. The Blackhawks will pick 28th overall at this years’ draft, and that pick can go south to Florida, where the Panthers will have a solid, but not as spectacular, first-round pick.
All-in-all, the Panthers will gain two players that could play on their roster in 2014-15, and depending on their scouting, have a player that is NHL-ready in one season or less. The Blackhawks would have their pick of a draft class that includes a hearty defenseman in Aaron Ekblad, or top forwards like Sam Reinhart and Sam Bennett.
Dale Tallon and the Blackhawks certainly have a history of moves, with two major transactions in the 2013-14 season. This time, both teams could be winners, and the Panthers would inch closer to another trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, while the Blackhawks bolster a roster that looks to take home the Cup the very next season.
What’s your take? Do the Blackhawks really need the First Overall pick? Is Oduya and Hayes too high a price to pay? Leave your responses in the comments below!
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