Last night’s trade of Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp and defenseman Stephen Johns to the Dallas Stars for forward Ryan Garbutt and defenseman Trevor Daley surprised many. Not because Sharp was moved — that had been expected for some time — but because Johns was tossed in with him.
Just like that, the Blackhawks are without their top defensive prospect and a three-time Stanley Cup champion. And while it’s a jarring deal, the Blackhawks have to make the best of it and roll on.
The thing is, this deal didn’t just affect the four involved. Of course, they were impacted greatest, as they’ll all have to uproot their families and move to a different city. But the trade affected many more Blackhawks players, and the future of the franchise. A quick look at three shockwaves this trade will and/or could create:
Da Windy City
Johnny Oduya probably won’t be re-signed. The discussion surrounding the free-agent defenseman was that he was waiting for the Blackhawks to clear cap space in the hope of signing a new deal. That possibility is likely gone with Daley coming aboard. Daley is an offensive defenseman if there ever was one, and he’s a little younger than Oduya.
Stan Bowman will likely move forward with Daley, plus Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and the young guns on the big-league roster and in the AHL. We shouldn’t rule out a veteran defenseman signing with the team later this offseason, when the salary cap situation is better sorted out in Chicago (this trade did little to ease the money worries). But the Blackhawks still need to make moves that don’t involve Oduya, and he’ll probably cost too much at this point.
Seabrook is priority No. 1 next year. Bowman lost Brandon Saad this offseason, and it was generally believed Saad was the club’s top priority as far as free agent signings. If the Blackhawks lose their No. 1 priority next year, the defensive corps will honestly be devastated. Seabrook’s contract is due up at the end of the 2015-16 season, and the Blackhawks need to sign him as soon as possible.
It’s not going to be easy. Seabrook currently makes $5.8 million against the salary cap, which is more than what a better defenseman in Keith is making. That should keep the new contract at a semi-reasonable number. But it has to get done, regardless. The Blackhawks have flushed out almost all of their defensive prospects who are even close to making their NHL debut. Ville Pokka is pretty much the only one left in that department. Put this on top of the off-ice leadership role Seabrook carries in Chicago, and you have a serious scenario. Johns’ departure ensures Bowman will have to focus hard on re-signing Seabrook next offseason.
The forward situation is even messier. You’ve got Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Teuvo Teravainen on one level, and then … a lot of other stuff of varying value. Bryan Bickell and Kris Versteeg may or may not be on next season’s roster (what the Blackhawks can get for them based on the Sharp/Johns trade is highly questionable).
Viktor Tikhonov, Artemi Panarin and Marko Dano are relatively unproven commodities. Artem Anisimov will be jammed into the second-line center role, for which he may or may not be a fit. Marcus Kruger remains unsigned and still projects as a fourth liner, but this team is now filled with fourth liners. Andrew Shaw, Jeremy Morin, Corey Tropp and Garbutt slot into that roll, and Joakim Nordstrom could also be re-signed. Mark McNeill and others are waiting in Rockford (assuming they don’t all get traded).
Bowman isn’t done moving players, so this likely will get more fleshed out before September. But you can’t even guess what the lines might be on Opening Night at this point. A good team still exists here, but how it will actually be structured is anyone’s guess.
That might be the biggest takeaway from the Sharp/Johns trade at this point. It leaves an awful taste in your mouth, but this team is far from garbage. The 2015-16 Chicago Blackhawks, as they currently exist, would defeat the 2010-11 and 2011-12 versions in a season-long series. The salary cap strife is doing heavy damage to the Blackhawks at this point, but it’s not as though this is now a lottery team. It’s tough to stay calm at the moment, but that’s what Blackhawks fans need to do. Because this team, general managed by Bowman, managed by Joel Quenneville and captained by Toews, typically finds a way to overcome all obstacles.
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