The Chicago Blackhawks are top heavy on defense. Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook are all some of the top defensemen in the NHL. The problem is the depth defensemen. Trevor Daley is not Johnny Oduya and the Blackhawks have major questions on the bottom pairing.
Chicago has tried Trevor van Riemsdyk, David Rundblad and Viktor Svedberg through the first three games of the season, but only TVR seems to be a safe bet to stay in the lineup. Michal Rozsival could be skating with the Hawks as early as next week, but he is 37 and coming off a fractured ankle.
The Blackhawks could use some help fortifying their bottom grouping. The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup by practically skating Keith, Hjalmarsson and Seabrook into the ground. The Hawks might not be able to get away with that this season and are attempting to address the problem now.
The question is, who can they bring in who is affordable and a considerable upgrade over Rundblad, Svedberg or Rozsival? The team currently has $350,000 in cap space, which greatly limits their options for a trade.
Here are a few routes they could pursue for a potential trade:
Bring back an ex-Hawks prospect at a cheap price
Perhaps the Hawks could try bringing back one of their own. Tim Erixon, Klas Dahlbeck, Adam Clendening and Dylan Olsen all carry cap hits of less than $775,000 and are players who have some sort of experience in Chicago’s system. Dahlbeck and Clendening were expected to move up the system and eventually make it to Chicago, but were ultimately traded in desperate moves to shed salary cap.
Erixon was a rental who wasn’t very good, but comes at an affordable price. Olsen played 44 games with the Panthers last season and could be expendable.
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Bring in another veteran rental
The Blackhawks did this last year when they traded for Kimmo Timonen and it didn’t exactly work out. However, this may be the cheapest, most cap-friendly move the Blackhawks can make. The problem is it is quite early in the season to be exploring trade block options. Nobody really knows who is available and it might not be until the trade deadline before a move can be made.
Stand pat and try to develop youngsters
This may be the most realistic route Chicago can take. The Blackhawks are so strapped to the cap and teams know that. They would likely have to give up more than they want to for a young defender and would probably be underwhelmed by any affordable, veteran rental. The Hawks may just need to hold their breath on Rundblad and Svedberg and hope one of them pans out to be a decent player with ice time.
This could be a great challenge for Chicago’s coaching staff. The Blackhawks have done a good job of developing talent around the organization, but there haven’t been many young defensemen to come through the organization since Hjalmarsson. The last defender who had potential, Nick Leddy, never gained Joel Quenneville’s trust and was eventually traded to the New York Islanders.
Quenneville would probably prefer another out of his prime veteran, but the Blackhawks may not be able to make any trade this year.
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