With the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers on NBC Sports Network on Wednesday, we were unfortunately subjected to the likes of Mike Milbury and Keith Jones during intermissions. (Well, you all were; I switched over to “The Rock” on AMC during both breaks.) However, one interesting graphic came up during the first intermission, and it quickly made social media rounds.
NBCSN took a page from Bob McKenzie, the hockey guru for TSN, and glanced at four forwards who, according to McKenzie, the Blackhawks are interested in leading up to the trade deadline on Feb. 29. If the Twitter image isn’t working for you, those four forwards are: Winnipeg’s Andrew Ladd, Arizona’s Mikkel Boedker, Boston’s Loui Eriksson and Carolina’s Eric Staal.
The Blackhawks are notably desiring a top-line left wing to support Jonathan Toews and the currently-injured Marian Hossa, as Andrew Shaw is only so viable an option in the spot. So, it’s only right that we take a look at all four, what they’d bring to the table for the Blackhawks, what it’d take to get them from their current teams and if they are viable options for Stan Bowman’s group.
Before I do that, however, I need to harp on something I’ve been saying through many of my recent posts on Blackhawks trade targets. I still think the Blackhawks’ biggest need is a fourth, fifth or sixth defenseman, versus a top-line left wing. Their puck possession has been anywhere between average and absolutely awful for large stretches this season, and the heavy reliance on Corey Crawford in net isn’t exactly the healthiest answer moving toward the postseason. Wednesday’s game against the Rangers, while a Chicago win, truly highlighted the need for another defenseman, as all of Brent Seabrook, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Erik Gustafsson and Michal Rozsival made multiple major mistakes and were possession succubuses throughout the evening. This problem would be magnified if the Blackhawks can’t get home ice through the Western Conference playoffs. And, no, neither Viktor Svedberg nor Ville Pokka is the answer.
But, we’ll move on to the aforementioned four forwards for the time being. It’s what you came here for, after all.
Andrew Ladd, Winnipeg Jets LW
2015-16 stats: 56 games, 13 goals, 17 assists, minus-10 rating, 19:28 ATOI
Cap hit: $4.4 million
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent after 2015-16 season
I’ve touched previously on why I don’t think Ladd is coming back to the Blackhawks, with whom he played in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons, winning a Stanley Cup in the latter campaign. But let’s go back to him, since it sounds like he’s a key trade target for Bowman at this time.
Ladd obviously is familiar with Joel Quenneville‘s system in Chicago. He’s a veteran player at a shade over 30 years old, and he’s very familiar with the likes of Toews and Hossa, who he would conceivably play alongside. He’s a big body at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, so he could create some space for Toews and Hossa (not that they can’t do it themselves) while also getting to the ice’s dirty areas to finish plays. Ladd also carries play at a 53.51 Corsi-for rate while getting almost even zone starts. That’s something that would certainly appeal to Bowman and Co.
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So, what’re the issues here? The cap hit isn’t necessarily a problem, as the team can just send someone to Rockford to free up enough space. After Rob Scuderi cleared waivers Wednesday, the Blackhawks were left with $3.9 million in total cap space. One moved contract will leave the Blackhawks with something like $4.6 to $4.8 million in space, so Ladd would fit. Also, he could just be a traditional rental, as the Blackhawks would be in no position to re-sign him after this season.
The issue is the price. Ladd is not only one of Winnipeg’s top-six forwards, he’s also their captain. Team captains don’t tend to come cheap these days, and if the Jets are going to trade theirs to a Central Division rival, you know they’ll make sure that team pays out the nose for it. The Blackhawks would have to part with an NHL-ready prospect or young player, someone who the Jets have some level of contract control over. That could be a Marko Dano, but you know Teuvo Teravainen‘s name would also come up. Draft picks would also be on the table (or at least one early-round pick), as well as another young prospect. The Blackhawks could get a late-round pick back as well, but they’d be giving up quite a lot here for a guy who’s a guaranteed rental.
And, honestly, that’s going to be the main issue here for all four of these forwards. I’ll hate to sound like a broken record, but it’s the truth. Still, we’ll press on.
Ladd seems the most likely of these four to come to Chicago, as Bowman is always keen on adding guys who have been with the team before (see Kris Versteeg). Plus, Ladd would put the Blackhawks’ lines in pretty great shape, as he’s a clear top-line winger who could bump Shaw to the bottom six where he belongs.
Percent chance Ladd comes to Chicago: 65 percent
Next: Mikkel Boedker