With the Chicago Blackhawks already in playoff contention, a trade-deadline move is unnecessary
The NHL trade deadline is always an interesting day, for the Chicago Blackhawks and 29 other teams. A shakeup of Stanley Cup contenders and pretenders, buying and selling their assets to build for the future, keep a sinking ship afloat or make a concerted run for the Stanley Cup.
March 1 will be no different, other than the deadline isn’t in February. It will be different, though, for Chicago Blackhawks fans compared to recent trade deadlines. If the organization is smart enough, they will stand pat and be still on trade deadline day.
We here at Blackhawk Up have covered what historical past the Blackhawks have with NHL trade-deadline moves. Some have worked great, some have flopped.
But in most to all cases, some aspect of the organization’s future has been involved and for once, the Blackhawks do not need to risk their future for the present.
Argument against a trade-
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The Blackhawks entered this season with the second-highest odds to win the Stanley Cup behind the defending-champion Pittsburgh Penguins. At last look, Bovada has Chicago with the third best odds (+750) to win the Cup, trailing the Washington Capitals (+450) and the Minnesota Wild (+550).
With all the questions coming into and during this season, the Blackhawks are still a top-three favorite for the Stanley Cup.
NHL trade-deadline moves made by contending teams are supposed to put them over the hump and give them that advantage to make their deep playoff run. But for Chicago, all that might need to happen is a little bit of continuity.
For example, all season long, the narrative has been the Blackhawks don’t have top-line options for Jonathan Toews to play with. Marian Hossa was too old and in a slump. Richard Panik wasn’t a legitimate option. They couldn’t break up the second-line grouping.
On and on the excuses went for why Toews wasn’t producing like he has in the past. But as of late, an option has started to shine light on the situation and it’s coming from someone who was a longshot to do so: Nick Schmaltz.
The kids are alright
Schmaltz, an NHL rookie, has blossomed late in the season, has found himself on the top line with Toews and Panik and is holding his own with top-line responsibilities.
Early in the season, hopes were high for Schamltz to be a contributor right off the bat. He was underwhelming and found himself sent to the Rockford IceHogs in early December, when he needed to find confidence in his game.
He did just that and in just over a month’s time, Schmaltz found his way back into the Blackhawks lineup.
Since his return to the regular lineup, Schmaltz has produced more to the level that was expected of him and in doing so, has become a so far successful project for coach Joel Quenneville. That project: to mold Schmaltz into the top-line wing option that Toews and the Blackhawks were missing.
This is the experience that most Blackhawks rookies are going through this year, and the results are carrying over in positive ways. Young players like Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman, Vince Hinostroza, Tanner Kero, Gustav Forsling and Tyler Motte have seen their shares of the bench turn into opportunities for more responsibilities, ice time and success.
Kero has seen a larger role in the Blackhawks’ bottom-six rotation and penalty-killing units after spending most of last season in Rockford, and Forsling has also benefited from getting his North American professional footing under him with a few stints with the IceHogs and finds himself back in the defensive rotation for Chicago.
Closer look at some youngsters
With the likes of Michal Rozsival and Brian Campbell more than likely not returning to the Blackhawks after this season and the possibility of Trevor van Riemsdyk being exposed in the NHL expansion draft, Forsling could be a very important piece to an aging Blackhawks defensive core moving forward.
As for Hinostroza and Hartman, the two Blackhawks rookies most tied to each other, the ceiling for their potential has risen exponentially this entire season.
Hinostroza was the IceHogs’ leading scorer as an AHL rookie last season and joined the Blackhawks out of training camp as the most intriguing rookie on the roster.
He has gone through some growing pains, as all NHL rookies do, but has learned from them and has flourished in his role as a change-of-pace player in the forward rotation.
While Hartman came into this season with the label of Andrew Shaw 2.0, he has repeatedly shown that he is not only able to play physically on the edge similar to Shaw, but can also add more offensively and take fewer penalties. Hartman is starting to now live up to his first-round pick status after a few seasons with the IceHogs, refining his game.
Both Hartman and Hinostroza figure to be in the organization’s future plans for years to come, or at least they should be, and you can add Forsling, Motte and Kero to that mix as well. When you really look at what the Blackhawks have beyond their current core of Toews, Hossa, Patrick Kane, etc., they could already have themselves a future core in the making to build around.
No longer time to mortgage the future
With that notion in mind, the Blackhawks’ window to mortgage the future for single-season runs at the Stanley Cup is over. They have great skill and veteran leaders who have been there before with Toews, Kane, Hossa and the rest, but now they have young, talented players to join them and mold into the new future.
NHL trade-deadline deals for the Blackhawks in the recent past have included valuable draft picks and young players who, for the most part, are already functioning NHL contributors elsewhere. But with the 2017 NHL Draft coming up this summer in Chicago, the Blackhawks want to have as many picks as they can to entertain the home fans, as well as continue to build their future.
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Also helping their case for building for the future, their non-NHL prospects are destroying competition in their respective junior and collegiate leagues.
Dylan Sikura has 49 points in 30 games for Northeastern, while defenseman Luc Snuggerud has 29 points in 32 games for Nebraska-Omaha. Not to be outdone in the NCAA ranks, Yale’s John Hayden has 28 points in 25 games, and his likelihood of signing with Chicago this spring seems to grow as time goes on.
In the Canadian Junior Leagues, it goes without saying that Alex DeBrincat has all the eyes on him this season. Surpassing the 100-point mark for the third season in a row, DeBrincat is rewriting history book with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League and looks to translate his scoring touch to the NHL very, very soon.
Speaking of the Ontario Hockey League, Graham Knott is on pace to set a career high in points this year, already with 41 in 46 games with the Niagara IceDogs and Windsor SpitFires.
In the Western Hockey League, Radovan Bondra has 49 points in 49 games with the Prince George Cougars and Vancouver Giants, and in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, fast-rising forward Alexandre Fortin has tallied 39 points in 38 games with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.
And that’s just a small sample of North American players who could make their way into the Blackhawks organization in the next year, let alone their international prospects and players yet to be discovered as was the case with Artemi Panarin and Michal Kempny.
With the amount of talent on the roster now and in the organization’s future, and how the Blackhawks’ draft picks look moving forward, this year’s NHL trade deadline should be a quiet one in Chicago.