Already very solid playoff-caliber teams around the league are making tweaks that further deepen their lineup as the playoffs loom closer, why should the Blackhawks be any different?
We’re now a little over one full day away from the NHL trade deadline on March 1st at 3PM ET. I think it’s as good a time as any to take a look at the Blackhawks’ priorities and their subsequent options as the clock ticks away and the sound of deals dropping all over the league fills the air.
Let’s summarize Monday’s moves before we can discuss the direction the Blackhawks may be headed in.
–Brian Boyle was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2017 NHL draft and Maple Leafs prospect Byron Froese.
–Alexandre Burrows was traded to the Ottawa Senators for Jonathan Dahlen.
–Jordie Benn was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Gred Pateryn and a fourth-round pick at the 2017 NHL draft.
–Kevin Shattenkirk (and Phoenix Copley) was traded to the Washington Capitals in exchange for an assortment of draft picks and prospects Zach Sanford and Brad Malone.
Also very worth mentioning is that, against Shane Doan’s better judgment, the Minnesota Wild won the Martin Hanzal sweepstakes Sunday evening in a deal that also sent Ryan White to Minnesota. White played on Minnesota’s top line tonight and had a goal and an assist in their successful hosting of the LA Kings.
Monday was a very busy day in the NHL, and a lot of us watching the Hawks anxiously awaited the breaking of a move from Stan Bowman, but no such news has come…yet. Hockeybuzz’s John Jaeckel is among a credible array of other Hawks experts who are convinced the Hawks aren’t finished yet, though.
There’s a few things to keep in mind when examining a potential move that involves the Hawks, but let’s take a look at all of the rumors involving the Blackhawks as of right now. Some credible and believable, others a little more far-fetched. You can judge their validity for yourselves. Here are the names I’ve heard mentioned:
-Martin Hanzal (went to MIN)
-Brian Boyle (went to TOR)
-Alex Burrows (went to OTT)
-Jarome Iginla (Yuck)
That’s a lot of names. I think the best way to narrow down possibilities is to determine the Hawks’ needs, which likely have changed in the last month. Before a phenomenal month of February which has seen the resurgence of Jonathan Toews and the emergence of phenomenal play from forwards like Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman, and Richard Panik, many were about ready to label the Blackhawks as dead-in-the-water.
The Hawks were struggling to create offense, and were depending almost entirely on the Panarin-Anisimov-Kane line for production. At that point, I wrote continuously that the biggest hole in the Hawks’ lineup was at the LW position next to Jonathan Toews. Nick Schmaltz seems to have, for the moment, very effectively patched that hole.
It’s refreshing to know that the Blackhawks do not have a wide-open gaping hole in the heart of their lineup that’s preventing secondary scoring. With that said, we as fans need to understand that a solid month of February does not render the Blackhawks a complete team by any means. They’re struggling at the faceoff dot this year, and could use a quality center, as well as another dependable defenseman who could eat up some quality bottom four minutes come mid-April.
Only Jonathan Toews and Marcus Kruger have won more faceoffs than they’ve lost this season. The former will undoubtedly continue that trend throughout the season and into the playoffs, the latter, Kruger, is coming off of a wrist injury that clearly affected his effectiveness at the dot Sunday night against the Blues. He went 5 for 11 at the dot.
The rumor that the Hawks were in the running for the Martin Hanzal sweepstakes was promising, as the faceoff expert and defensively responsible centerman would have been an ideal addition to the Hawks’ bottom six. The Blackhawks didn’t land Hanzal, though. In fact, Martin Hanzal went to the worst possible team he could have from the Hawks’ perspective, the Minnesota Wild.
The Wild with Hanzal (and Ryan White) went from an excellent and deep team to an even deeper one, and their playoff hopes are certainly brighter as a result. They may not have been in dire need of a quality center like Hanzal, but they did what was needed to land him anyway. And that’s an important distinction. Previous Hawks targets are being snagged left-and-right by good teams, and I hope that isn’t because Stan is completely content with his roster.
I’m hearing from Hawks fans all over that the team shouldn’t make any more moves–that they’re playing so well that their lineup is complete. That’s a little Chicago-centric, and it’s a dangerous mentality to have while already top-tier teams like the Wild and the Capitals are working diligently to deepen their already stacked lineups. The Hawks are not as deep on paper as the Capitals on their best day, and yet the Caps still went out and snagged Kevin Shattenkirk. They’re super dangerous.
The fact is, one good month doesn’t render this team complete. The Blackhawks look very good right now, the best they have all year in fact. That conceded, perspective is still needed. They absolutely could use a deep center and a complementary defenseman. Johnny Oduya looks like an awesome move from my vantage point, along with Thomas Vanek. I’d have my eyes on those two names for the next 36 hours or so.
Also, the big sellers this year have reportedly been the Colorado Avalanche. GM Joe Sakic is shopping his stars Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene. Neither of those two have been dealt yet, while coincidentally the Hawks have been relatively quiet (Jurco trade was minimal). I can’t help but speculate if there’s something brewing there, as John Jaeckel initially reported a few weeks ago. Just a thought.
The bottom line is that good teams are using the deadline to become great teams. The Hawks likely cannot afford to stand-pat as some have suggested. Remember where this team was a month ago–a likely first-round exit. February was an awesome month, but we shouldn’t be on our “THREE IN SIX” high horses to the extent that we want them to pass on opportunities to better the team on the basis that it will upset some current chemistry flowing up and down the lineup.
As I mentioned in this week’s Blackhawk Up Roundtable, a scenario that puts Hjalmarsson on the IR frees up some cap space for the Hawks. This sort of anomaly(Kane and Hossa injuries) landed them Antoine Vermette and Andrew Ladd rentals.
That’s really all I have for now. Keep an open mind, Hawks fans, and trust in Stan. He’s shown time and time again that he is a salary cap magician.
Thanks to our buddies at We’re True Chicago Blackhawk Fans for sharing. More to come soon.