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Chicago Blackhawks Have Decisions to Make Defensively at Trade Deadline

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CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Erik Gustafsson (56) controls the puck during a game between the Washington Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks on January 20, 2019, at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Erik Gustafsson (56) controls the puck during a game between the Washington Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks on January 20, 2019, at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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Historically, the Chicago Blackhawks are active more often than not at the trade deadline. This year they’ll be faced with some interesting decisions.

It goes without saying, the Chicago Blackhawks are sellers this year at the deadline. However, the performances from Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Alex Debrincat suggests that the ‘Hawks don’t need to completely tear things down in an effort to have a more successful draft.

If I had to guess, this team may look to shop a defensemen sooner rather than later as their surplus will grow even higher once Gustav Forsling returns from IR. Here’s a look at which defensemen the Chicago Blackhawks currently have under contract.

  1. Brent Seabrook – 33 – $6.8 through 2023-24
  2. Duncan Keith – 35 – $5.5 through 2022-23
  3. Connor Murphy – 25 – $3.8 through 2021-22
  4. Erik Gustafsson – 26 – $1.2 through 2019-20
  5. Henri Jokiharju – 19 – $925k through 2020-21 (RFA)
  6. Slater Koekkoek – 24 – $865k through 2018-19 (RFA)
  7. Carl Dahlström – 23 – $750k through 2018-19 (RFA)
  8. Gustav Forsling – 22 – $767k through 2018-19 (RFA)

Recently, coach Jeremy Colliton has been adamant about working multiple defensemen into the rotation to get a better look at guys. He mentioned it last weekend and turned his words into actions when he scratched Jokiharju.

This process has provided us with a handful of somewhat whacky defensive pairings, but in that time the ‘Hawks (and, perhaps more importantly, other NHL scouts) have gotten a good luck at what the team has to offer.

Here’s Colliton on the topic:

"“Kind of touched on it yesterday, we got some young players, 82-game season, it’s hard to keep that level night in and night out, so we may end up with a rotation. It’s not necessarily performance specifically why they’re coming out, but we can get them extra off-ice training or video or maybe a little more practice work so we continue to develop them.”"

While this sounds good, the skeptical side of me wants to know if there’s another reason for this. Are they showing off these 6th, 7th or 8-type defensemen guys in an effort to show them off to potential buyers?

It would be a poor decision for the Blackhawks to carry eight defensemen this season and neither GM Stan Bowman or Colliton have hinted at anyone being sent down to the AHL. The trade deadline is approaching quickly — February 25th — meaning the Blackhawks will have a decision to make soon.

What do they do with all these defensemen? They can’t all have roster spots and it’s a pretty fair assumption that not all of them will be on the NHL roster next year. Additionally, you’d hate to see pending free agents leave in the off season for nothing.

Personally, there seems to be only one solution.

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