As the Chicago Blackhawks race towards the bottom of the league, Stan Bowman continues to signal that next year’s team will look quite different. The NHL trade deadline is February 25th and change is on the horizon.
Before the puck dropped in Buffalo on Friday, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported on TSN that the Chicago Blackhawks will approach Duncan Keith about his willingness to waive his no movement clause.
Keith hasn’t considered moving. He likes Chicago and doesn’t buy into tanking, rebuilds or retoolings. He pointed to Colorado and New Jersey as examples of how teams can quickly bounce-back and contend after a slump.
So he’s a Blackhawk for life. But Stan’s approach shows that change is nigh. Jokiharju was sent back down to Rockford that same night when Gustav Forsling was activated off injured reserve.
In an interview with The Athletic‘s Mark Lazerus, Bowman said that there are, of course, “untouchables” prior to the trade deadline. It’s safe to say Jokiharju falls into that category. Sending him down gives Forsling minutes and the opportunity to elevate his potential value before the 25th.
Moving Keith would clear up even more valuable cap space. The veteran’s cap hit just over $5.5 million is team friendly for his ability to eat up ice time. Even though his production is taking a dip, a contending team with the cap space could take him on for a playoff push.
Bowman has stated his intention to reacquire Artemi Panarin in free agency this summer. The Blackhawks are evaluating their assets that can be moved for the anticipated big splash this summer in free agency.
A new wrinkle in this is the trade Florida made with the Penguins. Florida sent Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann to Pittsburgh in exchange for Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan and 3 draft picks.
With this deal, Florida cleared well over $5 million in cap space. Brassard and Sheahan are on the last years of their contracts and could be flipped again by the deadline. Either way, this move gives Florida the flexibility to go after Panarin or Sergei Bobrovsky.
The Blackhawks will clearly be sellers this deadline. Artem Anisimov, Chris Kunitz, and John Hayden are the forwards likely to be sent off later this month.
The moves they make will foreshadow what the summer will look like. Similar to the 2017-18 off-season, expect Chicago to do some major housecleaning after the season ends. It all starts on deadline day when, like it or not, the Chicago Blackhawks commit to the retool.