A busy offseason for the Blackhawks continued into Tuesday night with the announcement that the ‘Hawks had completed a trade with the Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Chicago traded Brent Seabrook’s contract to Tampa in exchange for Center Tyler Johnson, plus a 2023 2nd round pick.
First, trading a contract like Seabrook’s deal is not easy. He was due to make $6,875,000 against the cap for the next 3 seasons. Further complicating matters is that he has announced his playing career is over, which means any team taking on that contract is going to have to stash it on Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR) once the season starts. But the Lightning are very familiar with stashing big money contracts on LTIR.
Thirdly, and more importantly, Stan Bowman has traded away another legend, a leader, and a stabilizing force in the locker room for the Stanley Cup runs of the last decade. Making a move like that, as with Duncan Keith being traded to Edmonton, takes a conviction level from the organization that we have not seen in quite some time.
Is this Stan Bowman putting his own stamp on the organization, now that McDonough is gone, or is this desperation and flailing to get competitive more quickly, and shortcut the rebuild? Time will tell on that subject, but in the meantime, the ‘Hawks have a new Forward to integrate into their plan for this season.
Tyler Johnson is an undersized Center (5’8″, 182 lbs) that had fallen out of favor with the Lightning over the last 2 seasons, but he still played a role on back-to-back Stanley Cup winning teams. For the ‘Hawks, he brings something they don’t have a lot of up front: Speed. He is a very fast skater, and can put a lot of pressure on the defense.
One of the areas the Blackhawks have struggled in recent years is getting into the offensive zone with room to work. Johnson can help that in the Bottom 6, and give the Hawks some scoring punch in their Bottom 6 as well. At 30 years old, Johnson is by no means an old player, but was more likely squeezed out by younger, bigger players.
Where this gets confusing to me is in how this affects the rest of the Forward group. As a Center, he joins a group of Kirby Dach, Johnathan Toews, Dylan Strome, Henrik Borgstrom, Adam Gaudette, and Philip Kurashev. Also add in that Lukas Reichel is joining the organization, and it gets awfully crowded up front. Johnson can play on the wing, as can Gaudette, Kurashev, and Reichel.
An already crowded Forward Group just got more crowded. Based on the aggressiveness Bowman has shown so far this offseason, I would expect that he isn’t done making moves, but what’s next? Cap space is starting to become an issue, with qualifying offers out there for Hagel, Nylander, and Zadorov, so any free agent signings would have to be coupled with corresponding trades or salary dumps.
There is also the logjam at multiple positions. We have already discussed Forwards, but with Colin Delia, Malcolm Subban, and Kevin Lankinen all under contract, adding Marc-Andre Fleury to the mix created a need to move a goalie since you have Cale Morris and Arvid Soderblom lined up to man the net for the IceHogs.
One thing is for sure. Stan Bowman is making the Blackhawks’ offseason one to watch closely. With Free Agency opening Wednesday afternoon, this could be a wild ride. Strap in, and we’ll see what happens next.