First, the Blackhawks need to move Erik Gustafsson to Rockford or place him on the trade block. This move isn't about cap space, he is making a mere $800,000. It's about effort and his lack of defensive skills.
Gustafsson was brought back in by the Hawks because he tallied 60 points in 2018-2019. However, since then, he hasn't come close. Since his return, he has seven points in 30 games. And, sadly, he has taken first-team powerplay minutes from Seth Jones who has 23 points in 32 games.
Of course, a defensemen's job isn't always to score, but if that's all you have to offer, you better make good on it. Gus hasn't, and the game versus Calgary was a perfect example of his lack of skill and effort. On a powerplay, he was outraced to a puck sent down the ice.
He failed to compete for the puck and then failed to battle for it once the opposing team had it. It lead to a shorthanded goal five seconds later. This is just one instance of many showing his lack of grit and defensive prowess. At this point, he is a liability and is taking minutes from younger prospects.
Second, the Blackhawks need to trade Calvin de Haan at the trade deadline. De Haan is in the last year of his contract and an unrestricted free agent. He is 30 years old and injury prone. While he does have a tendency to give up the puck, he is enjoying his usual year of shot blocking and tallying hits.
Through 28 games, he has 52 blocks and 48 hits, nearly two of each per game. De Haan could provide some penalty kill minutes or physical defensive play for a playoff contender. The Hawks need to trade now while teams are willing to make moves for a cup run.
Third, trade Marc-Andre Fleury to a team not added to his M-NTC clause. I am as thrilled as any Blackhawks' fan when it comes to watching the Flower in the net. He is spectacular and gives Chicago a chance to win most nights.
However, his stint will be short-lived. He is on a one-year contract and is unrestricted. There is likely to be a team heading into the playoffs that needs a goalie to compete. If the right team is in need, Chicago could get a nice prospect in return and ensure they capture that $7 million for the cap next season. Kevin Lankinen looks like he is ready to take the next step, and young Arvid Soderblom looks like he could work his way into being a formidable backup. Chicago needs to take advantage before it's too late.