With the NHL’s February 28th trade deadline fast approaching and the Blackhawks currently sitting in in 7th, it is time for Stan Bowman to assert himself. Hawks fans have little knowledge of the son of the legend. Stan’s only real move last season was was moving Cam Barker for Kim Johnsson and Nick Leddy. Johnsson proved to be a total waste, but there is no way Bowman could have known that his brain would turn to mush just 8 games into his Blackhawks career. Leddy on the other hand is off to a solid start as a Hawk with 2 goals and steady play over his first 15 NHL games. This deal looks better when you consider Barker is -9 with only 1 goal on the season. Then this off-season with Bowman dealing from a position of weakness, he was able to pull Jeremy Morin away from the Atlanta and Viktor Stalberg from Toronto.
Now comes the first real challenge of his general managerial career. He holds the keys to a team that need to get about 40 more points over the final 31 games and has a few serious roster short comings. First, this team needs a true second line center. Patrick Sharp is trying his best but he just isn’t defensively solid enough to center a second line. Of Sharps 26 goals 13 have come on special teams, meaning only 13 have come at even strength. Sharp is a -13, his line (Tomas Kopecky and Marian Hossa) was a combine -7 on Tuesday. They were on for 3 of the Jackets goals 4 goals, only having Hossa on the ice for a pair of shorties kept them from being -9. Sharp is much more valuable on the wing, and Dave Bolland plays much better when centering the third line, so a second scoring center is clearly a need. That said, Bolland does seem to have found his offense of late and had the talent to put in 130 points in 59 games in his final season for the London Knights. So a solid checking center could be a cheaper and solid option as well.
On top of a scoring center, Bowman has to be looking for a 5th and 6th defenseman. Really, he only needs to add one defenseman, but for some reason Joel Quenneville doesn’t want to play Jordan Hendry and the idea of Nick Boynton being the Blackhawks 7th defenseman should scare everybody.
So who is out there? Who can Stan Bowman go get for a push this year and maybe keep around for next? Which teams are “sellers?” Here is a look at a few players who may be able to be had from teams that are probably not making the playoffs whom may fit Bowman’s budget and line-up. According to CapGeek.com the Blackhawks can add a player whose remaining cap hit is $357,981; which translates to a player who makes $1,008,856 for the full season. Anything more than that and the Hawks will have to at least remove the difference in salary from the current roster to add the player.
C: Mike Santorelli – $600,000 FLA - Santorelli has only 2 fewer points than Hossa with 13 goals and 14 assists for 27 points, which would certainly increase if flanked by Hossa and either Sharp or Brouwer. He also is an RFA after the season so he wouldn’t be a rental player. He would not help much with the Hawks faceoff problems as he has only won 48.8% of his draws but having grown up in the Nashville system should provide at least average defensive zone coverage. Santorelli and Jack Skille make the same amount of money and Dale Tallon may still like a player he drafted 7th overall in 2005, add in a draft pick or a prospect and Santorelli may help stabelize a struggling second line.
C: Jussi Jokinen – $1,700,000 CAR – Carolina is not a seller yet, only 1 point out of the playoffs. Should they falter this month, Jokinen a UFA after the season maybe become available for rental. He is winning 54% of his draws and has 38 points (12,26) in 45 games.
C: Kyle Brodziak – $1,150,000 MIN – Another player that probably isn’t available yet as the Wild are still in the tight Western race. With decent size (6-2, 209) and okay production 19 points (9,10) Brodziak could be a decent fit for the stretch run.
C: Frans Nielsen – $525,000 NYI – An even player on a terrible Islanders team must be able to play defense. The offense isn’t there yet, but that may be an issue of linemates. 5 goals and 16 assists shouldn’t cost much on the market, and his low salary won’t be difficult to match. At 26 he is still young and improving, but may be best suited for a 3rd line center roll, which would mean giving Bolland another shot centering the second line. Nielsen also leads the NYI in pk time per game, on a unit that manages to rank 13th in the league, so he could help with the Blackhawks problems there as well.
D: Milan Jurcina – $1,000,000 NYI – Okay, so adding a pair of Islander’s roll players probably doesn’t sound like the best idea ever, but Jurcina could help the Hawks on the third pairing. His cap hit jumps to $1,600,000 next year which may scare the frugal Islanders off of keeping him. His 9 points (3,6) are an added plus but like Nielsen he is an even player on a bad team. The best part at 6-4, 240 he would add the size the Hawks lack on the back-end making John Scott even more irrelevant.
D: Anton Babchuk – $1,400,000 CAL – Hawks fans may cringe at the name of the Hawks failed first round pick from 2002, but he would be a solid addition for the third pairing. With 6 goals and 16 assists, he brings more offense and a bigger price tag than Jurcina but because he is a UFA at the end of the season, Calgary can’t ask for too much. The price tag is high enough that a roster player would have to either go back or be waived and sent down.
D: Adam Pardy – $700,000 CAL – Probably a more realistic target Pardy, is the definition of a 6th defensman. A slight upgrade over Boynton at a slightly higher price. A UFA after 2010 that the Flames have used as a third pairing guy, any reasonable offer should get him. The only reasons not to make a this move or one like it is that A. Bowman doesn’t think the Hawks will make the playoffs, 2. the other GM is asking for too much, or D. Bowman believes in Boynton.
D: David Hale – $675,000 OTT – Hale is playing in the AHL for the Sens, which doesn’t look good. But in 13 games with Ottawa, New Jersey’s first rounder in 2000 is a +3 with a goal and an assist. He is cheap, on a one year deal, and probably could be had for future considerations. Sure he won’t make you much better but he has to be better than Boynton right?
The Blackhawks have been incredibly quite about the moves they have made since Bowman took over. No one reported the Barker deal until it was done. Even when the entire world knew he had to move salary last summer there were almost no reports of the teams involved until the deals were done. Don’t expect for that to change this deadline season. How Bowman plays this will be the first chance for Hawks fans to get a true feel for their GM.