Blackhawks Undisputed Trade Deadline Winners Thanks to Bowman

It makes sense that Stan Bowman and his Chicago Blackhawks didn’t get much of the media spotlight at the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline. Being that the headlines are often reserved for the moves made by contenders and the Blackhawks are not one of them. However, based on extracted value and fulfillment of needs, Bowman deserves recognition for executing at the deadline masterfully.

Stan Bowman, Chicago Blackhawks
Stan Bowman, Chicago Blackhawks (Amy Irvin/The Hockey Writers)

In fact, the Blackhawks were actually the busiest franchise in the league since April 2; involved in a variety of deals that included the exchange of six draft picks and 15 players, to say that Bowman has been busy the past couple of weeks would be an understatement.

While none of his moves created the mainstream splash that some other general managers may have in recent days, he successfully set his team up for a much brighter future. He accomplished exactly what was needed.

Rebuilding Chicago’s Plan

Heading into the 2020-21 season, we knew the roster was in rebuild mode. Sure, they found a way to attain some unexpected success, but that should never have overshadowed the ultimate goal of providing opportunities for prospect development.

2020-21 Chicago Blackhawks
2020-21 Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

Ahead of and on trade deadline day, Bowman stayed true to his mandate. Who they lost in the process might not even eliminate their ability to continue to exceed expectations the rest of the way. All the while, the outlook for the future has become much more certain.

Reviewing who went where and for what will help illustrate why Chicago deserves their place among the league’s winners at the deadline. Here’s a recap and reflection.

Trade #1: Hinostroza Returns Home

On April 2, in a deal that saw both sides flip a forward, the Blackhawks traded Brad Morrison to the Florida Panthers for Vinnie Hinostroza.

Before the move, Hinostroza had only seen action in nine contests with the Panthers this season, while Morrison has split his time playing with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs and ECHL’s Indy Fuel.

What Was Lost & Gained

Chicago moved an unproven 24-year-old prospect in exchange for an experienced 27-year-old. While that seems counterproductive to their rebuilding plans, it’s unlikely that Morrison would have found his way into the Blackhawks’ lineup any time soon, after having failed in a season led by their rookie presence.

Whereas, Hinostroza provides some familiarity the team can use. He spent his first three NHL seasons with Chicago, earning 39 points through 106 games played. This exchange didn’t move the needle one way or the other, beyond the fact that Chicago now has a player they can insert right into their lineup.

Assessing the Deal

Despite that Hinostroza’s production peaked after a 39-point year with the Arizona Coyotes in 2018-19, the Blackhawks were reassured that he was at least NHL-ready. This was likely an add that foreshadowed what followed, in that they’d need to fill some holes after further moves were made.

Trade #2: Lots of Moving Parts

Clearly, the Blackhawks and Panthers enjoyed doing business together, as they were back at it on April 8, in a negotiation that included four players, a draft pick, and the signing rights to a former first-rounder.

Lucas Wallmark and Lucas Carlsson combined for 28 games played in a Blackhawks uniform this season. Brett Connolly and Riley Stillman one-upped them, participating in 29 with the Panthers. Henrick Borgström, meanwhile, has been staying active in the Finish Elite League throughout 2020-21.

What Was Lost & Gained

Again, it looked like Chicago was adding age with the 28-year-old forward Connolly, while sending 25-year-old centre Wallmark and 23-year-old defenseman Carlsson back the other way. However, the Blackhawks compensated by infusing more youth with defenseman Stillman (22), the rights to forward Borgstöm (23), and an upcoming draft pick.

Breaking down this deal, the Blackhawks basically helped the Panthers by taking on Connolly’s $3.5 million cap hit, in exchange for the ability to sign Hobey Baker finalist Borgström. Despite poor numbers with the Panthers, with nine goals and 10 assists in three seasons, the upside is high for 2016’s 23rd overall draft pick.

Assessing the Deal

Borgström was the coveted piece for Bowman, contingent on signing him to a new contract. This former first-round selection didn’t fit in Florida, yet already has 10 goals and 11 assists through 29 matches with HIFK Helsinki. His fast-paced and balanced approach should help expedite Chicago’s rebuild.

Trade #3: Taking the High Road

Chicago began deadline day with a one-for-one deal, swapping forwards with the Vancouver Canucks and sending Matthew Highmore to Canada while Adam Gaudette headed south of the border.

The younger Gaudette (24) had seen more playing time with Vancouver this season than Highmore (25) while in Chicago. The same can be said for both of their professional careers to date, too.

What Was Lost & Gained

This one comes across as a prototypical hockey trade. One player goes each way. Generally, this is because one franchise sees something they like in the new addition, while determining their need for who they’ve traded isn’t there at the moment.

Both are close in age, yet Gaudette has more than double Highmore’s NHL experience and production. With the Canucks, Gaudette had 52 points through 153 contests. Highmore, on the other hand, only played 73 games through three seasons in Chicago, earning four goals and six assists.

Assessing the Deal

Bowman clearly got the more proven piece. It’s not that Highmore isn’t capable, as his 247 points through five seasons in the QMJHL illustrates his potential. However, the Blackhawks received the 2018 Hobey Baker Award winner in Gaudette, which is an obvious upgrade.

Trade #4: Two for the Price of One

Next up, Chicago reunited Carl Söderberg back with the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for two prospects in Ryder Rolston and Josh Dickinson.

Following a slow start, Söderberg found a fit with Chicago and was one of the few who averaged a winning face-off percentage. He earned 15 points in 34 contests, while Dickinson and Rolston have yet to break into the league.

What Was Lost & Gained

Söderberg, a 35-year-old veteran, was brought into Chicago to improve their depth down the middle and round out their roster in hopes that he’d showcase a skill set that he would attract buyers. Essentially, he was being positioned as trade bait, and it worked.

At 19, winger Rolston has three years of USHL development experience on his resume and is now playing with Notre Dame in the NCAA. He has six points through 28 games in the Big-10 thus far. As of 2017-18, 23-year-old centre Dickinson has spent his time travelling through the AHL and ECHL, averaging nearly a point-per-game pace in the latter.

Assessing the Deal

Similar to the Borgström deal, the Blackhawks have only acquired the signing rights to Rolston, so there is still some work to do to finalize the return. However, Bowman successfully extracted value for an unrestricted free agent in Söderberg by bolstering their prospect pool. Otherwise, he could have walked this offseason and Chicago would have nothing to show for it.

Trade #5: Poised for More Picks

In one of their more convoluted transactions, the trade that saw Mattias Janmark end up with the Vegas Golden Knights involved three teams. Ultimately, the Blackhawks received a couple of future early-round picks.

As a versatile winger who can play in all situations, 28-year-old Janmark has set his highest production pace yet, with 19 points through 41 contests with the Blackhawks this season.

What Was Lost & Gained

Brought in following a 2020 Stanley Cup Final appearance, Janmark was expected to be a trade deadline casualty. Having the type of season he was, finding early chemistry in Chicago, it may have been tough for fans to see his talent go. Yet, Bowman justifiably looked at the bigger picture.

While Janmark’s impact helped Chicago be successful through the start of this rebuild, they are not yet in a position to contend. Therefore, retaining his talent isn’t as beneficial as the alternative, which was adding more draft picks to funnel through their prospect pipeline.

Asessing the Deal

It’s a big deal that the Blackhawks negotiated this type of return for the soon-to-be free agent’s services. This team is focused on youth, as they should be, so it would make no sense if they spent time or money re-signing a veteran instead of furthering the team’s foundation where possible. And they did just that.

Trade #6: Balancing the Blue Line

In their final deal of the day, the Blackhawks and Canucks resumed chatting until Madison Bowey and a later-round selection were sent to Vancouver in exchange for an earlier draft pick in 2021.

Bowey is fresh off signing a two-year contract with the Blackhawks. Since then, he had only played a total of 22:00 and provided little impact in all major stat categories.

What Was Lost & Gained

Chicago had barely utilized Bowey, and it’s fair to assume that would have been his reality moving forward. The 25-year-old defenseman joined an already busy blue line when he arrived in Chicago, so finding a reason to slot him in at the expense of sitting another was a difficult task.

Bowey still has lots of life left in his game and even enjoyed a modestly productive year with the last place Detroit Red Wings in 2019-20. Through 53 games, he had earned 17 points, 58 blocks, 53 hits, and 14 takeaways, while managing nearly 18:00 of ice time per night. The potential gained from letting Bowey move on made sense for all.

Assessing the Deal

In a quick turnaround, Bowman was able to upgrade a low-risk signing into an advantageous draft pick. Chicago’s defense may not be what it once was, but it’s improving with the talent they have battling for playing time at the moment. Turning a taxi squad regular into added hope for Chicago’s future is a win.

It’s a Done Deal

A quick inventory of each deal the Blackhawks successfully navigated shows that they gained exactly what was needed. Bowman made good on improving his collection of prospects and picks. As a bonus, he also strategically added capable NHL players who will help round out their roster to battle the rest of the way.

Where the Blackhawks end up in the standings by the end of 2020-21 is anyone’s guess. Regardless, the franchise can take solace in Bowman’s success in setting the organization up for a more fruitful future. That was always this season’s goal, after all, and Bowman can now confidently say he’s scored it.

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