Blackhawks May Need an Oil Change: Trade Deadline Match?

Could the Chicago Blackhawks look to Oil Town as a possible trading partner at the trade deadline? As of right now, the Blackhawks are on the outside looking in on the final wild card spot in the Western Conference. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman says that he is still undecided on whether he wants to be a buyer or seller at the trade deadline, but if the Hawks continue to trend downward, then something has to give, and he might have to start selling. (from ‘Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman yet to decide strategy as NHL trade deadline draws closer,’ Chicago Sun-Times, 01/08/2020) If that becomes the case, I believe that the Edmonton Oilers would be a good team for them to keep on speed dial through the trade deadline for a few reasons.

Trading History

Hockey fans know that Bowman is creature of habit when it comes to trades. He seems to like to do business with a select few: the Montreal Canadiens, Arizona Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes, and yep, you guessed it, the Oilers. The last time the Hawks and Oilers made a trade was in 2018, when the Hawks traded defenseman Brandon Manning for forward Drake Caggiula.

The Oilers Need a Goalie

The spotlight on the Blackhawks goaltending situation has never been brighter than it is right now. If Bowman can’t come to an agreement on a contract extension with Robin Lehner, then he should consider dealing Lehner, who the Oilers could have interest in. Their starting goaltender is 37-year-old Mike Smith and he can be very shaky in net at times. Their backup goalie is 31-year-old Mikko Koskinen who is kind of in the same predicament.

Chicago Blackhawks Robin Lehner
Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Robin Lehner (Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports)

With the Oilers being in a playoff spot right now, general manager Ken Holland is surely thinking he wants his team to make a deep run. And, you can’t do that without rock solid goaltending. Their goalie pipeline includes the likes of 25-year-old Shane Starrett. Currently his stats in the American Hockey League are an .873 save percentage and a 3.59 goals-against average across 12 games. Those numbers don’t exactly jump off the page. Lehner can help with this.

Blackhawks Need a Forward

If the Hawks are in sell mode, it’s no secret that they’re going to need to stock up on talent; scoring talent for one. A name that sticks out from the Oilers that could interest them is right winger Kailer Yamamoto. He is 21 years old and is starting to find his rhythm in the league. He has been on a nice run of late with 14 points in his last 15 games.

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This was displayed during the Blackhawks/Oilers matchup on Feb. 11 in which he scored two goals. He reminds me of Alex DeBrincat in some ways because he is a shorter guy at 5-foot-8 and he can produce like DeBrincat. The only thing I can differentiate between them is that Yamamoto has the means of being more of a two-way forward because of his defensive abilities, which makes a prospect like him even more appealing.

Why This Could Work Out

The way this is panned out, the Blackhawks and Oilers look to be teams that could complement each other’s needs nicely. The possibility of a Lehner for Yamamoto trade seems like it would be far out, but you can never be certain in this league. For the Oilers, I don’t think they are looking at Smith as their goalie of the future. So, trading for Lehner would instantly answer a big question mark for them. As far as their salary cap goes, they’re in a bit of a crunch. As of right now, they currently have just under $12 million in cap space for next season, but have 11 free agents to make decisions on this offseason. Holland would have to be creative to find the cap space, but Lehner could be signed long-term. When you have a star like Connor McDavid on your team, you have to stay as competitive as possible.

For the Blackhawks, they aren’t going to give up their No. 1 goalie without getting something significant in return. Yamamoto is the type of prospect that they could greatly benefit from. The Blackhawks team defense has been abysmal all season and they seem to have a lot of forwards that can only produce in one way. So, acquiring forwards who can be impactful in both ends of the ice is key for them going forward. The other issue is the Hawks are getting older, which means that they need young prospects that they know can contribute right away in in the big leagues in order to stay competitive. Right wing prospects like John Quenneville and Matthew Highmore with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs have been underwhelming. For that reason, the position could use a push. Lastly, Yamamoto has speed that the Blackhawks have been lacking for some time.

Kailer Yamamoto Oilers
Edmonton Oilers right wing Kailer Yamamoto (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

If I’m Bowman, I’m wanting the best offer available if it doesn’t look like Lehner will sign an extension. It’s a difficult position to be in because losing a goalie like Lehner would sting. However, if a return is centered around someone of Yamamoto’s caliber, then I am surely listening.

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