Blackhawks’ Direction After Quiet Deadline

The 2019 Trade Deadline has come and gone and we all know by now the Chicago Blackhawks decided to stand pat and not make any major moves. There were two minor-league exchanges the previous week that acquired Peter Holland for Darren Raddysh and Spencer Watson for Matheson Iacopelli.

But that was it.

So technically the same roster that’s won 10 of the last 14 games will have a chance to ride out the season and see how they fare. The good news is they didn’t lose a big name. The bad news is they didn’t gain any smaller pieces to perhaps bolster the lineup. What implications can we make of this quiet deadline, and how will it impact the rest of the season and beyond?

Bowman Stands Pat

Some might say general manager Stan Bowman did nothing to make this team better with his non-action at the deadline. Others might say at least he didn’t give up any valuable assets.

No one really expected the Blackhawks to be buyers at the deadline. They don’t have a deep enough roster to compete for a Stanley Cup, so acquiring a rental player didn’t make much sense.

They couldn’t really be sellers, either. Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Chris Kunitz all have full no-movement clauses. Artem Anisimov and Marcus Kruger have modified no-movement clauses. And reportedly none of these players had any interest in leaving the Blackhawks.

The Hawks certainly didn’t want to give up any assets that could help them in the future. Any big acquisition during this deadline would have come at a cost. Did they really want to give up Dylan Sikura? Or Brandon Saad? Or a prospect or draft pick? That’s what it would have cost to get a big name.

Dylan Sikura Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks didn’t want to sacrifice a future asset such as Dylan Sikura at the trade deadline. (Photo by Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

But a small trade, a less splashy one, was always an option. As Bowman stated, the right move just didn’t come together.

Saving for the Offseason

It appears the offseason will be the better time to pick up players for the future. For the first time in many years, the Blackhawks will have upwards of $15 million in cap space available. I believe Bowman’s inaction this February will lead to some bigger moves during the summer. Another bottom-six forward? A top-six center? A top-four defenseman?

These kinds of players weren’t available for the right price during the deadline. But chances are they will be more readily available during free agency. Look to the offseason for the big splash.

Blackhawks’ Forward Group Moving Forward

Last week, my colleague Greg Boysen discussed what moves Bowman might potentially make at this season’s deadline. Anisimov, Kruger, Kunitz and John Hayden were all mentioned as potential forwards being shopped. Anisimov will more than likely be traded in the offseason after his modified no-trade clause expires on July 1. Kruger and Kunitz’s contracts probably won’t be renewed. Hayden’s contract runs through the 2019-20 season, but will he remain a Blackhawk? He seems to have fallen out of favor with the new coaching staff.

Artem Anisimov Blackhawks
Artem Anisimov is a prime candidate to be traded in the offseason by the Chicago Blackhawks. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In the meantime, Brendan Perlini and David Kampf have a chance to prove themselves and earn a contract with the Hawks for next season. Kampf was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Feb. 5 but is expected to re-join the lineup soon. Look for him to eventually be Kruger’s replacement at center and as a shutdown forward.

Sikura is an interesting situation. On Monday, he was re-assigned to the Rockford IceHogs, but then returned to the Blackhawks. This paper transaction makes him eligible for the Calder Cup Playoffs if the IceHogs advance that far.

But Sikura has developed some chemistry with Saad on the Blackhawks’ third line and could be helpful for any playoff push the Hawks might have. The organization has made it so Sikura can be available wherever he is most needed. Either way, it will be good for his development and future as a Blackhawk.

Blackhawks’ Defensive Group Moving Forward

On the defensive front, Greg mentioned Erik Gustafsson as someone Bowman might look to deal. I’m not at all surprised he’s still with the team; he just has too much offensive upside. Next season he could be more protected with a different defensive group surrounding him.

Erik Gustafsson #56 of the Chicago Blackhawks
Erik Gustafsson remains a Chicago Blackhawk after the trade deadline. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Slater Koekkoek is another defenseman that has impressed and has a chance to make a case to re-sign with the Blackhawks for next season. I personally thought Gustav Forsling might be part of a deadline trade, as the Hawks have quite the log jam on defense. But this didn’t happen, which more than likely ensures Henri Jokiharju will suit up the rest of the season with the IceHogs.

The rookie Jokiharju looks to be a huge part of the Blackhawks’ future on the blue line, but the team is taking the cautious approach with him by playing him in the AHL. Besides, he could also be an integral piece in an IceHogs’ playoff push.

Crawford Returns

Probably the biggest news from the Blackhawks on deadline day had nothing to do with the deadline. Instead, goaltender Corey Crawford was activated from injured reserve. He will travel with the team on the upcoming road trip, although there is no indication yet on when he will take the net. His last game was on Dec. 16.

Corey Crawford Blackhawks
Corey Crawford will return to the lineup for the Chicago Blackhawks on their upcoming road trip. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In a corresponding move, Collin Delia was reassigned to the IceHogs. Perfect timing for their postseason, eh? Delia played a big role in the IceHogs’ playoff success last season. He shouldn’t take this as a demotion, especially since he recently signed a new contract with the Blackhawks. Delia is the future. Competing in a playoff environment with the IceHogs will only add to his development.

Meanwhile, how fast can Crawford shake off the rust? The last time he came back he’d been off the ice with a concussion for over nine months, yet he looked like he’d never left. It was just business as usual. His timing was right on, he was tracking the puck and he was immediately making the high-danger saves we’ve all associated with Crow in the past few seasons. Let’s all say a prayer he stays healthy and can make another seamless transition.

Related – Blackhawks Sustain Big Wins, Bigger Losses in Defining Week

Yes, it was a quiet deadline for the Blackhawks. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Although they’ve recently lost a few important games, the Hawks have been playing well. This same group, with the addition of Crawford, now has a chance to end the season on a high note. Let’s see what kind of noise they can make.