With No Second-Line Center, Do the Blackhawks Stand-Pat?

Michal Handzus
(Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports)


The Blackhawks have spent close to a year trying to find a second line center and it’s unlikely they will find one with just hours left to go in the trade deadline.

The trade deadline will come and go today and it’s unlikely the Blackhawks will make a move to bolster their roster. The Blackhawks started off the month of March by trading away Brandon Pirri, who was considered one of the Blackhawk’s top prospects and had been centering the second-line, as of late. During the preseason, Pirri was given the opportunity to center one of the most talented second-lines in the NHL – consisting of Kris Versteeg and Patrick Kane.  However, an injury slowed his progress and he was sent down to the AHL. After being recalled in October, Pirri struggled to find chemistry with Versteeg and Kane.

Pirri is now a Florida Panther – dealt for draft picks on March 2nd – and general manager Stan Bowman has indicated that the Blackhawks are likely to stand pat during today’s NHL trade deadline. If that is the case, the task may fall on the shoulders of center Michal Handzus. Handzus has spent the season on the second line and in the press box as a healthy scratch. It’s safe to say we could see newly acquired Peter Regin and Handuz handle the duties on the second line for the rest of the season. Also, It bares mentioning that Kane could not register a goal in over 200 minutes spent on a line with Handzus, in February.

Bowman might be saying all of the right things, although Chicago’s play as of late has been far from promising. The Avalanche beat Chicago 4-2 on March 4th, and the Hawks are falling further away from Anaheim for first place overall in the Western Conference.  With Colorado and San Jose playing relatively well as of late, the Blackhawks could fall further down the Western Conference standings. Not to mention, Marian Hossa will be sidelined 2 to 3 weeks with an upper body injury.

(Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports)
(Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports)

That brings us to the 2014 NHL trade deadline. The Blackhawks, according to sources, have been linked to Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler. The NHL’s trade deadline is coming up at 3pm EST today and Kesler is one of the most coveted players. Kesler has asked the Vancouver Canucks for a trade and if the Blackhawks were able to pull off a trade for Kesler he’d fill the gaping hole in that second-line. He’s a two-way center that displays both offensive acumen and can shut down the opposition’s best player. He has size – 6’2 and 202lbs – that would benefit the second-line. Also, Versteeg and Kane are offensive minded and Kesler could bring balance to the line with his defensive prowess.

With 21 goals and 18 assists, Kesler would be the perfect fit for a Chicago team who has not had permanent second-line center in quite some time – he would bring not just a defensive mentality to the line but an offensive one, as well.

Also, Patrick Kane and Kesler are no strangers to one another. The two have played together – proving they have chemistry – in the past and most recently in the Sochi Olympics. Kesler has proven he can play on a line with Kane, they were line-mates for the 2010 Olympic team and on the ice when Team USA tied things up during the Gold medal game and sent it to overtime.

With aspirations of repeating as Stanley Cup champions, the Blackhawks, quite simply, need to make a move and solidify their second line, once and for all. If they stand pat – as their general manager claimed during an interview at Soldier Field on March 1st during the Stadium Series game – they better hope Handzus catches fire quickly. The first line cannot continue to carry the hockey club.  Especially if Chicago hopes to capture first place overall in the Western Conference and secure home ice throughout the playoffs.