The Blackhawks are “big game hunting,” according to most NHL insiders, with a left wing to skate with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa being their primary objective.
During Wednesday night’s game, TSN’s Bob McKenzie talked at some length about four potential targets up front for the Hawks: Andrew Ladd, Mikkel Boedker, Loui Eriksson and Eric Staal. All four would be terrific players to add at the deadline, but a deal for each also presents some issues.
And Stan Bowman has a history of going off the board with deals (Ben Smith for Andrew Desjardins), so there’s a good chance there’s a name out there that hasn’t been mentioned outside of the Blackhawks’ front office meetings.
Who are some of the players the Hawks might target? And what are the issues with each? Let’s evaluate a few options.
The Big Four
1. Andrew Ladd, LW, Winnipeg
2015-16: 56 games, 13 goals, 17 assists, 30 points, -10
DOB: 12/12/85 (30 years old)
Cap Hit: $4.400M (NTC)
- The Good: Ladd is obviously a familiar name to Hawks fans, and he is rightfully at the top of the “want” list for Chicago. He’s a big, physical player whose game is precisely what the Hawks want/need up front. He’s a leader with championship experience, and can be productive as a top-six forward or on a third line. And he’s in a walk year, meaning there’s money off the books for the 2016-17 season.
- The Bad: captains aren’t deal often, or easily, so the price tag to get Ladd out of Winnipeg won’t be small. The fact that there are other interested suitors (LA, Anaheim) will also increase what the Jets can ask for reasonably at the deadline. For me, the bigger issue is the idea that Bowman would move significant pieces (Teravainen perhaps) inside the Central Division for 2-3 months of Ladd, who is an unrestricted free agent and would be a rental. Bowman hasn’t made many deals inside the division, and certainly hasn’t moved young pieces for a veteran inside the Central.
- The Situation: Winnipeg (53 points) is currently nine points out of the second wild card spot. There are three teams between the Jets and eighth place in the Western Confernece.
- Deal Odds: decent, but not great. While he’s the ideal player, the fact that there will be other interested suitors will make the price something Bowman will think long and hard about paying inside the division. With other players potentially available with comparable styles of play and cap hits, moving prospects/picks to a team outside the Central might be more Bowman’s style.
2. Loui Eriksson, LW, Boston
2015-16: 57 games, 20 goals, 25 assists, 45 points, +11
DOB: 7/17/85 (30 years old)
Cap Hit: $4.250M (NTC)
- The Good: like Ladd, he’s a terrfic player and would be a great fit. Eriksson spent seven years in Dallas before he was part of the trade that sent Tyler Seguin to the Stars, so he’s a known commodity as well. He’s having a better offensive season than Ladd as well; as of Wednesday night, only Boston and Chicago had three 20-goal scorers on their roster already this year.
- The Bad: Boston wants to retain Eriksson and they’re trying. Boston is also chasing a division title and is in the playoff picture, so trading away one of their best players would have to make sense both on the ice now and down the road, meaning the Hawks would have to give up NHL talent and prospects/picks to get this done.
- The Situation: Boston (68 points) are currently second in the Atlantic Division. They are four points behind Florida and only one point ahead of Detroit. The Bruins are only four points ahead of the eighth playoff spot as well.
- Deal Odds: not very good. Could the Blackhawks get something done here? Sure. Would young, cost-controlled players like Teravainen and/or Marko Dano intrigue Boston? Absolutely. But the Bruins are locked into a tight playoff race and it’s hard to imagine they’d trade away one of the best two-way players at this point in their season.
3. Mikkel Boedker, LW, Arizona
2015-16: 56 games, 13 goals, 24 assists, 37 points, -26
DOB: 12/16/89 (26 years old)
Cap Hit: $3.750M
- The Good: the Hawks have liked Boedker for some time now. He’s a good skater who’s good for 20-25 goals and 50 points when healthy. Unfortunately he was limited to 28 points in 45 games last year. Once the eighth overall pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, he’s set to hit unrestricted free agency this summer but might be a guy the Hawks try to keep. Of course, the Hawks have a history of making deadline deals with Arizona as well (Vermette last year).
- The Bad: the Hawks paid a premium to rent Vermette last year (Klas Dahlbeck and a first round pick), and would undoubtedly have to do the same to get the younger Boedker out of Arizona. The Blackhawks are already without a second round pick in this year’s draft (sent to Philly for Kimmo Timonen), so moving another high draft pick could be hard to stomach for Bowman as well.
- The Situation: Arizona (58 points) currently sits four points out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference. They’re a young team with good prospects coming up/making an impact this year, but an injury to goaltender Mike Smith has undermined their playoff chances.
- Deal Odds: pretty good. The history of Chicago and Arizona getting deals done is a positive, and Boedker being potentially more than a rental makes committing good prospects/picks to a trade easier to buy.
4. Eric Staal, C/LW, Carolina
2015-16: 57 games, 9 goals, 21 assists, 30 points, -1
DOB: 10/29/84 (31 years old)
Cap Hit: $8.250M (NTC)
- The Good: Staal is a leader who would not only fit a left wing spot but is also a very good faceoff man – something else the Blackhawks may want to address as Artem Anisimov, Phillip Danault and Dennis Rasmussen win between 45-47 percent of their faceoffs and Marcus Kruger out until the postseason. He hasn’t been as productive as the first three names on the list, but has been there before and has a ring on his resume. Skating with Toews and Hossa would undoubtedly help his production increase as well.
- The Bad: his cap hit is enormous. Carolina would have to take back at least Bryan Bickell and/or retain salary for this to work, and even then it’s going to push the Hawks right up against the ceiling. The other issue the Hawks would have to combat here is Carolina’s surprising playoff odds, something not many people anticipated in October.
- The Situation: Carolina (62 points) are currently two points behind Pittsburgh for the eight playoff spot, but the Penguins have two games in-hand. The Canes do have one game in-hand on New Jersey, who are only three points ahead of them in the seventh playoff position.
- Deal Odds: this is a tough position for everyone. Carolina is in playoff contention, so dealing their captain is a hard sell. But he’s expensive, and may not be in the future plans of the organization. His cap hit may make a deal with the Blackhawks too hard to navigate. But with all of that being said…
Eric Staal on future in Carolina: “I’m not going to be crushed if a decision is made and I’m moving on.”
— Ian Mendes (@ian_mendes) February 18, 2016
- James van Riemsdyk, LW, Toronto
With his brother Trevor already on the Hawks’ roster, adding the player selected immediately following Patrick Kane in the 2007 Draft is an intriguing proposition. He’s young (26) and a very good player (29 points in 40 games). But he’s been on IR since since late January with a 6-8 week return prognosis. It’s tough to add an injured player, especially when he carries a cap hit of $4.25M for two years beyond this season.
- Jiri Hudler, C, Calgary
Hudler scored 31 goals last year and is headed into unrestricted free agency with a current season total of… nine. To say Hudler has been disappointing is an understatement, and the Flames would undoubtedly be happy to get something to help them in the future for a veteran they have little/no intention of keeping. He’s an expiring contract, a left-handed shot and has a $4M cap hit.
- Jamie McGinn, LW, Buffalo
This would be another interesting fit for the Blackhawks. He’s only 27 (turns 28 in August) and has a modest $2.95M cap hit, but as an unrestricted free agent this summer he might look elsewhere for his next paycheck. He’s fourth on the Sabres with 108 hits, a number that would rank second on the Hawks current roster, and brings a physical style of play. He has 12 goals and 13 assists in 58 games this season 14 minutes per night.
- Kris Versteeg, RW, Carolina
Really? Again? It’s possible, as he would come with a considerably lower cap hit than the “big four” names listed above and he’s having a good season for the Canes (11 goals, 21 assists in 56 games). Integrating him into the lineup wouldn’t be hard; he was part of this team until Sept. 11 of this season, and the cost to get him back wouldn’t be nearly as high.
- Tomas Fleischmann, LW, Montreal
The downward spiral on Montreal is reaching breakneck speed, and the selling should begin soon. Fleischmann, who is only five months older than Staal, has only 19 points in 55 games with the Habs this year but has a significantly lower cap his ($750k) and his current team will likely be a motivated seller. He may fit better as a third line left wing, but could slide up into the top six.
- Patrick Marleau, LW, San Jose
Marleau has a no-trade clause on his contract and has already indicated that he doesn’t want to leave the Sharks. But an honest assessment of the Sharks’ chances of winning the West – much less the Cup – in the final two years of Marleau and Joe Thornton’s current contracts are slim. Would he consider leaving San Jose for a shot at a championship? If so, what would the Sharks want in return? And how would the Hawks make Marleau’s $6.666M cap hit fit? Lots of questions but he would be a nice fit for more than just this spring.