It might be time for Stan Bowman to start making calls.
The number of underwhelming veterans on the Blackhawks roster has led to a lot of hair pulling and alcohol consumption early in the year for fans in Chicago, and the organization’s depth moving forward might allow the Hawks to make a trade sooner than later.
One potential deal that could make sense for the Hawks would involve calling the team they defeated to win the Stanley Cup, the Philadelphia Flyers.
Here is the proposed deal:
Chicago trades forward Tomas Kopecky and goalie Corey Crawford to Philadelphia for forward Blair Betts and goalie Brian Boucher.
How would the deal work?
- Kopecky: $1.2M (1) UFA
- Crawford: $800k (1) RFA
- Betts: $700k (2)
- Boucher: $925k (1) UFA
So why would either side make this deal from a financial perspective?
For the Blackhawks, they would be shaving $375k off their cap number this year, which would raise their available cap space to roughly $1.25M. Long-term, having Betts under contract next year for $700k gives the Blackhawks a veteran on the roster for one more year at a good price. Considering the Hawks will be looking to lock up Brent Seabrook soon, and have to make decisions on restricted free agents like Troy Brouwer, Viktor Stalberg, Jake Skille and Jake Dowell, having Betts as a known commodity on the payroll is a good position for the Hawks to be in.
For the Flyers, they would be adding $375k to their cap number this year if Crawford’s number is included, but this deal is made with the future in mind in Philly. Crawford could/likely would be sent to the minors by a Flyers team that would have three goalies on their NHL payroll when Michael Leighton comes back, so Crawford going down would be easier than trying to get Boucher through waivers.
Like the Blackhawks, the Flyers have a young star they’re trying to lock-up right now in forward Jeff Carter. By getting Betts’ $700k off the books for next year, the Flyers would be opening space to make a Carter extension happen.
Performance: what would be the roster impact of this deal?
Betts isn’t the most popular player in Philadelphia, but he’s an effective third line center. So far this season (16 games), Betts has three goals, three assists and is winning 46.15 percent of his faceoffs. He has two game-winning goals already, has blocked 18 shots, and is averaging 11:29 on ice per game and has been credited with 15 hits.
The trade-off between Betts and Kopecky would be as even in cost as it would be in impact on the ice. Kopecky can play center or wing and is averaging a career-high 18:12 on ice so far this season. He has two goals, seven assists, 15 hits, four blocked shots and has taken 38 faceoffs in split duty.
Where the trade saves the Flyers money next year, it makes sense for the Blackhawks in adding quality to the depth chart in net this season.
Marty Turco has been fairly close to what the Blackhawks were hoping to get in the save percentage category (.911), but the poor play in front of him and larger number of shots per game he faced early in the season have led to an inflated goals against average (2.73) and fewer wins than the Hawks would hope for.
Backing up Turco has been Crawford, who is a tough-luck 1-4-0 this year. If the Blackhawks were hoping to find another Antti Niemi hiding in Rockford, Crawford hasn’t been that so far for the Hawks. He would be back in the AHL if this deal went down, and he would likely be a free agent on the open market next summer.
Boucher is 1-2-1 this year with a .898 save percentage, but his 2.26 goals against average is better than Turco’s to date. Last year, despite an average regular season record of 9-18-3, Boucher played a major role in the Flyers’ run to the Stanley Cup with a 6-6 record and .909 save percentage before getting hurt. He has playoff experience and is a decent veteran that could be easier for Quenneville to give his confidence than Crawford has been so far this year.
So what’s the breakdown of the deal?
The Blackhawks would move a fairly versatile forward in his walk-year and a goalie the Flyers could easily dump in the minors to Philly in exchange for an affordable, serviceable center and veteran backup goalie.
There is one more level on which this deal makes sense for the Blackhawks, though.
The amount of playing time Kopecky has received since the Olympics in February has been well above his career averages. The Hawks announced his two-year contract in the same press conference as the deal they gave his best friend, Marian Hossa. It hasn’t been acknowledged, but the politics of him being the wingman of Hossa has undoubtedly played a role in the amount of ice time he’s received.
Point blank, Kopecky was a healthy scratch for five of the Blackhawks 22 playoff games last year and now he’s consistently getting work on one of the top two lines. That doesn’t add up. By moving Kopecky out of town, Bowman would be doing his coach a favor by eliminating the pressure to play him more than his abilities merit.
If this deal went down, the Blackhawks could play Betts as a third or fourth line center with the assurance that he would be around next year, something not guaranteed with Dowell. The expectations on Betts would be minimal and the price would be right, and the addition of a streaky netminder as a backup would give Quenneville options in net as well.