With fans in Chicago begging for the Blackhawks to make a move that might not be available, there is one move GM Stan Bowman could make internally that might make an impact.
One trade needs to be made, and could happen immediately between the Blackhawks and… IceHogs.
Since returning from a concussion in early January, Marcus Kruger has been a ghost. He has only three assists in the 10 games since coming back, posting a point in only two different contests.
In January, Kruger posted one assist while averaging over 16 minutes of ice time per game and winning only 22 of 48 faceoffs (45.8 percent).
The 21-year-old continues to get top-nine minutes, but has made no impact on the offensive end of the ice and has not been able to be a physical presence on the ice.
Working in the first full season of a two-way contract, Kruger possesses something Bryan Bickell and Sami Lepisto do not: the ability to be reassigned without requiring waivers.
Sending Kruger to Rockford wouldn’t solve the problems on the blue line. And it wouldn’t send shockwaves through the dressing room if a rookie lost his roster spot. This absolutely is not the answer to fans’ prayers.
But Jimmy Hayes showed enough in his limited action with the Hawks that he could certainly bring two things to the team that Kruger hasn’t all season: size and scoring.
Hayes had four goals and three assists in 13 games with the Hawks, but also piled up 28 hits while averaging just 12 minutes per game in Chicago. He was fast up and down the ice, but lost his roster spot when the Hawks acquired Brendan Morrison over the All-Star Break.
But further inspection of the roster indicates that perhaps it should be Kruger, a natural center, who should have moved out rather than the bigger, more physical Hayes.
Morrison, a center, give the Blackhawks five players that could work at the dot. Certainly Jonathan Toews and Dave Bolland will stay at center, and Morrison will primarily work there. But Jamal Mayers has been more than adequate at center this season, and at some point Patrick Sharp might end up back in the middle as well.
Chicago has depth at center, and the truth is that Kruger’s been mediocre in faceoffs all season (46.7 percent).
Now that Morrison is in the mix at center, the question should be who can help the club the most at wing. If the choice is between Kruger and Hayes, the answer should be obvious. Moving Kruger to Rockford and bringing back Hayes should happen, and soon.