Here are five other names the Blackhawks might consider adding at some point this year.
1. Rene Bourque, LW, Calgary Flames
Chicago fans are familiar with Bourque, and bringing him back isn’t a new idea. He’s a physical forward who likes to shoot the puck, and has five goals already this year. But Bourque, 29, has also been accused of being selfish with the puck; he has zero assists this year. He has 16 hits already, and could be a good physical fit in the Hawks top six.
Why? He hits and can score goals.
Why Not? His contract. Bourque has four more years with a cap number of $3.333M. If GM Stan Bowman’s work this summer is any indication, the Blackhawks believe enough in their organizational depth that they’re looking to rent veteran forwards until some of the kids in Rockford are ready.
The Deal: offer Calgary Bryan Bickell, Steve Montador, prospect Brian Connelly and a mid-round pick. They’re looking to start over in Calgary, so offering them a pick and three younger players might be enough for the Flames to pull the trigger. Montador’s inclusion would be
2. Jussi Jokinen, LW, Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina’s looking to make changes to a mix that appears to be broken, and Jokinen, 28, could become a popular commodity. He has nine points so far this year (three goals, six assists) but has missed some time because of injury. With a $3M cap hit, he would fit the Hawks need for a guy that can finish in the top six.
Why? Because he averages 4:15 per game in power play ice time and would be a legitimate improvement to the Hawks special teams.
Why Not? Cost might be the biggest concern here. Not only does Jokinen have two years left on his deal, but Carolina might want more than the Hawks are willing to move.
The Deal: Offer Carolina either Bickell or Viktor Stalberg, Connelly and a late-round pick. Does this feel like a lot for one player? Sure. But Brunette and Stalberg have failed to find a role in the Hawks’ lineup this year, and we’ve already discussed Connelly’s limited ceiling with the organization. Carolina gets a nice bounty for one player, and Chicago’s long-term plans aren’t negatively impacted.
3. Cody Franson, D, Toronto Maple Leafs
Franson, 24, is a big defenseman that has fallen out of the rotation, and favor, in Toronto. He was good in Nashville, however, and is still a big body (6’5, 215). With an $800k cap number in the final year of his deal, Franson has the potential to be a physical upgrade from Hjalmarsson and would be an offensive upgrade instantly; Hjalmarsson is a zero-impact player on the offensive end.
Why? Because he’s young, cheap and expendable in Toronto. And, with the remainder of the season to earn a new deal, he would be motivated.
Why Not? He hasn’t been effective when given a chance in Toronto, and could be another Cam Barker.
The Deal: If Pittsburgh could get a fourth round pick for Mark Letestu, a mid-round pick for Franson wouldn’t be out of the question. However, there would need to be a subsequent move to make space on the Blackhawks roster. And no, “just give them Stalberg” doesn’t work because the Blackhawks got Stalberg from Toronto.
4. Ray Whitney, LW, Phoenix Coyotes
Phoenix isn’t going anywhere, but it’s hard to imagine they would trade Keith Yandle or Shane Doan in an affordable deal the Hawks would consider. Whitney, 39, is in the final year of his contract (career?), and his having a fantastic season. He has 14 points (six goals, eight assists) through Tuesday, and is handling top-six minutes (18:11 ATOI) for the Coyotes.
Why? Because he’s everything the Blackhawks wanted when they signed Brunette, but he might be able to do that job better.
Why Not? Great question. His $3M cap hit is affordable for the Hawks under the cap right now, and the Coyotes might be looking for a mid-level prospect or mid-round pick in return. Age would be the primary concern with Whitney, and he wouldn’t be a physical improvement up front.
The Deal: Offer Phoenix Stalberg and Connelly. Connelly has been an AHL All-Star, but doesn’t appear to be in the Hawks’ long-term plans. The Coyotes might be able to use a puck-moving defenseman, though.
5. Brian Rolston, LW, New York Islanders
One of the most hated pieces of paper in New York, Rolston has actually had a decent start to the 2011-12 season. Rolston, 38, is playing over 15 minutes per game and has three points (one goal, two assists) in 11 games. However, the 6’2, 210-pound forward has 12 hits, more than Hjalmarsson, and is averaging 2:48 in power play ice time per night.
Why? Because the Islanders might be willing to take bad paper back from the Blackhawks (Olesz?) if they can get Rolston off their books. He’s also a physical veteran in the final year of his contract.
Why Not? Because his cap hit is huge (just over $5M), and he projects more as a third or fourth line forward in Chicago.
The Deal: Offer the Islanders Olesz and Connelly. Why part ways with a talented young defenseman? Because that’s the sweetener that, hopefully, convinces the Islanders to take the two additional years of Olesz’s deal off our books.