In the last two games, the Blackhawks have had some glaring issues made glaringly obvious. But the issues with the Hawks run deeper than two ugly losses. Chicago has only three regulation wins in their last 11 games.
So, with the perception that so much is broken with the Central Division-leading Blackhawks, what are some changes they might make? We’ll look at a couple players the Hawks might consider, the potential cost of making a deal, and why the Hawks would/would not make the move.
First, we need to deal with a simple reality: things are never as good, or bad, as they seem at the immediate moment in the NHL. While the Hawks have looked awful against the Canucks and Blues, they have also looked really good against the Avs and NHL-best Stars.
But there are some glaring holes on the Blackhawks roster.
Andrew Brunette simply isn’t working in the Hawks’ top six right now. He’s too slow to join the rush, and has been largely limited to offensive zone faceoffs and power play situations lately. While his hands and hockey IQ have been as good as advertised, his game simply doesn’t fit on a young, fast, kinetic Blackhawks team.
Niklas Hjalmarsson has been bad this year. He has fewer hits (11) than Patrick Sharp (17), and has blocked Corey Crawford’s view of the puck more than he’s been in the way of the rubber on too many occasions this year. His one point, an assist on Tuesday night, is just the most obvious indication that he isn’t even looking to be an offensive impact right now. Opponents don’t respect him with the puck, largely because he’s shown no willingness (or ability?) to force the issue.
And, finally, there are two obvious problems with the Hawks roster: John Scott and Rostislav Olesz. Neither is an NHL player, and neither should be on the roster right now. There are kids in Rockford that have shown they can play at the next level, but their opportunity is frozen under a concrete ceiling because the Hawks have a full 23-man roster right now.
Chicago lacks a physical presence, and their top six needs another finisher. With Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa both right wings for most of their NHL careers, the the Hawks would likely be looking for a left wing to play opposite Hossa or Kane (or Patrick Sharp). Obviously any player that is acquired would be, preferably, on a shorter-term deal and would bring some bang for the Hawks’ buck.
Despite the depth added over the summer, Hjalmarsson’s decline over the second half of last year and the beginning of this year means the Hawks also still need a physical top-four defenseman.
Even though they gave a four-year deal to Steve Montador, he’s looked more like a sixth defenseman than a top-four guy. A bottom pair including Montador, Sami Lepisto and Sean O’Donnell has been serviceable, but having an underwhelming Hjalmarsson playing like a sixth defenseman in the top-four isn’t making anyone’s job easy.
So, in review, the Hawks theoretical shopping list is a physical forward that can score and a defenseman that is willing to block shots, hit, and could help the struggling Hawks special teams.
Here are three Ottawa Senators players the Hawks might consider acquiring.
Milan Michalek, LW
This would probably be a home run for the Hawks, and expecting Michalek to hit the market is doubtful. The 26-year-old forward is being viewed as the centerpiece of the Sens rebuild, so a trade to acquire him would have to fit within that idea. He has 14 points already (nine goals, five assists) and is skating exactly 20 minutes per game.
Why? Listed at 6’2 and 217 pounds, he would be a good impact player for Chicago. He’s a top-six finisher who would give Quenneville more options with his forward lines.
Why Not? The cost would be the only factor to consider with Michalek. He has two more years with a cap number of $4.333M after the 2011-12 season, but he’s just coming into his own as a scorer in the NHL.
Daniel Alfredsson, RW
The captain of the Sens is coming back from a concussion, but would be the physical, experienced top-six forward the Hawks need. He’s a good two-way forward who, at 38, might be open to accepting a deal out of Ottawa if it means he’ll have a better chance at the Cup.
Why? He’s perfect for what the Hawks need. He isn’t big, but he hits (11 in 10 games), and is a factor on both special teams.
Why Not? Alfredsson’s contract has one more year with a cap hit over $4.8M, and the asking price might be steep to take a quality player and great captain off the Sens roster. His health is also something that would need to be checked out before a deal went through.
Filip Kuba, D
Kuba, 34, could be the guy that makes a deal happen between Chicago and Ottawa. He’s listed at 6’4 and 225 pounds, hits (12) and blocks shots (28) and he’s a penalty killing force (3:36 per night short-handed). He’s old enough and big enough that, in the final year of a deal with a $3.7M cap hit, he might not be in the long-term plans for Ottawa but could be a game-changer for a contender needing to improve their blue line.
Why? Because he’s a big, physical defenseman capable of playing top-four minutes. Putting Kuba with Nick Leddy would mirror the dynamics between Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, and his skill set would allow Quenneville to take Seabrook off the penalty kill unit completely.
Why Not? Great question. He seems like a perfect fit, and his deal expires at the end of the season.
So what would the Blackhawks consider offering Ottawa?
A package starting with Hjalmarsson would be probable. From there, including Bryan Bickell and/or Stalberg, a prospect (Byron Froese, David Gilbert or Joakim Nordstrom perhaps) and/or a mid-round pick for Kuba and either Alfredsson or Michalek would be a good foundation for a deal. Obviously the pick/prospect would have to get better if Michalek was in the mix. With a few young defensemen – Cowen, Karlsson and Rundblad – developing in Ottawa, Hjalmarsson would be a good fit with Chris Phillips.
The Hawks would need to make a subsequent roster move to accomodate taking on over $8.5M in salary while having under $5M coming off the books. Adding two quality veterans would probably allow the team to move either Olesz or Scott to Rockford as a financially-driven decision.
For a few more players that might interest the Blackhawks, click here.