With Chicago waiting to hear about the severity of Patrick Sharp’s wrist injury, the degree of trades necessary for the Hawks to stay on track for a postseason spot is up in the air.
But here are three trades that could change the fortunes of the Hawks this year and moving forward.
Deal #1: Hawks send Niklas Hjalmarsson ($3.500M), Bryan Bickell ($541,667) and a 2nd round pick to Anaheim for Francois Beauchemin ($3.800M).
Anaheim is ready for a fire sale, and the Hawks need to improve their blue line. We talked about Beauchemin fitting in Chicago last week, but it’s becoming painfully clear that the Hawks have three bottom-pair defenseman (Hjalmarsson, Montador, O’Donnell/Scott/Lepisto) skating on a nightly basis.
Neither team has cap concerns, but Anaheim is looking for control of younger players in any deal. Hjalmarsson is statistically similar to what they’ve been getting from Beauchemin, but he’s significantly younger (Hjalmarsson is 24; Beauchemin 31) and while Beauchemin is an unrestricted free agent this summer, Hjalmarsson is under contract for two more years after this. Pairing Hjalmarsson with Cam Fowler would be attractive for the Ducks, and adding an affordable big forward like Bickell would be a nice addition to the package. The pick would certainly be tempting for Murray as well.
Deal #2: Hawks send Michael Frolik ($2.333M) and prospects Brian Connelly and Philippe Paradis to Buffalo for Paul Gaustad ($2.300M).
For Buffalo, it’s about adding value without increasing cap exposure. Gaustad is an unrestricted free agent this summer, while Frolik is under control for two more years. The Sabres would get younger and add a defensively responsible forward who still has some offensive upside (in theory). The good thing for the Hawks is that Buffalo wouldn’t need to replace a lot of scoring because Gaustad isn’t a point-producer.
What Gaustad is, however, is a big, physical center who wins faceoffs and hits people. He’s a 14 minute-per-game guy, so he certainly isn’t fixing the hole at center on the second line, but we’ll get to that. He does play with a physical edge that this team desperately misses, though.
Deal #3: Hawks send Dave Bolland ($3.375M), Viktor Stalberg ($875k) and prospect Shawn Lalonde to Florida for Stephen Weiss ($3.100M) and a mid-round draft pick.
Parting ways with Bolland would be hard to stomach for many Hawks fans, but this deal would be dependant on the second deal getting done. Read that again: moving Bolland is not a consideration, even for a second line center, unless another center is ready to replace him (in this case, Gaustad).
Many fans, and many inside the organization, like the idea of Marcus Kruger eventually replacing Bolland as the team’s third line center, and Bolland has consistently failed when given the opportunity to step into a second line role.
And, in case you’ve forgotten, Dale Tallon (who loves Bolland and signed him to his current contract) is the GM in Florida. Bolland would be a fantastic defensive center for Tallon, and Stalberg is an inexpensive, young forward who is having a good offensive season. Lalonde is a good young prospect that Tallon drafted.
Weiss, meanwhile, is winning almost 54 percent of his faceoffs and has 33 points in 39 games this season. He has one year left on his current contract, matching Stalberg, while Bolland has two remaining.
There would obviously need to be subsequent moves to these trades to complete the roster. One would be to put Sami Lepisto on waivers (unless Buffalo wanted him because of their injury issues), and the other would be to fill the roster with players from Rockford where a forward had been traded out of town in one of these three deals.
Here is what the lineup would look like if these three trades went down:
- Montador-Olsen (O’Donnell)
What would we accomplish with these deals?
A legitimate center on the second line. Weiss is a scorer. The important part to remember about this move is that Weiss has only one year left on his deal, thereby not blocking Brandon Pirri, Kevin Hayes or any of the other young centers in the organization from having a potential roster spot in 2013-14.
Huge improvement in faceoffs. Right now the Blackhawks are, as a “team,” winning 52.3 percent of their faceoffs, which ranks third in the NHL. But that’s because Jonathan Toews is carrying the load at the dot, and Mayers is doing a great job as the fourth line center. Bolland is only winning 46.4 percent of his faceoffs. By bringing in Gaustad (56.3) and Weiss (53.9), the Hawks would have arguably the best group of faceoff-winning centers in the game. Then Toews wouldn’t have to take two of every three draws.
Dead weight: gone. Two more years of Hjalmarsson, Frolik and Bolland and one more year of Bickell is starting to sound unbearable. None of them is producing in the offensive zone, and the lapses from Hjalmarsson and Bickell have been too frequent to continue paying them to be here. Bickell has been replaced already by Jimmy Hayes, and Frolik could be replaced by a combination of Morin, Smith and Kruger. Olsen could jump into the mix on the blue line here as well. Next year, Brandon Saad and Pirri would join the list of potential NHL contributors.
Future cap flexibility and roster space. Not only would this cut an additional $1.45M off the cap for this year’s Hawks’ team in veteran movement, but Beauchemin and Gaustad would likely be gone after this year. Those two would be added to the list including potential free agents Brunette, Mayers and Carcillo in money coming off the books for the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks are better. Beauchemin is a legitimate penalty killing ace who is used to skating Keith-like minutes every night; Hjalmarsson hasn’t been able to get over 18-19 minutes consistently, and looks more like a fifth defenseman than a number three guy. Similarly, Gaustad is great on penalty killing duty and adds a physical element that Bolland doesn’t always bring. Adding those two players should improve the miserable penalty kill unit. Adding Weiss would bring in a power play ace and a legitimate second line center.
The problem the Blackhawks have right now is they don’t have enough guys to do the important things when the money’s on table. Toews is taking almost every faceoff in the third periods of close games, Keith and Seabrook are skating almost 10 minutes per period, and Leddy is skating over 22 minutes far too often. Adding a couple good faceoff guys would get Toews off the ice, and adding Beauchemin (and his 26 minutes/game) would help balance the ice time among the Hawks’ top four defensemen.
Are these deals the Hawks are considering? Not that we can confirm. But they’re certainly three deals that Stan Bowman could afford to make and should explore in the coming days.