On Monday, the Carolina Hurricanes and defenseman Tim Gleason agreed to a four-year, $16M contract.
Gleason is the second defenseman to leave the theoretical trade market with a multi-year contract, as the Canes followed the lead provided when the Anaheim Ducks inked Francois Beauchemin.
This removes a second defenseman from the list of potential trade targets for the Chicago Blackhawks. So who could be some of the names the Hawks look at moving forward?
First, let’s look at three names that will be unrestricted free agents at the end of this season.
- Johnny Oduya, Winnipeg Jets
- Hal Gill, Montreal Canadiens
- Pavel Kubina, Tampa Bay Lightning
What we have here are three teams that are building for future seasons, and would likely take a bottom-six forward or decent (but not top) prospect as the centerpiece of a trade. Considering the previous relationship the front office in Winnipeg had with Chicago, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff might be interest in players he knew in Chicago like Bryan Bickell, Ryan Stanton or Shawn Lalonde in a deal for Oduya.
Tampa needs goaltending, but might be interested in a young defenseman like Winnipeg. Montreal would undoubtedly prefer to add a forward to help their NHL roster immediately, and might be open to taking Bryan Bickell or Michael Frolik.
What about restricted free agents?
- Cody Franson, Toronto Maple Leafs
- Erik Johnson, Colorado Avalanche
Franson’s a guy that has been mentioned quite a bit in the last year or so, and he’d be familiar with the competition in the Central Division after playing in Nashville last year.
Johnson, who turns 24 at the end of March, might be the wild card in this discussion. The former number one overall pick in 2006 (two spots ahead of Jonathan Toews) has been a disappointment for the Blues and now the Avs, where he has 19 points and a minus-10 rating so far this year. He’s been credited with 65 hits and 54 blocked shots in 45 games this year with Denver.
What makes Johnson intriguing are two factors.
First, he’s big (6-4, 232), and has a lot of upside still. He was the centerpiece of a blockbuster trade last year that shipped him to Denver from St. Louis. The total deal, finalized on Feb. 19 last year, was Johnson, forward Jay McClement and a first-round pick to the Avalanche for winger Chris Stewart, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and a second-round draft choice.
The second aspect of Johnson that is intriguing is his place in the Colorado lineup, and their cap situation. Johnson is averaging over 21 minutes per game on the ice, and is contributing significant minutes on both special teams. But, if you look at the Avs pending salary cap armageddon that is coming this summer, there are a lot of decisions that need to be made, and not everyone is going to get paid.
Chicago could put together a package of younger players that are under organizational control for the next couple years to help limit the Avs’ exposure to potential losses this summer when guys like Matt Duchene, David Jones, Peter Mueller, Ryan O’Reilly, Kyle Quincey and Ryan Wilson need a new deal.
Johnson fits a similar profile to Andrew Ladd, who was also a top-three overall pick but who needed a change of scenery from the team he was with (Carolina) at that time. With a $2.6M cap number, Johnson might just be too expensive for the Avs to retain.
Certainly the Blackhawks could consider players that are signed for longer than the rest of this season. But with the organization investing heavily in quality blue line prospects in recent drafts, including Dylan Olsen, Lalonde, Stephen Johns, Adam Clendening and Justin Holl, it’s doubtful that the organization would add another player with more than one more season on his deal, effectively putting a concrete ceiling over the heads of these prospects.