Right now, the Blackhawks appear to have an overflowing roster. Without any prospects making the team, the Hawks already have more than enough forwards and defenseman to put a full roster on the ice every night.
But the Hawks might still be active in the trade market.
And one player they might be interested in is Buffalo’s Paul Gaustad.
The Buffalo Sabres are roughly $3.6M over the salary cap right now, and have actively been looking for trade partners to dump salary. They may find one in the Blackhawks.
Chicago, which has already added former Sabre defenseman Steve Montador, should inquire about the asking price for Gaustad; he would be a perfect fit and is consistent with all of the moves Hawks GM Stan Bowman has made this summer.
Gaustad, 29, is listed at 6’5 and 212 pounds and is a physical center. He finished last year ranked third in the NHL in faceoff win percentage (59.8) while piling up 128 hits and 101 penalty minutes in 81 games. He also blocked 44 shots to go with 12 goals and 19 assists.
He averaged 15:08 ice time per game last year, and his size was used primarily on the penalty kill; Gaustad average 2:01 per game short-handed, winning 60 percent of his faceoffs on the penalty kill.
That is the ideal resume for what the Blackhawks are looking for right now. Bowman has been clear that he doesn’t feel set at the center position, and adding a player like Gaustad would enable coach Joel Quenneville to keep Patrick Sharp at wing throughout the coming season; Gaustad would project as a checking line center, with Dave Bolland bumping up to the second line.
Gaustad, a seven-year veteran, would make fans (and coaches… and management…) much more comfortable as a third line center on Opening Night than Marcus Kruger, who might have enormous potential but has only played 12 games on this continent, much less the NHL.
The fact that he’s a big, physical center aligns with most of what Bowman did this summer; his game is similar to what the Blackhawks were looking for in adding Jamal Mayers.
But one more part of the Gaustad also aligns perfectly with what Bowman accomplished this summer: his contract expires next summer.
Gaustad has one more year on his deal with a $2.3M cap number. The Blackhawks currently have roughly $3M in available cap space.
While moving Gaustad wouldn’t clear up all of Buffalo’s cap issues, the Blackhawks could put together a deal that would work well for the Sabres as they continue looking to cut salary.
Brian Connelly, the only AHL All-Star in Rockford last season, could be an affordable player to fill the blue line for Buffalo but has seen his stock slide in an incredibly deep group of defense prospects with the Blackhawks. If trading or demoting Shaone Morrison or Jordan Leopold is the next step for Buffalo, a seasoned prospect with the puck-moving skills of Connelly might be a perfect addition to the Buffalo organization.