Yesterday, there was a lot of discussion about two potential rumors surrounding the Chicago Blackhawks. One was that they are allegedly shopping for a power forward like Keith Tkachuk, the other was a reported deal that’s on the table in which Cristobal Huet and prospect Corey Crawford would leave town.
Pure speculation, but could these two rumors be one in the same?
The Chicago Blackhawks are looking for two things right now: first, to improve their playoff chances this year, and second, to cut payroll off next year’s roster. The first step GM Stan Bowman took to accomplish these two goals was trading Cam Barker to Minnesota for Kim Johnsson and Nick Leddy. This move brought a resume into Chicago that included 30 more playoff games and an Olympic appearance, and a contract that expires after this season.
Here’s the speculation. The rumor, initiated by ESPN 1000 on Monday, is that the Blackhawks are going to unload both Huet and Crawford. The hit that this would put on the organizational depth in Chicago would indicate that, unless someone, somewhere honestly believes that Joe Fallon is good enough to be an NHL backup next year, a netminder would have to come back in the deal.
The Hawks would also have to be looking at dealing with a team that fills two key demographics: they have little/no faith in their current goaltending, and have little/no years left on their current contracts. There have been a lot of rumors linking names like Boston’s Tim Thomas and Florida’s Tomas Vokoun to the Hawks lately, but the cap hits of both goalies make both unlikely to be on Chicago’s radar. Two other teams that have been rumored to be looking to move a goalie are Montreal, who face both Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price potentially becoming free agents this summer, and Nashville, who have the same issue with Pekka Rinne and Dan Ellis. However, none of these four have much playoff experience, and the Hawks wouldn’t want to rent a netminder and be forced to spend even more money this summer to retain the player they received.
Circle the wagons back to St. Louis and Tkachuk. The Blues have had a number of rumors floated recently, with both Tkachuk and Paul Kariya’s names being mentioned in many of them. Despite the two being bitter rivals, could the Blackhawks and Blues be on the verge of a blockbuster?
Both Tkachuk and Kariya have expiring contracts and a lot of playoff experience, both keys to what the Blackhawks want in a deal. The Blues also meet the netminder criteria we’ve established on both fronts: they have not been happy with the play they’ve received from both Chris Mason and Ty Conklin. Conklin was brought in to add stability in the net after playing exceptionally well for Detroit last year, but hasn’t earned his bread this year. Mason, meanwhile, has an expiring contract and, at $3 million and 33 years old, isn’t likely someone the Blues would want to bring back.
So St. Louis needs a goaltender for the next couple years, and depth. They would also like to get younger in the process.
What if the Blackhawks sent Huet, Crawford and Kris Versteeg to St. Louis for Tkachuk, Kariya and Conklin?
Conklin has one more year left on the deal he signed last summer, and carries a cap number of just $1.3 million. Tkachuk and Kariya, both nearing the end of great careers, have a combined cap number for this year of $8.15 million, making the total cap number the Blackhawks would add in this deal $9.45 million. If the deal were for Huet, Crawford and Versteeg, the Blackhawks would be sending back a combined cap number of $8.708 million. The Blackhawks have enough cap room left this year to add the pro-rated amount they would be forced to pay of the $742,000 increase in payroll for this season.
This deal would also cut $7.408 million off the Blackhawks’ payroll for next year, while adding a netminder to the roster for the 2010-11 season. When you add this number to the already-subtracted $3.083 million that Barker would have been against the cap, the Blackhawks would have successfully cleared sufficient cap space to keep the rest of the roster intact moving forward. From the St. Louis perspective, they only have a little more than $27 million committed for next year, so adding the extra cap hits wouldn’t devastate them financially moving forward.
On the ice, the loss of Versteeg would be met with some questions from fans but coach Joel Quenneville made it pretty clear on Sunday that he hasn’t been happy with Versteeg’s play of late. Kariya, 35, has 29 points (12 G, 17 A) this year in 56 games. Tkachuk, 37, has 28 points (12 G, 16 A) this year in just 55 games. By comparison, Versteeg, only 23, has 33 points (13 G, 20 A) in 58 games this year. Tkachuck and Kariya have started a combined 135 playoff games in their careers, though.
Another point to consider is that both Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane play right wing, while both Tkachuck and Kariya play left win. If the Hawks continue to preach flexibility for Quenneville, and there is any room for Patrick Sharp to play center at some point in the future, then adding two players that could compliment the two best scorers on the roster makes sense. The two would also serve as fantasic mentors for players like Troy Brouwer and Dustin Byfuglien, who would figure prominently in the Hawks plans next year if a deal like this was consummated.
Conklin, 33, is 8-8-1 this year with a .921 save percentage (better than Huet and Niemi) and a 2.61 goals against average (well higher than both Chicago netminders). Despite only starting two career playoff games, Conklin has certainly been through the wars in the postseason. Last year he was obviously backing up Chris Osgood in Detroit, and started 40 regular seasons games for the Red Wings. In 2005-06, Conklin started one playoff game for the Edmonton Oilers as well. Anyone on the Oilers or Red Wings in late April knows about the pressure of the playoffs.
Again, this is not a trade proposal that’s been mentioned anywhere but CommittedIndians previously, but it makes sense on paper and in logic for both teams moving foward. Perhaps we should watch St. Louis for a trade after the Olympics…?