As the Olympic Break approaches, many Blackhawks fans are excited about the potential of the current roster but also have some level of apprehension when looking towards the future. Considering the salary cap concerns coming next summer, the odds are that the Blackhawks could be active in the trade market and Hawks fans don’t want to see their favorite player leave… especially if you just spent a couple hundred dollars on a jersey. With that in mind, between now and the March 3 trade deadline, we’re going to look back at some major trades in the history of the Blackhawks, and how they shaped the history of the franchise.
In the 1989-90 season, the Blackhawks had a fantastic season. Under new head coach Mike Keenan, the team stormed to the top of the Norris Division with 88 points. Behind Steve Thomas (team-high 40 goals), Steve Larmer (team-high 90 points) and Denis Savard (80 points in only 60 games), the Hawks had one of the most dynamic offenses in the league. They ended the season second in the Campbell Conference, and had the veteran leadership in place to make a deep run throught he playoffs.
They would do precisely that, defeating the Minnesota North Stars 4-3 and then the St. Louis Blues 4-3 before an epic six-game series with the Edmonton Oilers. The Hawks lost the series to the Oilers, being outscored 25-20 in the six games. One of the surprises from that playoff run was a young netminder that was called up for the playoffs. Ed Belfour posted a 4-2 record with an impressive 2.49 goals against average in that postseason after not appearing in a regular season game for the Hawks.
There was a feeling that something special was coming in the future for the Blackhawks.
Then, on June 29, 1990, newly-named General Manager Keenan made his first bold move to shake up the roster.
Keenan dealt alternate captain Savard to the Montreal Canadiens for Chris Chelios and a second round pick in the 1991 draft (which was used to select LW Mike Pomichter). The player coming back to Chicago had a fantastic resume, but leaving was an icon.
Savard was the third overall player selected in the 1980 draft (behind Doug Wickenheiser and Dave Babych), which was the highest the Blackhawks had selected in team history until Patrick Kane was taken with the first overall pick 27 years later. He set the franchise record with 75 points in his rookie season, created the “Spin-O-Rama” and was in the middle of one of the best lines in the team’s history with Larmer and Al Secord.
In the decade Savard had spent in Chicago, he had established himself as the best scorer the franchise had seen since Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita. He scored over 100 points four times in the 1980s, with an incredible 131 in 1987-88 (still the franchise record). He set the team record for assists in a season with 87 in 1981-82, and tied the mark in the 1987-88 season.
Moving Savard, who was just 29-years old at the time, was hard for any Hawks fan to stomach.
Coming back in the deal was Chelios, who wasn’t a slouch. Chelios, then 28, had played six full seasons for the Habs and had served as their co-captain with legend Guy Carbonneau in the 1989-90 season. In his six seasons, Chelios had scored 307 points (72 G, 235 A) in 390 games. He was a member of the All Rookie Team in 1985, finishing second in the Calder Trophy voting to some guy named Mario Lemieux. After the 1985-87 season, Chelios won his first Stanley Cup with Montreal. After the 1988-89 season, Chelios won his first Norris Trophy.
How did the aftermath of the trade work out?
Savard would win the Stanley Cup with Montreal in 1993, and would then spend less than two seasons with Tampa Bay before being dealt back to the Blackhawks for a sixth round pick. In the four-plus seasons Savard spent away from the Windy City, he would score 242 points (96 G, 146 A) in 315 games. He was clearly not as productive as he was in Chicago, where he had scored 1,013 points (309 G, 704 A) in just 736 games.
Chelios, on the other hand, took his game to another level. He would win the Norris Trophy two more times, in 1993 and 1996, and would serve as the team’s captain from 1995-1999. With young players like Belfour and Jeremy Roenick, he helped transition the Hawks from the high-flying teams of the 1980s into the 1990s and kept them competitive. The Hawks would advance to the Stanley Cup Finals once while Chelios was in Chicago, losing to Lemieux’s Penguins in 1992. He would play in six All Star Games as a member of the Blackhawks before being traded to Detroit in March of 1999 for Anders Eriksson and two first-round draft picks.
When the trade went down, Hawks fans were stung by the loss of one of the most popular players in franchise history. But the return on the transaction was a player that is still held in the highest regard and who, if he ever retires, could see his jersey number hanging from the rafters at the United Center right next to Savard’s.