As trade speculation and rumors heat up all over the NHL, the Chicago Blackhawks are in the enviable position of having cap space, quality veteran depth, and good organizational depth.
But before giving away any of the team’s top prospects, the organization should look back at the 2005 Calder Cup champion Philadelphia Phantoms for a moment of pause.
The Blackhawks are no longer a team hoping to sneak into the playoffs. With a young core locked up, the annual debate around the trade deadline and the Draft has become weighing short-term success against long-term sustainability.
And while the 2011-12 AHL playoffs haven’t started yet, the Hawks have a similar depth “problem” that the 2004-05 Philadelphia Phantoms did when they made a historic run to the Calder Cup.
Those Phantoms had great forward depth with some legitimate NHL prospects putting up solid numbers. But they also had a couple of young centers that were drafted the year before that were matriculating their way toward the NHL at a rapid pace.
The luxury of too many good players was great for the Phantoms, but ultimately the Flyers inability to adequately evaluate their organizational depth cost them dearly.
In 2004-05, the Phantoms top two scoring centers were both 22, and had really good regular seasons. RJ Umberger posted 65 points (21 goals, 44 assists) in 80 games, while Patrick Sharp registered 52 points (23 goals, 29 assists) in 75 games.
But the Flyers used two picks in the first round of the 2003 NHL Draft on centers. And while they both spent their respective 2004-05 regular seasons with OHL clubs, both Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were brought up to the Phantoms for the postseason and were dominant. Carter had 23 points in 21 games and Richards added 15 points in 14 games.
Suddenly the Flyers were coming out of the lock-out with more prospects than they knew what to do with. Umberger, Sharp, Richards and Carter were all regulars in the Flyers’ lineup during the 2005-06 season, but not all of them could stay.
So, after a slow first 22 games, Philadelphia traded Sharp to Chicago in arguably the most one-sided deal of the last decade.
The Blackhawks acquired Sharp with Eric Meloche in exchange for Matt Ellison and a third round draft pick.
While I don’t need to point out what Sharp has meant to the Blackhawks, the moment of pause is considering what might be leaving the Chicago organization in a deal for what is hoped to be the “missing piece” this year.
In a market that is seeing the price for centers and defensemen skyrocketing with almost every day because of injuries to key players on teams with postseason aspirations, someone is going to grossly overpay for a guy they think fills a hole in their lineup today.
It’s possible to look at recent draft picks like Brandon Saad, Mark McNeill and Kevin Hayes and convince yourself that AHL veterans like Jeremy Morin and Brandon Pirri, who are both still only 20, are “expendable.” But the risk of moving a player with talent like Morin or Pirri in exchange for a role player to fill as short-term need could ultimately come back to bite the Blackhawks.
The image of Sharp skating around the ice in Philadelphia with the Stanley Cup raised above his head in a visitor’s sweater should provide all of the pause Stan Bowman needs when considering a deal.