Should The Blackhawks Consider An In-House Option At Center?

With news that Kyle Turris is getting back on the ice in Phoenix, and as Patrick Kane’s faceoff winning has dipped under 50 percent in November, the focus of Hawks fans “holiday shopping” is once again on a second line center.

Should the Hawks consider moving prospects for a center like Turris in Phoenix or Edmonton’s Sam Gagner? Or should they consider an in-house option that’s producing at Rockford?

Brandon Pirri earned a spot on the NHL roster to start the season over Marcus Kruger, and was credited with an assist in his one game with the Hawks. Since heading back to Rockford, he’s been as good as they’ve had on the IceHogs roster.

In his first 16 games in Rockford this year, Pirri has five goals and 10 assists, with six penalty minutes and is plus-one. He leads the IceHogs in points, and is second (behind Brian Connelly) in assists. Five of his assists are on the power play as well.

During the preseason, Pirri showed the ability to play against NHL players, especially in his two-goal performance in Detroit.

The temptation with these Hawks is to use the nearly $6M in cap space to go after a player with more NHL experience, but the best move the organization could make with the future of the organization in focus might be giving Pirri a shot as the second line center. He had a couple two-goal games in the preseason, and didn’t disappoint in limited action in Chicago to begin the year.

Pirri still has three years remaining on his entry-level contract, which carries a $870k cap hit. By comparison, Turris’ new deal reportedly has a $1.4M cap hit after he posted 25 points in 63 games for the Coyotes last year. Gagner, on the other hand, has four consecutive NHL seasons with more than 40 points, justifying his $2.275M cap number for the rest of this year. However, Gagner will be a restricted free agent this summer and could be looking for a raise into the mid-$4M range.

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15 Responses to Should The Blackhawks Consider An In-House Option At Center?

  1. Nate says:

    Suggesting that Brandon Pirri will be an improvement over Patrick Kane at center is insanity. This is one of the most ridiculous things you have ever written.

    If the Hawks are going to make trades, they need D men or wingers.

  2. Tab Bamford says:

    I’m honestly not sure if it’s possible for you to miss the point of this article more, Nate. Especially in the context of everything I’ve written recently (read the last 24 hours).

    Go back to the top of the article and read the everything before the photo. I have no problem w/ Kane at center; he’s done an admirable job there. But with so many people barking about Gagner, Turris and other centers, this was simply a response to the “Hawks need a center” rumors/whispers/comments.

  3. ivan says:

    I would personally like to see it.

    Stalberg – Toews – Kane
    Sharp – Pirri – Hossa

    If Hossa really is the catalyst on this team then why not put him with the youngster. Besides, my take on from the preseason was that they had some nice chemistry together – especially working the give and go.

    That said, this move isn’t likely to happen, not without an injury anyhow. Besides, if the Hawks can manage without him he is better off developing in the AHL.

    Tab, admirable job? I agree, but it sounds like a comment of one not completely sold on the idea of continuing to skate him at center. Without considering options or replacements do you prefer the idea of Kane on the wing?

  4. Brad Stevenson says:

    I like Pirri a lot, and think he would be ready…as I have said before, the forwards are not going to keep the Hawks from another Cup appearance…it is the defence…and I am not talking about some fringe, stay at home type…the Hawks need a TRUE top 4 DMan, and in particular, a true #1 DMan…it would take a ton of pressure off of Keith…

    Now, is that too much money to sink into the Defence corp??? Yes, but the Hawks can deal with that next summer, but moving Hammer, or whomever they need to…but this current group is NOT going to lead us to the finals as is…

  5. Nate says:

    If this is just a response to ideas that are popular…why even feed irrational notions such as trading for a second line center at all? Moving Kane to from the wing effectively fixed the Hawks depth problem center. He’s having an excellent year so far. Much easier to find an improvement on Bickell or Stalberg.

    In other words, we have two scenarios here:
    1) We acquire a center, and move Kane back the first line on the wing. Net result: Hawks are stronger at wing again, but weaker down the middle. Net gain? Questionable.

    2) The Blackhawks get a winger who is better than one of the wingers already on the roster, even if only by being more consistent. They stay just as strong down the middle, while improving at wing. The team is stronger across the board.

    Clearly #2 is the better option.

  6. No Way says:

    Bolly is having a slump year, and he hasnt even been hurt much. I dont see a problem with calling Pirri up and rotating him. Sit that oak Scott once in a while and move Sharp for a #1 Dman.

  7. ray says:

    I think shipping out Sharp for a defenseman is the most ridiculous thing I’ve read in quite some time. Obviously Bowman feels that Sharp is an integral part of the team. If you trade Sharp for a number one dman, you are weakening your forward-makeup triple fold, as sharp can play all three forward positions if need be. He also gets time consistent time on the PP and PK. I don’t understand why you would be in favor of shipping out an allstar forward for a defenseman when the farm team has plenty of quality players waiting for their chance to play.

    Hawks fans should have been aware of the drop off in the overall quality of the defense considering the departure of Campbell. In his absence from injuries last year, the Hawks floundered. Nick Leddy has been a huge surprise so far this year and has helped reduce the impact of the Campbell trade. When you lose someone like Campbell, and replace him with O’Donnell, Lepisto, and Montador, you will notice a disparity in the effectiveness of the blue-line corps. Trading Sharp will not remedy that.

  8. Dave Bonnema says:

    Do you realize Sharp just signed a 5 year extension, No Way?

  9. Nate says:

    Not to mention that Bolland, despite having a slow couple weeks, is still on track to beat his personal season best 19 goals. The guy has no clue.

  10. wall says:

    Brad, I agree w/ You… Pirri is very good (but way to weak still physically and on D), and does have offensive talent. We need some Physical, goto the net talent… and some D! We have skaters and shooters both in the NHL and Minors…

    I agree w/ Ray’s Soupy comment… our D is one of the worst in the league (see goals allowed)… we need help there.

    Lastly, the only way you could play Pirri now is with Hossa (because Hossa is so responsible and get get the puck)… but this would bring Stalberg’s value down (because now he has to chase puck more on the boards, not Stalberg or Kane’s specialty)…

  11. Tuke says:

    I think if you look at some of the past games where the D has played well you will also see that the pairings were a lot different than they were in the blowouts. 2/7 is a great first pair 4/8 is a good 2nd pair and as far as a 3rd pairing goes 5/20 or 6 is just as good if not better than Boynton and Hendry which if I’m not mistaken were the 3rd pair in the cup season. Monty can hold his own as a 3rd pairing but anything more than that and there are gonna be games like in Edm. when Eberle blew right past him to open the onslaught or when he played too soft on Hall and he gathered his collection of hats.

    To be honest I’m really not sure exactly what the hell the problem is with the D. The pieces are there to perform much better than what they have, but there is just something that isn’t clicking for them.

    As for the Offense, they certainly need a power forward for the 2nd line that can create some net presence and go to the net hard and create some havoc. I would like to see Gagner and Kane reunited on a line but realistically that does not solve the problem of having no power forward to help them out. All the speed and finesse in the world isn’t gonna help them if they don’t have somebody to create some room for them. The 1st line is playing great lately and don’t think it should be messed with. Toews has someone to help him with the forecheck in Hossa and Rattlehead has been benefiting nicely by playing some of his best hockey since putting on the Indian Head.

    I guess if I had a choice I would prefer a strong power forward to flank Kane and for the D to figure out what the hell is going wrong.

  12. No Way says:

    Goals are not the only way to measure Bolland’s performance. The guy is not performing well. And I am Boll’ys #1 fan and some shift’s it pains me to watch that. He is a career low -5, however his last few games he has been showing improvement, even though he missed that empty net tonight. Something isnt clicking with him. He did however make me happy with that short handed blast he laid on the Shark’s Dman (murray?)

  13. Mark says:

    The Hawks biggest problem is that D.Keith is still touted as a #1 D-man and continues to play poorly (last year he was terrible.) He’s been figured out by the league- hit him, harrass him and he’ll give up the biscuit. He’s strong in the open ice but has been pantsed repeatedly on D, gives up bad-situation turnovers 2-3+ times a game and has a mediocre shot. The Hawks have plenty of O-firepower, but until/unless they add a solid “#1″ D-man (and count Keith as a #2-3 offensive type), they’ll continue to have consistency problems. I like Leddy (similar game to Keith), but I’d move a highly ranked prospect in search of that missing D-piece.

  14. wall says:

    In regards to trades:

    1st of all I think we have too many needs to address w/ 6 million we have to spend.
    2nd- if we trade someone to save cap space and address issues… we need to replace that someone w/ someone cheaper and near capable in the system… the only one in my eyes would be Bolland ( less his 3.175 mill) replaced by Kruger.
    I love Bolland and realize Kruger is not Bolland yet… But Bollie is always getting hurt.
    3rd- dump Bruno– (2 Mill) … bring up Pirri (hat trick last nite), assuming we buy some skilled size to balance his lack of strength.

    this would yeild us Better faster Pirri (over Bruno), and over 10 million in cap space to grab some physical skilled “grit”… in addition to a couple of draft picks for Bollie.

    Hawks are no better than a 5-9 team in the West w/ Carcillo on 2nd line and Bruno and Scott on any line!

  15. robinson says:

    bolly’s not going anywhere. I agree w bruno and danny. do what you said about trades w bruno and play pirri and have benny and danny as extra/on 4th line. That still gives us 8+mill. to get a really good d-man and a pwer forward thats big and can pass/score somewhat, mainly to get kaner & sharpy clicking like the other line at the same time.

    Oddy is like/reminds me of haveing a spare/sub like Boyton was just incase and can play… Keep almost everyone and add to who we have, remain deep and get better.

    8+mill. could get us a top d-man (3-4m) and a power forward (2-3m). Plus we could try for another forward as well w/8m or keep bruno. I just want to be deep/have subs that can play. and get those types of players we need that will work w/2nd line and make defense better w/less pressure. Dunks might not be playing his best, but Im sure he will be awesome if he can play free willing (like soupy does) and not have to worry about being that 1st pair pressure. He still needs to be responsible defensivly but I think he flys if in soupy’s position and doesn’t have to worry as much.

    Getting a top d-man of any kind, can make this defense (thats almost the same as 2010-boyton/henry) so solid, all 6 will make each other look even better. Monty & Leads on 3rd pair. Nice

    We want to be loaded. Thats what made us so good, even on off night in 2010, we were so deep/full roster of good players. 4 lines 3 pairs 2 goalies all the time, relendless

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