Yahoo! Sports is indicating that Ben Eager, currently serving a four-game suspension for sucker punching Toronto’s Colby Armstrong, could be on the way out of Atlanta.
In 34 games this season, Eager has 10 points (three goals, seven assists), 48 hits and 77 penalty minutes while skating 12:15 per game. He is playing on a one-year deal and will become an unrestricted free agent this summer; he has a $965k cap number.
Most of Eager’s statistics are well on their way to him having the most productive season of his career. He established career highs in points (16) last year and ice time average (8:31) in the 2008-09 season.
Should the Blackhawks bring Eager back to the United Center?
Chicago is well aware of how volatile Eager can be, and enjoyed that part of his game for most of the first 255 games of his career. And at the price, he could be an affordable piece that could bring an up-tempo, physical force back into the lineup on a regular basis for the remainder of the season. His offensive abilities are significantly greater than John Scott, the current pair of rented fists on teroster, and his knowledge of the veterans on the team could help him assimilate quickly.
The deal could be simple for the Blackhawks: Jack Skille for Eager straight up. While Eager’s cap number is less than $400k more for the entire season, the difference for the final 30 games would be well within the Hawks cap space.
Skille has struggled to find a niche in the Hawks lineup, and his production is very close to Eager’s so far this year. He has 14 points (six goals, eight assists), 79 hits and is averaging 11:08 on ice per game. He has, however, taken 104 shots to Eager’s 41, while only producing four extra points.
Atlanta could be easily sold on the deal. Skille will be a restricted free agent after the season, giving the Thrashers better potential control or the potential for compensation if Skille signs elsewhere. He is also younger, and Thrashers GM Rick Dudley is familiar with Skille from his days in Chicago.
For the Blackhawks, the deal would bring a physical player into the lineup that would know his role but, unlike Scott, brings the potential for offense.
Eager was traded to Atlanta last summer in the deal that also sent Dustin Byfuglien and Brent Sopel to the Thrashers for a package including top prospect Jeremy Morin.