Following the Blackhakwks’ shootout victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night, Stan Bowman met the media and announced that the Blackhawks had traded for former Blackhawk, Kris Versteeg. Versteeg was a huge part of the Blackhawks’ success from the ’08-’09 season through the ’09-’10 season when they won the Cup. Following their Stanley Cup victory in 2010, the Hawks were forced to trade away many of their key players in order to accommodate the salary cap. Versteeg was one of those players, and he was one of the harder players to lose seeing as how valuable he was to the team. But now, that is all a thing of the past, because Steeger is back.
In acquiring Vertsteeg from the Florida Panthers, Bowman was forced to part ways with minor leaguers Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen. Both of which had played in a fair amount of games with the Blackhawks over the last 2 years or so, but neither really stood out when with the NHL club. Jimmy Hayes, who is 6′ 6″, was never really able to figure out how to use his size to his advantage when here with the Hawks. That, coupled with the fact that he is a weak skater, led to his departure. As for Olsen, He played in 28 games with the Hawks back in the ’11-’12 season. During that time, he played just alright, and never proved that he belonged in the NHL. Following the end of the 2012 season, he was demoted back to Rockford and has been there since.
While the Blackhawks did give up 2 prospects that the organization had been high on until recently, many, myself included, believe that the Blackhawks got the better of this deal. Versteeg is a dynamic forward with high-end skill who can play in many different situations throughout the game. Also, Florida is eating half of Versteeg’s remaining contract. Currently, he is earning $4.4 million per year, but the Panthers have agreed to take on half of that amount for the remainder of his contract. That leaves the Hawks with just a $2.2 million cap hit per year on Versteeg.
Versteeg will be making his second Blackhawks debut tonight when the Hawks take on the Predators in Nashville. Many had speculated and Joel Quenneville confirmed this yesterday that Versteeg will play on the third line with Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell. That’s where he spent the majority of his time when he was last with the Blackhawks, except his line-mates then were Ladd and Bolland. By adding Kris Versteeg to this third line with Shaw and Bickell, he brings a lot of skill that that line has been lacking. While the line of Bickell, Shaw, and Morin/Smith/Brookbank hasn’t been bad, they have lacked a consistent threat to score. Add Versteeg to that line in place of Morin/Smith/Brookbank, and you immediately have an upgraded line offensively.
Defensively, Kris Versteeg is underrated. In his previous time with the Hawks, he saw a lot of time on the PK unit, and one would have to believe that will be the case again this time around. The Blackhawks have really struggled on the penalty kill this season, so Versteeg is a welcomed sight in that aspect of the game.
The biggest positive about Versteeg coming back to the Hawks is the depth that he adds to this team. Like I said before, the third line hasn’t been bad for the Hawks, but it hasn’t been great. Now, that line is a serious threat, which means that the Blackhawks can roll out at least three dangerous lines against their opponents. Depth was their key to success last year, and they are now well on their way to replicating that same success this year. There will probably be a bit of an adjustment period here for Versteeg seeing as how he’ll have to get acclimated to playing with Shaw and Bickell, but that shouldn’t be much of a problem. He is already familiar with most of the Hawks’ current system of play.
After watching Versteeg’s interview after practice on Friday, it is clear that he is more than happy to be back where his career began. He’s got great relationships with the guys who were on the 2010 team, and he already knows this city very well. His presence in the locker room should only help strengthen what is already one of the closest, most tight-knit teams in the league.
Versteeg and the Hawks play tonight at 7 CT in Nashville. He’ll be wearing number 23.
To be honest, I can’t find a single negative in this trade, and that’s a rarity. Good work Stan.
Here’s one of Versteeg’s top moments as a Hawk: