The NHL trade deadline is fast approaching (March 2nd). Multiple teams around the league will be looking to somehow strengthen their rosters heading into the final month and a half of the regular season, and the Blackhawks may be no different. I say “may be” because I’m not one hundred percent sure that they are aggressively looking to make a move. “Kicking the tires” on a few players is different than actually trying to acquire somebody.
As I’ve said on here before, the Hawks, if they do make a move, would probably like to add another depth defensemen to the roster. I’m not so sure that they feel comfortable enough with the group of d-men currently on the team. I know I don’t feel too confident about this defensive corps, but that’s just me.
The two biggest names in terms of defensemen that are reportedly on the block are Edmonton’s Jeff Petry and Carolina’s Andrej Sekera.
Jeff Petry (6’3″, 198 lbs) has been buried in Edmonton since making his NHL debut in 2010, and therefore most people don’t know who he is. While the Oilers have consistently been an awful defensive team in recent years, Petry is arguably their best defenseman. This year, he has 4 goals to go with 11 assists, but that’s not really why you’d trade for this guy. He is an above average defender, he’s got a 6’3″ frame, and he is a right handed shot. This would be quite a nice fit for the Blackhawks, who are struggling to get any quality ice time from a guy like Michal Rozsival or whoever the sixth d-man happens to be. Petry won’t come at a very cheap price, but he should be cheaper than Cody Franson who went to Nashville.
Andrej Sekera is more of an offensive defenseman. He finished the 2013-2014 season with 11 goals and 33 assists, and currently has 2 goals and 17 assists this year on a bad Carolina team. At 28 years old, he is a nice puck-moving defenseman and gives you a good left handed shot from the point. His 6’0″, 200 pound body isn’t the biggest, but he’s no pushover. Like Petry, but for different reasons, Sekera would be a real nice fit for the Hawks. The Blackhawks are a fast team that likes their defensemen to skate the puck up the ice and be involved in the offensive game, and that’s exactly what you get with Sekera.
Adding either one of these two defensemen, or someone comparable, to the Hawks’ lineup would instantly make them a better team. The problem is trying to afford these guys.
Right now the Hawks are about as tight against the league salary cap as you can get. Acquiring anyone would mean they’d have to lose someone’s salary off their current NHL roster. Petry has a $3,075,000 cap hit this season, with his contract expiring this summer. Sekera is making $2,750,000 this year, and his contract also expires this summer. To trade for either player, or even an unmentioned player of equal salary, the Hawks would need to trade a “bigger name” in return.
Who might that be?
Well, Patrick Sharp, Bryan Bickell, Michal Rozsival, and Andrew Shaw would all qualify (Shaw and Rozsival are making $2 million and $2.2 million respectively). One of those guys would have to be headed the other way to acquire any solid defenseman who is not on an entry level contract.
While I’m sure no one wants to hear it, Patrick Sharp may be the best option in terms of who to trade. We all know what he’s capable of offensively, but he is on the down slope of his career, he’s in the middle of a sub-par individual season (he’s now on the team’s fourth line), and he is a $5.9 million dollar cap hit. Not only would trading him allow the Hawks to fit a solid d-man into their lineup in terms of salary, but it would also open up a lot of cap space for next season when they are going to have to re-sign guys like Saad, Kruger, and maybe Oduya. And, there aren’t many teams with cap space that would say no to acquiring Patrick Sharp.
Bryan Bickell and his $4 million dollar salary would also open up some cap space for the Hawks if they were to trade him, but dealing him would be a much harder sell than Sharp. I don’t see this scenario happening.
Then there’s Andrew Shaw. It’s no secret that he is one of Joel Quenneville’s “favorites,” but trading him would free up $2 million dollars. Shaw is definitely a replaceable kind of player, especially when you have someone like Ryan Hartman now on the team who is virtually Shaw’s clone in terms of playing style, and maybe even better. Hartman’s call-up raised some questions regarding Shaw’s future with the team, and maybe the Hawks are looking to move his salary.
The bottom line here is that the Blackhawks really do need to make a trade for a quality defenseman. It’s just going to have to come at a higher price. Add in the fact that other teams know the cap situation that the Hawks are in, and they have very little leeway in terms of trying to work out a favorable deal.
If it were up to me, I’d be in favor of moving a Sharp, Bickell, or Shaw if it meant getting a Petry or Sekera in return. You might be saying “Why would you trade Sharp!?” Well, this team has a ton of firepower on their first two lines without Sharp, and when you have guys like Teravainen and McNeill down in Rockford, it is definitely possible to fill Sharp’s absence on one of the bottom two lines. The question is whether or not the management would make a trade like this now as opposed to waiting until the summer. Either way, adding a good defenseman to this team is crucial. Could you imagine if Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson, or even Oduya got hurt and the Hawks had to fill their spot with Rozsival or Rundblad? That would be a nightmare, which is why they need to make a move.