Thursday evening the Blackhawks and Jets executed a rather sizable trade that will send Marko Dano, the Hawks’ 2016 first round pick, and a conditional 2018 draft pick to Winnipeg in exchange for Andrew Ladd, Matt Fraser, and Jay Harrison. The trade comes after days, even weeks, of speculation that the Hawks were looking to acquire Ladd. Needless to say, Stan Bowman hit a home run here.
Arguably the biggest need for the Hawks coming into this year’s trade deadline (February 29th) was that of a left-winger who can play on the first line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Andrew Ladd was the most notable left-winger on the trade block who also happened to have won a Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010 and is very familiar with the team and the system in place. All the stars had aligned in this instance, and the trade seemed somewhat inevitable from day one. It was simply a perfect fit for the Blackhawks.
Before we get into what Ladd brings to the Hawks, we need to mention what Stan Bowman gave up to get his man, as well as what else Blackhawks got along with Ladd.
Marko Dano was actually the main piece that came back to the Blackhawks in the Brandon Saad trade last summer. He’s a former first round draft pick with a high ceiling, and only has a few games of NHL experience under his belt. Dano’s future looks promising, and the Jets weren’t going to trade away their captain without getting someone like Dano in return. It’s a deal that could definitely pay-off for Winnipeg a few years down the road.
Also going to the Jets is the Hawks’ first round pick in this year’s upcoming draft, as well as a conditional 2018 draft pick that will be determined by how the Blackhawks finish their playoff run.
Now, coming with Ladd to Chicago are forward Matt Fraser and defenseman Jay Harrison. Both will report to the Rockford Icehogs, and it is doubtful either will play a game with the Hawks this year. At best, Harrison just gives the Blackhawks one more defensive option in their system in case of injury to an NHL d-man. You can never have enough defensemen while entering the playoffs.
Okay, back to Ladd. Anyone who has watched the Hawks since at least the 2009-10 season knows what kind of player Andrew Ladd is. He’s a leader, he’s physcial, he can play on the penalty kill, and he has some offensive skill. Placing him on a line with Toews and Hossa should, in theory, boost his offensive stats.
When Brandon Saad was still with the Hawks and playing left-wing alongside Toews and Hossa, he was usually the first of the three in on the forecheck in the offensive zone. Saad was, and still is, fast and strong along the boards. He’s also got some size. When Saad was dealt to Columbus, those attributes left with him and Joel Quenneville has been trying to find a replacement ever since. Not having a guy like Saad on the first line forced Toews and Hossa to alter their styles just a bit due to the fact that they no longer had a left-wing who was as good on the forecheck as Saad. And with the exception of the last month or so, it has been a revolving door on the left side of the Hawks’ first line.
Enter Ladd. Ladd can bring what Saad brought in terms of board play and forechecking. He’s a guy that won’t hesitate to go to the rough areas and out-muscle opposing players. Winning board battles and gaining possession of 50/50 pucks is an overlooked part of the game, and also a very important one. Ladd’s ability to do such things should lead to more puck possession and hopefully better offensive production from the first line.
What bringing Andrew Ladd in also does is it allows Quenneville to move Andrew Shaw back down to the third or fourth line where he is much more effective. Shaw now moving to the bottom six gives the Hawks much more depth, which is absolutely crucial come playoff time. Here’s how the lines may look when Hossa is healthy:
Keep in mind that Marcus Kruger should be back for the playoffs, and he would go right back to centering the fourth line. That move in itself will big when the time comes as Kruger is incredibly important to this team due to his effectiveness on the penalty kill and his chemistry with Desjardins.
So, as you can see, Ladd brings more to the team than just a new left-winger to play on the first line. He allows guys like Shaw to move into a better role while adding depth at the same time.
Another area of need for the Blackhawks right now is defense. This was discussed in my my last article here. One name that continues to come up in this regard is Dan Hamhuis of the Vancouver Canucks. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and with the Canucks all but surely missing the postseason this year, he’s a prime trade candidate. The Blackhawks could desperately use another top four defenseman, and Hamhuis would fill that roll quite nicely.
An interesting note to mention here is that this morning the Blackhawks placed Jiri Sekac on waivers. It is entirely possible that this move was made to make room for Marian Hossa when he returns, and it’s also very possible that it is a corresponding move after acquiring Ladd without trading a player from the NHL roster. However, it could also be that Bowman is gearing up for another trade sometime soon.
One scenario that has my interest only because it has already been mentioned is this:
The Blackhawks find a way to trade Bryan Bickell and some or all of his contract, opening up somewhere between hopefully $2.5 and $4 million in cap space depending on how much, if any, of Bickell’s contract the Hawks retain. If, and that’s a big “if”, Stan Bowman can pull off such a trade, that would open up some more trade possibilities for the Blackhawks. One of which that sounds very intriguing is a situation in which the Hawks acquire Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata from the Canucks. Like Hamhuis, Vrbata is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, but he also carries a heftier contact ($5 million).
Realistically, that trade is unlikely to take place. But if it somehow did, it would provide the Blackhawks with incredible forward depth and an upgrade on the blue line. Just something to think about…
To recap everything above, Ladd coming to Hawks is huge and gives them some much needed depth, but the job isn’t done yet. If Stan Bowman can figure out a way to get a guy like Hamhuis to add to a thin defensive unit, the Hawks would be even better off heading into the playoffs. Hopefully he can pull that trade off between now and Monday afternoon.