Blackhawks gearing up for a trade?

174Tuesday afternoon, the Blackhawks placed aging defenseman Rob Scuderi on waivers with the intention of sending him down to Rockford of the AHL. The move cleared roughly $950,000 from the Blackhawks’ salary cap, which is quite important as we near the NHL’s trade deadline.

Many view this move as a precursor to another move that Stan Bowman may have in the works, and by that I mean a trade. As we’ve discussed on here a couple of times already, the Blackhawks would really like to add a left winger who can play on the team’s first line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. They would also like to, if possible, add a top four defenseman to the roster. None of that can happen without first opening up some cap space.

Byan Bickell and his $4 million cap hit were demoted to Rockford a while back, saving the Hawks $950,000 in cap space. Add in Scuderi, and that’s over $1.5 million that has already been cleared from the team’s salary cap. According to capfriendly.com, the Hawks should have about $3.4 million in cap space on February 29th, the day of the trade deadline.

Something else to watch out for is the possibility of the Blackhawks placing Marcus Kruger on long term injured reserve (LTIR). Kruger inured his wrist back in early December and had to have surgery to repair the injury. He was expected to miss four months at the time of the surgery, and it looks like he is still looking at the same timeline.

If the Hawks feel Kruger will be out until April, which is possible, they may elect to place him on LTIR. This would essentially remove his cap hit from the team’s salary cap (just like they did with Kane last year around this time), opening up another $1.5 million. If that happens, the Hawks would then have approximately $4.9 million in cap space that they could then turn around and use on a player, or players, in a trade.

While no one wants to see Kruger remain out of the lineup, this is probably the smartest thing that the Hawks could do right now assuming Kruger is back and healthy for the playoffs. Placing him on LTIR would greatly improve the team’s ability to land a top left winger and/or defenseman at the trade deadline.

I won’t get into too much detail again about specific names the Blackhawks may/should target (you can read that [here]), but guys like Andrew Ladd, Mikkel Boedker, and a couple others are likely going to be shopped by their current teams, and the Hawks would be wise to inquire about them.

We’re just twelve days away from February 29th, but that doesn’t mean nothing will happen between now and then. All eyes are on Stan Bowman.

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Trade possibility for the Blackhawks?

Mikkel BoedkerThe Blackhawks are a good team. They are not great and nor are they bad, but just good. Unfortunately for them being good is not enough to accomplish much in today’s NHL. To do something like win the conference or win the Stanley Cup, you need to be an elite team, which is nothing the Blackhawks are unfamiliar with. The tough part for them is that they are so tight against the salary cap due to big contracts for players like Kane and Toews that it is nearly impossible to be elite year after year. The cap will not allow it.

Without question one of the single biggest reasons why the Blackhawks have won three of the last six Stanley Cups is because of the depth that they had on those three rosters. Look no further than last year’s team.

Their third line for much of the postseason, including the Stanley Cup Final, was Sharp-Vermette-Teravainen. That would be a lot of teams’ first or second line. The Hawks’ fourth line for last year’s Cup run was Shaw-Kruger-Desjardins, and while that may not seem great on paper, those three created incredible chemistry and played a huge role in winning the Cup. My point being, if you cannot role four effective lines in today’s NHL, you will not win much.

Today’s Blackhawks cannot effectively role four lines, or at least not consistently, thanks to the league salary cap. And truthfully, this is nothing we should not have expected after the roster changes that needed to be made over the summer. However, there may be a sliver of hope developing that the Hawks can upgrade their roster between now and the trade deadline in late February.

Marcus Kruger was recently placed in Injured Reserve for a wrist injury. David Rundblad was just placed on waivers and is off the NHL roster. That gives the Hawks about $1 million in cap space as of right now. If they were to hypothetically send someone like Rob Scuderi down to Rockford in the future, they would then have right around $3 million in salary cap space. That kind leeway with the salary cap can be extremely valuable come the trade deadline, much like we saw last year when the Hawks acquired Vermette, Timonen, and Desjardins after Kane went on LTIR.

Now I’m not saying that Stan Bowman and the front office will for sure make a trade, but it is definitely possible. If the Hawks were to put Kruger on LTIR, making him done for the regular season, they could replicate what they did last year with the Kane injury situation and trade for a player or two, maximize their cap, and have Kruger return for the playoffs without his cap hit having an affect on the team cap heading into the postseason. It worked perfectly last year with Vermette and company, and if they Hawks can pull it off again this year, it may put them back into Cup contention.

So let’s say that everything I said regarding Kruger going on LTIR, Scuderi being sent to Rockford, and so on does happen. Who might the Hawks target via trades?

One name that I am seeing tossed around on Twitter and various other locations is Mikkel Boedker of the Coyotes. Boedker’s cap hit is $3.75 million this year, and he becomes a free agent in the summer. The sniper leads the Coyotes with 29 points so far this season, is fast, and plays left wing. What is one of the Blackhawks’ biggest problems right now? Finding a first line left winger to play alongside Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.

As it stands at the moment, Andrew Shaw is the one filling that role on the top line with Toews and Hossa. Shaw is by no means a first line player and instead belongs on the fourth line like he was during last year’s playoffs. Acquiring Boedker would create an absolutely lethal top line, and it would allow Quenneville to place Shaw on the correct line, whether that is the third or fourth. That right there adds some valuable depth to the Hawks’ group of forwards.

Getting Boedker would require a valuable asset going the other way, and maybe even a player from the NHL roster, but it would be worth it. You also have to consider that Arizona currently sits second in the Pacific division, and they may be unwilling to trade away their top point producer while occupying a playoff position.

Acquiring Boedker alone would not solve the Hawks, however. They could still use another defenseman and maybe even another third line center or wing. Actually being able to pull that off will not be easy and likely would not happen, but it is something I am sure Bowman will look into.

Keep in mind this is all an idea at the moment based off of some rumors and conversations I have read online. At the same time though, it is realistic to think a deal like the one for Boedker could take place due to the Hawks’ ability to open up cap space with roster moves.

Seeing as how Kruger was placed on IR and Rundblad was waived all within the past 24 hours, we may (or may not) see a trade take place sooner than later.

Blackhawks lack the forward depth to be a legitimate threat

20131211_151215The Blackhawks are showing us that their top two lines have the potential to be absolutely deadly this year, and possibly for years to come. That second line of Panarin, Anisimov, and Kane has been shredding opposing defenses as of late, while the top line of Toews, Hossa, and whoever occupies the “lottery” spot on the left wing always possesses the ability to do the same. It’s the bottom two forward lines that need some help.

Sunday night’s game against the Flames saw Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger, and Teuvo Teravainen as the Hawks’ so-called “third line,” while Brandon Mashinter, Tanner Kero, and Ryan Garbutt made up the fourth line. Here’s the problem with that, if you couldn’t already figure it out on your own.

That fourth line is not good. None of those three players own any true play-making skills, with the exception of Kero who has only played in a handful of NHL games. In reality, Shaw and Kruger belong on the fourth line like they were during last year’s Stanley Cup run. Guys like Mashinter don’t really offer much in today’s NHL where skill has become far more important than physicality. And the Blackhawks know this, but can’t do much about it at the moment due to the salary cap.

Ideally, the Hawks would like Teuvo Teravainen to be the team’s third line center. They’ve tried him out there on occasion, but continue moving him back out of that role. Part of the reason for that is the fact that this roster does not have enough skilled forward depth to allow Teravainen to be successful as a bottom six center. As proven during last year’s playoffs and while he was in the top six this year, Teravainen is a guy who, whether at center or wing, needs to be on a line with skilled, play-making linemates in order to be successful. While the line of Shaw, Kruger, and Teuvo has actually been good the last two games, it’s not a permanent thing.

If you look at the three Blackhawks teams that have won the Cup over the past six years, each one has had four lines that present a legitimate threat to score. The only reason the 2014 team didn’t advance to the Cup Final is because they only had three lines that could produce. That is where this current team is headed. Until they can add a skilled guy to their bottom six, this Blackhawks team cannot win another championship. Unfortunately, the only thing preventing that from happening is the salary cap. Once that hypothetically happens, it will allow Quenneville to put his guys at their correct spots in the lineup.

There’s no question that this Hawks team has elite talent as usual. With Keith and Rozsival now back and healthy, their defense is slowly looking less and less concerning, and the goaltending doesn’t figure to be a problem either. It’s the forward depth that is holding the Hawks back from being a true Stanley Cup threat at the moment. Maybe Bowman works his magic this season and pulls off a trade to fix this problem. Maybe he doesn’t. Until he does find an upgrade for the bottom six though, expect this team to remain top-heavy.

Quick hits on the Blackhawks

10-171460575-smallIt’s been a relatively slow past couple of months for the Blackhawks, who seem to be waiting as long as possible before making some final contract and roster decisions. In the meantime, they’ve been waiting for any new details in the whole Patrick Kane case. With training camp being right around the corner, here’s what to look for in the coming weeks.

  • First of all, let’s just get this one out of the way. Patrick Kane’s alleged sexual assault case was set to be heard before a grand jury yesterday, only to have it postponed out of nowhere at the last second. This has led some to believe that Kane and the accuser could be working out a settlement, though nothing has been confirmed. The Blackhawks are surely keeping close tabs on this situation as it significantly affects how they construct their roster heading into this season. As it stands right now, it would be a safe bet to assume that unless the Kane accuser drops this case, he could be missing some games to begin the season. The number is anybody’s guess. That could be determined by A) how this situation unfolds between him and the accuser, and B) how the NHL and NHLPA decide to respond to whatever ends up happening with Kane. In addition, it’s not out of the question that the Blackhawks could decide to enforce their own punishment on Kane depending how the case plays out. Rumors have already begun flying that the Hawks could look to trade Kane regardless of what happens with the allegations. The best way to approach this situation as a fan is simply by letting it play out. Let the sexual assault case play itself out before anything else.
  • Marcus Kruger is still without a new contract. The Hawks seem to be waiting on something before extending Kruger an official contract offer. There’s no question that the Hawks want to keep Kruger on the team for the foreseeable future and are waiting for the right time to make him an offer, but at the same time, they don’t want to let this thing play out for too long.
  • Bryan Bickell and/or Kris Versteeg could get traded quite soon. With training camp knocking on the door, the Hawks will want their roster to be virtually finalized before heading to South Bend. Going back to the Kruger situation, it could very well be that the Hawks are waiting to trade either Bickell and/or Versteeg before making Kruger an offer. Freeing up some cap space would make things a lot easier on the Hawks when offering contracts.
  • If the Hawks can trade one or both of the previously mentioned trade candidates, we might see them not only re-sign Kruger, but also sign a veteran defenseman who could either play on the third d-pairing, or at least offer some competition for guys like TVR, Rundblad, and Svedberg.

The Patrick Kane stuff is what has been and will continue to dominate the Blackhawks’ headlines, but that doesn’t mean other important stuff won’t be happening.

One question I think we all have is if Kane is suspended for a significant amount of time (and the possible terms of any suspension are completely unknown right now), would that have an effect on the Hawks’ salary cap situation? I’ve heard multiple answers to this question, some of which from professional hockey writers and analysts. No one seems to have a definitive answer, which makes the whole situation that much more difficult.

For now though, keep an eye on Stan Bowman. A trade or two could be on the horizon.

Epic win for the Blackhawks in Game 2

10-171460575-smallIt ended up being the longest game in Chicago Blackhawks franchise history, and it will no doubt go down as one of the most memorable. Game 2 of the Western Conference Final between the Ducks and Blackhawks started at roughly 8:20pm Central time on Tuesday, lasted nearly six whole periods, and finally ended around 1:15am Wednesday thanks to Marcus Kruger. A game that extends to a third overtime and finishes the day after it began would normally exhaust its viewers, with many of them opting to go to sleep instead. Not this game, however. From start to finish, Game 2 featured non-stop action and heart-stopping moments making it basically impossible to turn away from.

After getting two quick powerplay goals to begin the first period, the Blackhawks saw their 2-0 lead evaporate by the end of the second frame. From the time that Marian Hossa knocked home the Hawks’ second goal all the way to the end of the second period, Anaheim pretty much dominated the game. They were hitting anything that moved wearing a white sweater and continuously pinned the Blackhawks in their defensive zone for long stretches. Fortunately, the Hawks got out of the first 40 minutes tied.

The third period was a bit slower in pace with each team seemingly playing a more conservative game. Chances were had by each side, but both Frederik Andersen and Corey Crawford answered all shots directed their way. Overtime would ensue.

In the three overtimes that were played, both the Ducks and Blackhawks created numerous incredible scoring chances. Anaheim hit the post three, maybe even four times. The Hawks had a good three point-blank shots on goal. Each side was dealt a powerplay, but almost nothing was getting by the goalies.

I say almost because the Blackhawks had a goal taken away from them during their powerplay in the second overtime period. After a shot from Patrick Kane deflected up high into the air off the shoulder of Andersen, Andrew Shaw proceeded to jump and headbutt the puck into the net. It was one of the most incredible things you will ever see in a hockey game, simply because it never happens. The Blackhawks players spilled off the bench and mobbed Shaw thinking that they had won the game, only to have the goal reviewed and overturned. By rule, intentionally hitting the puck into the net with anything other than your stick shall result in the goal being disallowed. Having said that, not many people including current and ex-players were fully aware that a “headbutt goal” is illegal.

From there, the Ducks killed off the remainder of the Hawks’ powerplay and the game headed to a third overtime.

10-171460575-smallIn the third OT, both teams traded more chances only to be denied by the two netminders. Then finally, with 3:48 left on the clock, a point shot from Brent Seabrook hit Marcus Kruger to the right of Frederik Andersen, the puck dropped to the ice, and Kruger tapped it home for the game winner. Roughly five hours after the opening puck drop, the game was over.

Due to the endless scoring chances and near-death moments for each team, this game was as exciting as they get and will go down in history as one of the greats.

So with that, here’s what us Hawks fans should take away from this epic Game 2:

  • Corey Crawford was phenomenal. He had a couple of sequences in the overtime periods of two or three consecutive Grade A saves. In total, he stopped 60 of the 62 Anaheim shots. Those 60 saves are his new career high. Maybe no save was bigger or better than his glove save on Corey Perry with about eight minutes left in the second overtime. It won’t, but his Game 2 performance coupled with the way he played against Minnesota should silence any of his doubters. If he keeps this up, he and the Hawks will be a tough out.
  • The Blackhawks top four defensemen all logged at least 46 minutes of ice time through the three overtimes, with Keith playing the most (49:51). To compare, Francois Beauchemin recorded the most minutes for the Ducks at 46:29. Analysts are already trying to make a huge deal out of this by saying that there’s no way the Hawks can survive with their top four d-men being asked to play so much each night while the bottom two defensemen receive much less time. While that may be true to a certain extent, if you look at the total minutes that the Blackhawks have played this postseason and then compare the total minutes played by their top four d-men, their average playing times are really not that abnormal. Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson, and Oduya have been playing great, and they need that to continue.
  • The bottom two lines for each team in this series have been great. All the talk has been about Anaheim’s third and fourth lines, but the Blackhawks’ bottom two lines have been just as good. The third line of Sharp, Vermette, and Teravainen was outstanding in Game 2 and generated the best scoring chances of any of the Hawks’ lines. That line also saw a lot of the Ryan Getzlaf/Corey Perry line and did a great job of keeping them in check. The fourth line of Desjardins, Kruger, and Shaw has arguably been the Blackhawks’ best line through these first two games and netted the overtime goal to take Game 2. Heading home, Joel Quenneville will now be able to decide which line plays against which of the Ducks, and this should only lead to added success for the Hawks’ forwards.
  • Patrick Kane needs to be put into a position where he can be more dangerous. Being on a line with Bryan Bickell is not working for him. As the guys at The Committed Indian pointed out, it looks like Bickell could be hurt and is therefore not as effective while along the boards. Kane needs a guy on his line who can win board battles, maintain puck possession in the offensive end, and ultimately get him the puck. Switching Saad and Bickell may do the trick as Toews and Hossa could compensate for whatever Bickell is unable to do. The same can’t be said of Kane and Richards. Bottom line here is that Kane needs to be more involved offensively than he has been in either of the first two games of this series.
  • Going along similar lines, the Blackhawks could use more production from the top line of Saad, Toews, and Hossa. With the series shifting to Chicago, Quenneville can now opt to get that line away from Ryan Kesler’s line which may lead to more offensive production. Having the last change at home is big, and even bigger when discussing a Joel Quenneville team.
  • Lastly, the Blackhawks’ special teams showed up big time in Game 2. Their first two goals came via the poweplay, and their penalty kill was 5/5, including a big kill in overtime. Having said that, the Hawks did have an extended five on three in the third period and a five on four in overtime, but failed to score either time. Nonetheless, getting two powerplay goals and a perfect penalty kill is a welcomed sight for the Blackhawks. If they are starting to get the PK figured out again, that should only increase their chances of success moving forward.

Taking the series back to Chicago tied 1-1 rather than down 2-0 is HUGE for the Blackhawks. They have played great hockey at home this postseason and are fully capable of winning the next two games. That being said, they are still going to be required to play some of their best hockey of the year if they want to beat the Ducks. Winning these next two won’t be easy, but it’s doable.

Game 3 is Thursday night at 7:00pm Central time. A win would be huge for the Hawks, and that’s just what I expect.