Blackhawks send Daley to Pittsburgh, acquire Scuderi

130107_gq_trout_aMonday night the Blackhawks traded Trevor Daley to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for fellow defenseman Rob Scuderi. Daley was acquired by the Hawks over the summer in the Patrick Sharp trade that sent him and Stephen Johns to Dallas. The hope was that Daley, an offensive defenseman, would be able to adapt to the Hawks’ defense-first style, but still be effective in the puck moving, fast-paced game that the Blackhawks like to play. Unfortunately for both sides, this was never a good fit.

Keep in mind that prior to joining the Blackhawks, Daley had spent his entire ten year career with the Stars and in a system that never put much emphasis on being a defensive d-man. He was used to being offensive-minded, and asking him to change his ways on a dime after years of playing one specific style proved to be too big of a challenge.

As anyone knows who follows the Blackhawks closely, Joel Quenneville does not tolerate players who are a liability on the defensive end. Hence the reason why he has been relatively reluctant to play rookies big minutes over the years. In the case of Trevor Daley, he was one of the weaker defensemen on the roster and simply was not gelling well with the Blackhawks’ style of play. In other words, a nightmare scenario for Daley, thus the reason for his trade.

What is confusing about all of this, however, is the fact that the Blackhawks knew what they were getting when they traded for Daley. They knew he was an offense-first kind of player who had never played in a system like the one Quenneville runs here in Chicago, yet they still brought him in via the Sharp trade. Maybe the hope was that he could learn the Blackhawks’ style while still incorporating his offensive instincts when appropriate. Whatever the case was, it did not work out as planned.

In return for Daley, Stan Bowman got Rob Scuderi from the Penguins. Scuderi is almost 37 years old and has spent most of his career with the Penguins. He won the 2009 Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh and the 2012 Cup with Los Angeles before returning to the Penguins for the 2013-14 season.

To make this simple, we will just say that Scuderi is not good. He seemed almost like an untradeable player until Monday night because of the fact that no one would seemingly want him. He is slow, he’s not a puck-moving defenseman, and he is one of the worst defensemen in the league in terms of puck possession. He has always been more of a defense-first player, which is good for the Hawks, but that only means something if you can actually execute that style of play in an effective manner.

So why then did the Hawks get him in return for Daley? Well, likely because the Penguins agreed to hang onto one-third of Scuderi’s salary. Because of that, the Blackhawks are opening up about $1 million in cap space, which may not seem like a lot, but actually can be when needing to make a transaction later in the season.

Scuderi still has one year left on his contract, and it would be flat out wrong for the Hawks keep him in their plans for a whole new season after this one. What they choose to do with him both now and next year remains to be seen. In terms of the right here and now, they may plug him into the third d-pairing with Michal Rozsival and let him play there until they feel one of the young guns like Gustafsson, Pokka, or Svedberg can handle a full-time defensive role at the NHL level. If a guy like Gustafsson can develop a bit more in Rockford and proceed to return to the NHL during the second half of the season, in time for the playoffs, that would be the ideal scenario for the Hawks. They could then waive Scuderi and place him in the AHL.

It is also not out of the question that Bowman could take advantage of the extra cap space cleared in this trade and try to acquire another defenseman at the trade deadline.

One thing is for certain here, and that’s that no one should expect much of anything from Rob Scuderi other than a good locker room and veteran presence. The Hawks actually got a bit worse on Monday, and hopefully it won’t last too long.

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.

Blackhawks trade two, re-sign Kruger

10-171460575-smallOn Friday, the Blackhawks sent forwards Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a pair of young defensemen and a future draft pick. The move was made purely to free up enough cap space to re-sign Marcus Kruger before training camp begins on September 18th. Literally moments after it was announced that the Hawks had made this trade, it was also announced that they had in fact given Kruger a new one-year contract worth about $1.5 million, which is a huge bargain for the Blackhawks. As it stands right now, the Hawks sit roughly $900,000 below the league salary cap.

Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday that the Hawks pulled off that late-night trade with the Florida Panthers to bring Steeger back to Chicago? Now he’s already on his was to a new team after winning another Cup with the Hawks. While it somewhat hurts to see him go (simply because of his personality and off-ice likability), it is a move that had to be made. The Hawks needed to dump some salary to make sure that they would not lose a guy like Marcus Kruger. My belief is that Nordstrom was thrown into the deal to eliminate a bit more salary from the budget, but to also get Carolina to take Kris Versteeg who struggled mightily most of last season.

As for Kruger’s new contract, I’m seeing this as a classic “bridge” deal. What that means is that they signed him for an amount that would benefit the team this year given their cap constraints, and will likely sign him to a much more deserving and accurate contract next offseason. Kruger is without a doubt worth more than $1.5 million for one year and probably could have easily gotten a much larger contract had he decided to look elsewhere. That he took this deal to stay with the Hawks says a lot about his desire to stay in Chicago and help the team win on and off the ice. If you didn’t like the guy before for whatever reason, it’s hard not to now.

I believe that the Hawks are likely still doing what they can to try and move Bryan Bickell, which would free up another $4 million from their salary cap, however I think trading him is unlikely. As was the case with Versteeg, any team is going to want something or someone along with Bickell. Trading him straight up for anything will be difficult for Bowman to pull off simply because of Bickell’s contract, and I doubt he wants to lose even more assets from the NHL and/or AHL roster via a trade. At the same time, it would make a ton of sense for Bowman to sign or acquire a veteran d-man to avoid having to rely solely upon the likes of David Rundblad and Trevor van Riemsdyk on the Hawks’ third defensive pairing. If he can do so and spend less than $900,000 in the process, great. Otherwise Bowman will have to find a way to shed more salary from the NHL roster, which brings us back to Bickell in what becomes a repetitive sequence.

In fact, today it was reported that the Hawks will be bringing 37-year old defenseman Jan Hejda to training camp on a “tryout” basis. His four-year, $13 million contract with the Avalanche expired at the end of last season, so he is looking for a new home. And in all honesty, he’s not a bad option to at least consider. He’s been a rather reliable defensive defenseman throughout his career, and he definitely brings that veteran presence that the bottom pair needs. If he impresses the Hawks in training camp, we may see them extend a contract offer. For now though, he’s just here on a tryout, contract-less basis.

Training camp starts at Notre Dame in less than a week, and then the season is just around the corner. Hard to believe…

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.

Blackhawks update

10-171460575-smallOver the last few days, we’ve seen the Blackhawks trade Brandon Saad, extend Artem Anisimov, re-sign David Rundblad, and sign Viktor Tikhonov. Today, they re-signed winger Andrew Desjardins to a two-year, $1.6 million deal with an AAV of $800,000. Extremely club-friendly contract to say the least, as Desjardins could have received more elsewhere, but chose to take a discount to stay in Chicago.

The focus now shifts to giving Marcus Kruger a new contract and trading either or both Bryan Bickell and Patrick Sharp.

A trade may come before we see Kruger get signed, as the Hawks are already over the salary cap without a new contract for Kruger. Trading Bickell or Sharp will open up between $4-$6 million in cap space allowing room for Kruger’s new deal, and maybe more.

As it stands on the Hawks’ blue line right now, they’ve got Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson, Rundblad, and TVR all set to return next season. They then have Stephen Johns sitting in Rockford poised to make a strong push to crack the NHL roster to begin the season. What the Hawks lack is veteran presence on the bottom four. If they can deal away Bickell or Sharp, or even both, this will allow them to try and re-sign Oduya, which would be a big bonus for Stan Bowman and the Hawks.

If Oduya is not brought back, I would fully expect the Blackhawks to try and sign a cheap veteran defensemen, or two, to help bolster the bottom end of their defensive corps.

My guess is that we’ll start to see these moves get made sometime very soon. If I’m Stan Bowman, I’m trying to trade away a big contract as soon as possible to that I can re-sign Kruger and Oduya without forcing them to wait too long for a new deal. The longer a guy like Oduya sits unsigned, the better chance of another team swooping in and grabbing him.

Keep an eye on the Hawks over the next 48 hours.

Blackhawks deal Saad to Columbus

10-171460575-smallIn a completely unexpected and stunning move, the Blackhawks have traded Brandon Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for four players and a 2016 fourth round draft pick. Stan Bowman had stated on more than one occasion leading up to this summer that his number one priority was to re-sign Saad this offseason and that he was confident he could do so. Unfortunately, it is now clear that the two sides could not come to an agreement on a contract, thus leading to the trade.

Obviously this one hurts, a lot, but let’s break it down here and really take a look at what this trade means.

First off, it is being reported that Saad was looking for a deal worth about $6.5 million per year for 6 years. If that is in fact true, then there’s no way the Blackhawks could have signed him to that deal without having to dismantle their roster. With the Hawks as tight against the salary cap as they are, two million dollars is a lot of money. If Saad was looking for four million per year, then he doesn’t get traded. This isn’t like the MLB where a team can sign players to huge deals left and right. In this case, what seems to be not a huge sum of money (two million), is in fact just that.

Secondly, with Saad reportedly looking for that type of contract and the Hawks not in a position to agree on that, they had to deal him away before he became a restricted free agent at midnight tonight. If he were still on the Hawks’ roster at 12:00am tonight, any team in the league could then contact Saad and sign him to an offer sheet, which would likely have been $6.5 million for 6 years. If that had happened, the Blackhawks would have been left with two options:

  1. Match whatever offer sheet Saad signed, thus forcing them to make possibly even more trades than we were all expecting and putting them in an unfavorable position for the near future.
  2. Don’t match the offer sheet and receive a handful of draft picks in return that may or may not pan out to be good NHL players.

Given that situation, Stan Bowman and the Hawks chose to trade Saad now before he became an RFA.

Here’s what they got in return:

  • Artem Anisimov: Anisimov (27 years old) is a solid two-way player who can be placed at center or on the wing, making him a valuable asset to the lineup. He registered 27 points (7 goals, 20 assists) last season with Columbus, but my immediate thought is that those numbers will quickly rise now that he’s in a star-studded lineup with the Hawks. His ability to play center and win faceoffs makes losing Richards and/or Vermette easier to handle.
  • Marko Dano: This guy is just 20 years old and is viewed as one of the better prospects in the game. He has some tremendous upside and could very well end up being a big player on the Hawks for many years. As a winger, he could find himself on the Hawks’ third line next year.
  • Jeremy Morin: No, that is not a misprint. Morin is back with the Hawks after being traded away to Columbus this past December. If you’ve forgotten, Morin is a hard nosed winger who isn’t afraid of battling along the boards or standing in front of the net. He has shown some good potential at the NHL level, but hasn’t been able to put it all together yet. Whether or not he starts in NHL or AHL next year remains to be seen. That’s if he doesn’t get traded again before the season starts.
  • Corey Tropp: Tropp is a 25 year old right winger who tallied just 8 points with the Blue Jackets in 61 games last year. And to be honest, that’s all I really know about him.

In addition to those four players, the Blackhawks also received a 2016 fourth round pick from Columbus.

When you look at the return for Brandon Saad in this deal, there’s reason for optimism. Artem Anisimov is without question a nice pickup and could be quite valuable for the Hawks immediately. He ensures that the Hawks will have some nice depth at center for next season, as they already have Toews, Teravainen, Kruger (assuming he gets re-signed), and Phillip Danault, who is expected to see more NHL time. This also means that we may not see Brad Richards or Vermette back. It wasn’t likely that Vermette would have been back anyway, but Richards seemed to be a real possibility. Him coming back is still not out of the question though.

Marko Dano, as I mentioned, figures to be part of the Hawks’ future for sure. He has some real goal scoring talent and is just 20 years old. When you add in the fact that they already have an incredible talent in Teuvo Teravainen, who is also just 20, the Hawks up and coming players could make them quite scary again, and soon.

Now here’s another angle.

It’s possible that the Hawks turn around and trade Morin, Tropp, or even Dano (not likely) along with Bickell or Sharp to get a bigger return. I personally can’t see Morin playing another game for Joel Quenneville, who clearly doesn’t like what Morin brings on the ice, so maybe he’s the best bet of the three to get traded again. Whether this theory holds true, who know? It’s just a theory.

What’s not a theory is that the Hawks do still have to trade Sharp and/or Bickell to open up more cap space. If they can trade both, which would be ideal, they could afford to go after some free agents that they probably couldn’t have before trading Saad. They could also seriously look at bringing back Oduya and Richards.

So while none of us are happy to see Saad go, and I’m still stunned by it, the more you look into to it, the more it appears that this was a move that needed to be made. And if Bowman can deal Sharp and Bickell, that would allow the Hawks to makes some moves to help them in the long run.

While it’s easy to be pessimistic right now, there is still a lot of reason for optimism when you look at who the Hawks just acquired and what they could still potentially do this summer.

Something needs to change for the Blackhawks

Patrick+Sharp+Colorado+Avalanche+v+Chicago+gEDAOBprw4qlToday’s loss to the Bruins at home and on national television was one of the more embarassing losses the Blackhawks have suffered in recent years. The penalty kill was bad, the powerplay was bad (the PP goal came 5 seconds into the man advantage, so I’m discounting that one), the goaltending was bad, and pretty much everything else was bad. Nothing good can be taken from this loss.

In somewhat of an odd way, maybe the only good thing that came out of this beat down by the Bruins is the fact that this loss and the way the team has played recently cannot be ignored by the Hawks’ management. There was already a ton of talk prior to today about the Blackhawks needing to trade for a defenseman, and possibly another forward as well. After today’s game, the talk is even louder, and rightfully so.

There is a glaring hole in the Hawks’ defensive corps. Michal Rozsival’s lack of defensive ability was yet again showcased today by the Bruins. It’s been a reoccuring theme throughout the year for him. The Blackhawks cannot enter the playoffs having to rely on him to give them quality minutes out of their third d-pairing, because he won’t be capable of doing so.

David Rundblad, while arguably slighty better, isn’t much different than Rozsival in terms of his defensive game. I believe we can throw out Cumiskey, as I don’t see him sticking on the roster once TVR returns.

The Blackhawks need to add another defenseman to the team, and a good one. They also need some sort of “shake up” to the lineup, because right now they are not producing on offense the way that they should be.

Now might be the time to pull the trigger on a Patrick Sharp trade. Sharp is in the midst of a bad season and isn’t contributing to the team in anyway right now. He really hasn’t done much all year. Due to his contract (see my last post for more on that) and his declining role on the team, moving him for a good defenseman might be the way to go. A “shake up” of that magnitude might be what this team needs. If they could acquire a good blue liner for Shaw instead, I’d do that. But you’re going to get more in return for Patrick Sharp most days.

Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune has reported the past couple days that the Blackhawks are interested in Flames forward Curtis Glencross and Hurricanes defenseman Andrej Sekera, who I talked about in my last write up. Both players are in the final years of their contacts, both are making less than $3 million, and both are very good at what they do. If I were Stan Bowman, I’d go for Sekera over Glencross and address the team’s defensive issues with a bang.

Whether it ends up being Sekera, Glencross, Jeff Petry, or some other name, the Blackhawks need to make a change. What they have right now is not working anymore, and probably won’t get them past the first round of the playoffs. I can’t believe I’m actually writing those words, but it’s becoming increasingly true. If they get a good d-man via a trade and Trevor van Riemsdyk returns to the lineup and plays the way he did early in the season, all of a sudden the Hawks’ defense is a lot better and much more prepared for the playoffs.

The trade deadline is 8 days away. A move needs to be made, and it’s all up to Stan Bowman to make it happen.