The Chicago Blackhawks roster still boasts many of the key contributors who have led the team to three Stanley Cup championships since 2010. And as long as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford are healthy, the Hawks will be on the short list of Western Conference contenders even as the front office constantly juggles the rest of the roster to augment that core while remaining compliant with the salary cap.
That doesn’t mean the Blackhawks aren’t in need of reinforcements as the March 1st trade deadline approaches, however. Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun Times argues Chicago desperately needs a top left wing in order to help pull Toews out of his season long scoring slump. For his career, Toews has averaged 0.86 points/game but so far this season he is nearly three-tenths-of-a-point behind that rate. Lazerus believes that the acquisition of a proven top-six winger would allow Vinnie Hinostroza to slot into the team’s bottom-six, further bolstering that group. In conjunction with the expected return of Marcus Kruger, the Blackhawks would be able to ice four solid and balanced lines in this scenario.
Lazerus lists Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, who have both been frequently mentioned in trade rumors of late, as two potential options. Though given the team’s current salary cap situation – $65.7MM in commitments to just 14 players – it’s far more likely that Chicago will stick to shopping in the rental bin as opposed to adding a player with term remaining beyond this season.
James van Riemsdyk was also listed by Lazerus as a possibility though Toronto would likely hold onto the winger as long as they remain in the hunt for a playoff spot. He also has one more year remaining on his deal, representing an additional sticking point in this scenario. Jarome Iginla is undoubtedly available but at 39 and with just five goals through 41 games this season, Chicago would probably exhaust other alternatives before pivoting in this direction.
If Dallas decides to sell at the deadline, former Blackhawk Patrick Sharp could represent an interesting option, though that is just my speculation. Sharp has missed time this season on two separate occasions with concussions and has just two goals on the season but tallied 20 last year for the Stars. He’s in the final year of his contract with a cap hit of $5.9MM and given Chicago will only have roughly $3.3MM of available space at the deadline, the Stars will either have to retain salary or take back a contract to facilitate a trade.
Elsewhere in the Central Division:
- The Colorado Avalanche, in the midst of a second straight dismal season, appear to be on the verge of a major shakeup, whether that occurs at the trade deadline or during the summer. Multiple high-profile players could be shipped elsewhere as management attempts to fix what ails the roster. The Denver Post’s Terry Frei compiled a comprehensive listing of the moves the team has made since Joe Sakic took over as the organization’s top decision-maker and the results are as you would expect given the current state of the team. Like many teams, the Avalanche have blundered when it comes to the term offered to unrestricted free agents. Among the players acquired either as a free agent or via trade and then subsequently extended were Brad Stuart, Jarome Iginla, Francois Beachemin, and Carl Soderberg. All were at least 30 when added to the Avalanche roster and only Soderberg was younger than 34. Needless to say, those deals haven’t worked out as the team had anticipated.
- A late free agent addition that has panned out far better than expected was the Dallas Stars October signing of forward Lauri Korpikoski, as Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News writes. The Finnish forward had been bought out of the final year of his deal with Edmonton and was later released from his PTO with Calgary. In need of forward depth following the loss of Ales Hemsky and Mattias Janmark, the team inked Korpikoski to a one-year, $1M deal. While he hasn’t exactly lit up the score sheet, the nine-year veteran has contributed six goals and 15 points in 43 games. That’s solid production for a bottom-six winger and a relative bargain given the minimal investment the Stars undertook. Additionally, Stars head coach Lindy Ruff appreciates Korpikoski’s all-around game, saying: “He’s a solid contributor who is good on both sides of the puck. You’ve got a guy who is pretty diligent and plays the game the right way.” With five of his fellow forwards also set to hit unrestricted free agency this summer, it’s at least possible Dallas considers an extension with Korpikoski.