With the trade deadline now just weeks away, we’re going to start taking a closer look at each team. Where do they stand, what do they need to do, and what assets do they have to fill those needs?
The most recent dynasty in the NHL is looking win its fourth Stanley Cup in eight seasons. The Chicago Blackhawks have a highly skilled and expensive core surrounded by young players, and will be looking for inexpensive additions for a playoff run. They won’t be able to take on any players with a significant salary unless an equal contract is headed the other way.
32-17-5, 2nd in the Central Division
Deadline Cap Space
Current cap space: $1.123MM
Deadline cap space: $1.769MM
43/50 contracts, via CapFriendly
2017: CHI 1st, CHI 2nd, CHI 3rd, CHI 4th, CHI 5th, STL 5th, CAR 5th, CHI 6th, NYI 6th, CHI 7th
2018: CHI 1st, CHI 3rd, CHI 4th, CHI 5th, CHI 6th, CHI 7th
The Blackhawks have not made a first-round pick since 2014, having traded the previous two picks in deadline deals for Antoine Vermette and Andrew Ladd, so there isn’t an obvious top prospect outside the NHL that they could move. They did snag Alex DeBrincat in the second round last year, but he has 44 goals and 92 points in just 45 games. They won’t be likely to move him unless it’s for a cost-controlled young forward, but teams aren’t looking to move those types of players.
They do have 10 picks in the upcoming draft, but don’t expect them to move high picks for rentals. The 2017 NHL Draft will be held in Chicago, and GM Stan Bowman is on record as saying he’s “probably going to try to hang on to those [high] picks.”
Players To Watch
1) Top Line Left Winger – Of all the players that the Blackhawks have been forced to move for salary cap concerns, trading Brandon Saad to Columbus in June 2015 has likely been the toughest loss. Saad was coming off a 52-point season playing on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Since then, Chicago has relied on the line of Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin, and Artem Anisimov to run the offence. Toews is still an elite center in the NHL, but needs a younger offensive player to play alongside him. Bowman has been unable to find a replacement for Saad, and if he’s able to find someone to play alongside Toews then the Blackhawks would immediately become a favourite. Unfortunately, the team’s cap situation means this sort of acquisition is unlikely unless a significant salary is heading the other way. As an interim measure, players like Thomas Vanek or former Blackhawk Patrick Sharp could be decent acquisitions.
2) Bottom-Six Help — The Blackhawks bottom-six was absolutely dominant in their recent Cup victories, with players like Bryan Bickell, Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik, Ladd, Andrew Shaw, Sharp, Teuvo Teravainen, and Vermette all making big contributions to the championships. While Marcus Kruger and Andrew Desjardins are reliable options, the Blackhawks have mostly rookies in the bottom-half of their roster. Chicago Sun-Times writer Mark Lazerus writes that the improving the Blackhawks bottom-six could be the key to another deep playoff run; those deep Cup-winning rosters were much deeper than the 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2016 editions. Last year’s acquisition, Dale Weise, did not work out as the Blackhawks lost in round one to the Blues. Players like Radim Vrbata or Patrick Eaves could be solid targets to add bottom-six scoring and veteran presence.