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2013-14 NHL Trade Deadline Feature: Chicago Blackhawks

Written by Taylor Giffin, who can be followed on twitter at @TOGiffin

Blackhawks-deadlineA simple question usually evokes a simple answer. How tall are you? Easy. What colour is your shirt? Even easier. However, when it comes to the Chicago Blackhawks there are no simple answers.

Any Blackhawks fan will tell you the only real need for the team come the NHL Trade Deadline on March 5 is a second line centre. That’s the simple part. Just how the organization goes about making that happen is the tough part. A simple question but not a simple answer.

You can bet, however, GM Stan Bowman is trying hard to crack the case. He would love to be able to concoct a deal that would bring a defensively capable, yet offensively gifted centreman to the Blackhawks (as every team does).

Although the team is pushed right up against the salary cap, and has very little wiggle room, Bowman has been able to work some magic twice in the trade department already this year.

Back in November, you will remember, he sent Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen (both could not break the team’s deep roster; particularly Olsen on the back-end) to the Florida Panthers for former fan-favourite Kris Versteeg and minor-leaguer Phillippe Lefebvre. With the kicker being the Panthers retained half of Versteeg’s salary.

Then, in early February, Bowman sent a fourth round pick to the New York Islanders for both Peter Regin (a potential second line centre contender) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Both of these players will add depth to the roster once the team heads into the playoffs.

As deadline day approaches it will be tough for Bowman to swing a substantial trade without moving a roster player. With the Blackhawks so tight up against the cap a trade will need to be made in order to bring in a player that could fill in as the second line centre.

One particular player that stands out this season is forward Bryan Bickell.

After an excellent playoffs last season, where Bickell took his game to a new level and showed everyone he could (surprise, surprise) use his big body, he has been exceptionally quiet over the course of this season. Leading to a frustrated head coach Joel Quenneville making him a healthy scratch in late January.

Would the Blackhawks consider moving Bickell, or better yet, would a team even be interested in taking him?

Bickell, who carries a four million cap hit per year until the 2016-2017 season, is anything but a washed-up player. He can provide a team with grit and size on the forecheck (when he wants to, that is), a big body to play down low and in front of the net, a great shot and raw offensive ability and, most importantly, a lot of heart.

Could the Blackhawks, yet again, look to the Florida Panthers as a possible trade partner? Would the Panthers be interested in Bickell and his four million cap hit?

If Bowman is somehow able to unload Bickell to the Panthers, or anywhere for that matter, it could open up a lot of room for the Blackhawks to make a move and acquire their coveted second line centre. Yes, they may be taking a big gamble losing a player like Bickell heading into the playoffs, but the team has been doing just fine without his contributions all season. And, if this is the way his production and style of play is going to be during the regular season for three more years, then moving him may be the right move now.

The Blackhawks could find themselves on the receiving end of a draft pick, if Bickell is unloaded, that they could then move in another potential deal (and package if need me with Brandon Pirri or another player in Rockford). Or, in the case of Bickell heading to the Panthers, a player like centreman Marcel Goc, who becomes a UFA after this season, could come the Blackhawks way. Goc, or any other UFA centre that comes in a straight up trade, would fill an organizational need and also allows freedom for next season when prospect Teuvo Teravainen is ready to make the jump across the pond.

Without moving a player from the roster to free up cap space, Bowman will struggle to make a move. Most likely, he will not be able to pull the trigger in a deal to find a centre. With many on the active roster having a strong season, and others with only minimal cap hits, Bickell seems like the odd man out should management decide to go down the seller route (to, perhaps, potentially become a buyer).

But again, it will up to Bowman to figure out a shifty way to solve the seemingly age-old question of the Blackhawks – who will be the second line centre come the playoffs?

Simple question but a tough one.

Player GP G A P +/- PIM PP SH GW S S%
Patrick Kane 59 27 36 63 8 18 10 0 6 195 13.8
Patrick Sharp 60 28 30 58 18 34 8 0 2 231 12.1
Jonathan Toews 60 19 36 55 21 28 3 1 2 154 12.3
Marian Hossa 55 24 26 50 26 16 4 3 4 191 12.6
Duncan Keith 59 3 45 48 19 8 2 0 1 147 2
Brandon Saad 60 18 22 40 22 18 3 0 2 110 16.4
Brent Seabrook 60 6 28 34 24 16 3 0 0 114 5.3
Andrew Shaw 58 14 12 26 11 45 4 0 1 113 12.4
Marcus Kruger 60 6 18 24 7 24 0 0 1 60 10
Niklas Hjalmarsson 60 4 19 23 13 30 0 1 1 78 5.1
Nick Leddy 60 6 17 23 13 8 3 0 1 88 6.8
Kris Versteeg 41 7 14 21 3 19 1 0 1 69 10.1
Ben Smith 53 7 10 17 3 2 0 0 0 56 12.5
Johnny Oduya 58 3 10 13 7 24 0 0 1 60 5
Brandon Bollig 60 6 6 12 2 69 0 0 1 79 7.6
Michal Handzus 41 4 7 11 -1 10 0 1 2 33 12.1
Brandon Pirri 28 6 5 11 6 6 1 0 0 34 17.6
Bryan Bickell 43 8 2 10 -7 14 0 0 2 63 12.7
Michal Rozsival 33 1 5 6 0 28 0 0 0 31 3.2
Jeremy Morin 15 1 4 5 2 30 0 0 0 31 3.2
Sheldon Brookbank 32 1 3 4 4 33 0 0 1 30 3.3
Joakim Nordstrom 10 1 1 2 2 2 0 0 0 10 10
Peter Regin 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Brad Mills 3 0 0 0 -1 0 0 0 0 2 0
Goalie GPI GS Min GAA W L OT SO SA GA Sv%
Corey Crawford 42 39 2398 2.35 22 9 10 1 1120 94 0.916
Antti Raanta 19 17 1075 2.4 12 2 3 1 449 43 0.904
Nikolai Khabibulin 4 4 168 5 1 0 1 0 74 14 0.811
Kent Simpson 1 0 20 6 0 0 0 0 7 2 0.714

3 Comments

  1. David Butts

    February 26, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    defensively capable, but offensively gifted – can you say Tomas Plekanic? Although more like defensively gifted, but offensively (more than) capable.

  2. Ernie

    February 26, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    Here’s my shot at GM….. Bryan Bickell, Sheldon Brookbank/Leddy/Rozsival, Ryan Hartman, plus a pick.

    Canucks can’t take on more than 2 players as they have 49 spc’s. Hawks need to dump salary. Hartman’s contract doesn’t count on the 50 spc max.

    Kesler is tantalizing. Big defensively capable, RIGHT HANDED center. Can also put up points too. A Hawks fan can dream right?

  3. Ernie

    February 26, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    oops…forgot to put for Ryan Kesler. My A.D.D was acting up