Emailer Questions: Who Will The Blackhawks Trade For?

An emailer asks:

“Do you think the Hawks will trade for anyone to make a run. If so who do you think they’ll go after?”


YES!

The Blackhawks have a championship window that is slowly coming to a close. This isn’t knocking Chicago. They opened their Stanley Cup contending window in 2009. Some eight years later, that window is still cracked open.

Being in the championship picture for eight consecutive seasons is remarkable. Eventually, the window for contention will slam shut. Because of this, Stan Bowman needs to maximize Chicago’s Cup potential every year. He needs to be extremely aggressive and play for now and worry about next season when it gets here.

Each year the “core” gets older and declines. Hockey player’s peak years are in their early to mid 20’s. Therefore, Hossa, Seabrook, Keith, Hjalmarsson, Toews, and Kane are expected to decline in performance year-by-year. Obviously, they won’t all follow a linear decline, but it’s reasonable to suggest that the overall impact of the core will decline season-by-season.

A month or two ago, I posted a trade block hot list. When the days echo closer to the deadline, I should have a regular trade block hot list feature. Teams might turn into sellers depending on how the next month goes. Maybe Dallas continues to lose and Patrick Sharp becomes available. We won’t know too much until then.

For now, I will play fantasy GM, make some realistic trades that I could see happening, and set the playoff lines.

I will do two options: Aggressive and Conservative.

The aggressive option.

The Chicago Blackhawks trade their 2018 1st round pick, a conditional (included if Chicago wins the Cup) 2017 3rd round pick, and defenseman Ville Pokka.

The Arizona Coyotes trade Center Martin Hanzal, Winger Radim Vrbata, and Defenseman Jamie McBain.

Early in the season, it looks like Hanzal could be the top forward on the market. He is a big, 6-6, two-way center with playmaking ability. He’s probably around a 2nd line center level talent and is in the last season of his contract that has a cap hit of $3.1 Million

Vrbata is having a rebound season. He is a 35-year-old, veteran scoring winger currently on pace for a 20-goal, 50-point season with a 1-year, $1 million cap hit contract.

McBain is guaranteed $300,000 this season. His contract can be buried and this is purely a move that will save Arizona some money. Chicago has plenty of cash to throw around, so they take the 28-year-old McBain from Arizona to help the Coyotes save some money and facilitate the trade. McBain will finish the year in Rockford and then be a free agent and released. This is similar to what Chicago did with Winnipeg last season in acquiring Jay Harrison and Mark Fraser in the Andrew Ladd trade. It’s a pure money saving move for the opposing team that helps facilitate the trade. It is a way for the Blackhawks to use their money resources as an asset in the Cap era.

Chicago will be trading to improve their forward depth at the deadline and this move will add two quality forwards to the mix. Here is what the playoff lines could look like.

Regular:
Hinostroza – Toews – Hossa
Panarin – Anisimov – Kane
Hartman – Hanzal – Vrbata
Rasmussen – Kruger – Panik

Balanced:
Hartman – Toews – Hossa
Panarin – Anisimov – Hinostroza
Vrbata – Hanzal – Kane
Rasmussen – Kruger – Panik

Top heavy:
Panarin – Toews – Kane
Hartman – Anisimov – Hossa
Vrbata – Hanzal – Hinostroza
Rasmussen – Kruger – Panik

They would still have Nick Schmaltz and Tyler Motte to sub in or out based on injuries or detrimental performance of any of these forwards.

The Blackhawks would be strong down the middle with Toews, Anisimov, Hanzal, and Kruger. I know the Blackhawks are talking about finding a first line left wing, but I would argue that Hinostroza or Hartman can fill in fine. The penguins won with top line left wing Conor Sheary and top line right wing Bryan Rust, granted the best player in the world was playing between those two.

I would argue that a depth scoring line is also a weakness of Chicago’s. In 2015, Chicago won the Stanley Cup with a third line of Sharp – Vermette – Teravainen. In 2016, Pittsburgh won with a third line of Hagelin – Bonino – Kessel.

I’m a big proponent of having a quality depth scoring line. Last season, the Weise – Teravainen – Fleischmann line wasn’t good enough. What would it be currently this playoff run? Maybe Hartman – Schmaltz – Panik?

In the above trade scenario, the Blackhawks add a second line center and a veteran on pace for 50-points to play on the third line. Vrbata probably won’t continue to score at that pace, but a line of Hartman – Hanzal – Vrbata looks pretty good to me for a bottom – 6 scoring line.

The conservative option.

The Blackhawks trade their 2017 3rd round pick.

The New Jersey Devils trade Winger P.A. Parenteau.

Instead of trading a 1st round pick and Pokka, the Blackhawks make a minor tweak. They deal only a 3rd round pick to add some scoring depth.

Parenteau is an underrated forward that would probably impact the Blackhawks similar to an Andrew Shaw or Teuvo Teravainen and their 35-point seasons in 2015-16.

With this trade, the lines could look like:

Regular:
Hinostroza – Toews – Hossa
Panarin – Anisimov – Kane
Hartman – Schmaltz – Parenteau
Rasmussen – Kruger – Panik

Balanced:
Panik – Toews – Parenteau
Panarin – Anisimov – Hinostroza
Hartman – Schmaltz – Kane
Rasmussen – Kruger – Hossa

Top Heavy:
Panarin – Toews – Kane
Hinostroza – Anisimov – Hossa
Hartman – Schmaltz – Parenteau
Rasmussen – Kruger – Panik

Verdict?

I’m going aggressive.

Scott Cullen of TSN did some research on draft pick value. The 30th pick in the NHL draft has a 38% chance of playing 100 NHL games. This draft pick slot normally turns out to be a very good minor leaguer that only play 50-200 career NHL games.

The Blackhawks championship window is closing. Let’s say Chicago keeps that pick, drafts a good player, and that player debut’s in the NHL in the 2019-20 season, The Blackhawks could very well be out of the playoff picture by then. It’s more valuable to add a top-6 forward this season than to keep a draft pick that won’t make an impact on the team until the Blackhawks are most likely in rebuilding mode.

This team needs to win now and I would give Stan Bowman free rein to trade whatever young assets he wants if it helps improve the team this season. Normally I wouldn’t say that. Usually, I would want to prolong the Cup window and not hemorrhage the future. But the Blackhawks don’t have much of a future to worry about. Their crazy long 10-year Championship window has 1-3 years left and Bowman needs to do everything he can to win now.

One could argue that Bowman shouldn’t have committed to a core but rather slowly change the core to keep it young and skilled. For example trading aging players like Brent Seabrook in favor of keeping a Nick Leddy who is younger and would help expand the championship window.

But the Blackhawks have most of their available cap committed to players past their prime, Mr. Bowman should move his poker chips to the center of the table, go all-in, and try to win a Cup with this team while their championship aspirations are still somewhat realistic.