It's never too early for Stanley Cup contenders to start thinking about the trade deadline, which this season falls on March 3.
You can be sure it was a topic of conversation last weekend when the Blackhawks held organizational meetings.
The Hawks are in an interesting spot. They are one of the best teams in the NHL, maybe the best, but are right up against the salary cap, which is going to make adding a piece or two for the playoffs a difficult task for general manager Stan Bowman.
This is assuming, of course, Bowman and his staff even feel the need to tinker with what's working so well now.
What do the Hawks need? Like most contenders with their sights set on going deep into the postseason, depth on defense is high on the list. The Hawks are an injury or two away from having a big problem on the blue since there is no one in the minors at Rockford that could be counted on to come up and contribute.
Here's what the Hawks may be thinking: With salary cap problems on the horizon for the off-season, do they move a player or two off the current roster knowing it's what they must do anyway in the summer when all they likely will get in return are draft picks?
Does Bowman risk disrupting the team's great chemistry with only weeks left in the season to pursue one of the top rentals at the deadline, a guy such as Anaheim defenseman Scott Niedermayer?
These are tough questions and decisions for Bowman and his people, but maybe the deadline will be the time he can get the most return for players that are going to be cut loose anyway.
It should be noted that Ducks GM Bob Murray has given no indication that Niedermayer will be available, but with the 36-year-old veteran becoming an unrestricted free agent and Anaheim looking to retool on its way to missing the playoffs, odds are good Niedermayer will be up for bid.
Your guess is as good as mine as to what it would take to land Niedermayer. Let's say it's a defenseman and a forward, maybe with a draft pick or prospect. In any case, there might not be another team in the league able to offer what the Hawks can for a player they might want at the deadline.
Then again, perhaps the best course of action for Bowman is to stand pat at the deadline, stay with the very good group he has and worry about his cap issues in the summer.
Complicating the trade deadline process for teams is the fact there can be no trading during Feb. 15-23 of the Olympic break. There is a belief that many teams would benefit my completing any deal before the schedule resumes.
For the Hawks that's March 2, the day before the trade deadline.
DirecTV and Versus
According to a CNN/Sports Illustrated report from a source, a deal between Versus and DirecTV could be reached before the start of the playoffs.
The dispute between the two sides over access fees has kept games shown by Versus off DirecTV and angered Hawks fans with DirecTV.
Those same fans are growing more concerned and angry that they won't be able to see playoff games Versus carries.
It's difficult to imagine the Hawks organization sitting idly by if the dispute isn't resolved before the playoffs and Hawks games on Versus can't be seen by everyone.
Could you imagine the Hawks getting to the Stanley Cup Finals and the two games that belong to Versus not being shown in Chicago?
Around the rinks
• Despite a broken jaw, Anaheim's Teemu Selanne is expected to be ready to play for Finland in the Olympics next month.
However, Colorado's Milan Hejduk won't play for the Czech Republic at Vancouver after undergoing knee surgery.
• It's looking more and more like Dallas will attempt to deal Marty Turco before the March 3 trade deadline with the veteran goalie set to become an unrestricted free agent. Washington and Philadelphia could be interested.
• Nashville has done the smart thing and extended coach Barry Trotz's contract through 2010-11 with a team option for 2011-12.
With the Hawks on such a long road trip, this is a good time to reveal my personal five favorite road stops.
It's a picturesque city with a terrific downtown and a very good building to watch a game in GM Place.
So much history and the sweet sausage sandwich with onions and peppers they sell outside the Garden shouldn't be skipped.
Great city with a European feel that is all hockey, all the time. If you've never seen a game at the Bell Centre, get there, and make sure to try the one-of-kind hot dogs.
4. Los Angeles
Who doesn't love L.A.?
Yes, it's the weather.
Ex-Hawk of the week
Mike Brodeur is getting to play some games with the Ottawa Senators after a long trek through the minors since being a Hawks seventh-round draft pick in 2003.
Brodeur, who is 3-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average, never got his career off the ground in Chicago largely because of a persistent back problem that ultimately required surgery.