A source confirmed to the Daily Herald on Saturday that the Blackhawks and Islanders have been talking multiplayer trade with the centerpiece of the deal being New York center Frans Nielsen.
Lubomir Visnovsky was part of the discussion before the 36-year-old defenseman agreed to a two-year contract extension on Friday worth $9.5 million.
According to the source, the Hawks are seeking help on defense because they are nervous about going into the playoffs with Johnny Oduya as their fourth defenseman.
Oduya is minus-8 in the last four games paired with Niklas Hjalmarsson. The Hawks have lost three of those four games.
The Hawks may be shifting their attention to Islanders defenseman Mark Streit, a power-play specialist who will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. Streit has a cap hit of $4.1 million.
The Islanders are said to covet Rockford defenseman Dylan Olsen, the Hawks’ first-round draft pick in 2009, and perhaps forward Jeremy Morin.
Interestingly, Morin was recalled from Rockford on Saturday when Marian Hossa was placed on injured reserve retroactive to March 19, the day after he hurt his shoulder at Colorado.
Nielsen is signed through 2015-16 with a relatively modest cap hit $2.75 million.
“He’s decent on faceoffs (45.2 percent), can kill penalties and is a good passer,” the source said. “He could slide into the second-line role, you can move Dave Bolland back to the third line and Andrew Shaw can go back to wing, which is where they belong.”
Bolland has struggled as second-line center after a decent start to his season. He admitted the other day that it’s difficult being checked by the opposition’s top defensive line.
Among the other defensemen who might interest the Hawks are Buffalo’s Robyn Regehr, Colorado’s Ryan O’Byrne and Edmonton’s Mark Fistric and Ryan Whitney.
Centers Boyd Gordon of Phoenix, Derek Roy of Dallas and San Jose left wing Ryane Clowe could also be on general manager Stan Bowman’s radar.
One defenseman who went off the market Saturday was Buffalo’s Jordan Leopold, who was dealt to St. Louis for two draft picks, including a second-rounder in 2013.
The search for help on defense is interesting since the Hawks seemed so set on the blue line during their record start to the season. But recent developments with Oduya apparently have changed the mind of some in the organization.
Oduya also struggled in the playoffs last spring.
“I think we didn’t play good defense at all,” Hjalmarsson said after Friday’s 2-1 loss to Anaheim. “We didn’t get pucks deep the way we wanted and too many odd-man rushes. The way we played defense wasn’t good enough.
“We’ve got to try and find our game again, the way we played during the streak. The way we played team defense there, I don’t think we’ve been doing that the last couple games here. We’ve got to get back to just playing simple and not dong too much; everyone just doing their roles.”
Duncan Keith could not agree more.
“Everyone needs to do their own job and focus on either getting pucks out at our blue line; just playing good hockey,” Keith said. “We have to be more predictable.”
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