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updated: 2/4/2018 6:46 PM

Blackhawks GM Bowman needs to decide: Playoffs or rebuild?

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  • Chicago Blackhawks forward Vinnie Hinostroza, right, is a speedy winger who could help give another team a boost. He's a restricted free agent after this season who would probably re-sign at a reasonable cost so it's unlikely GM Stan Bowman will let him go unless the offer is too good to refuse.

    Chicago Blackhawks forward Vinnie Hinostroza, right, is a speedy winger who could help give another team a boost. He's a restricted free agent after this season who would probably re-sign at a reasonable cost so it's unlikely GM Stan Bowman will let him go unless the offer is too good to refuse.
    Associated Press

 
 

Three weeks.

That's how much time Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman has to figure out if he wants to sit tight, make a trade or two for a playoff run or …

Do the almost unthinkable and sell what he can to build for the future.

With the Hawks still in 12th place in the Western Conference and 5 points out of the second wild-card spot, it's beginning to look like Option C makes the most sense.

Bowman has already turned the Hawks into one of the youngest teams in the NHL, and while this may not look like a regular rebuild, that's exactly what is happening.

At this point, it makes sense for Bowman to sell what he can to acquire prospects or draft picks. After all, does this look like a team that can win a Stanley Cup?

Obviously not. So let's take a look at what might transpire as the Feb. 26 trading deadline nears:

• Brent Seabrook. Fans might want to see the big defenseman's bloated contract disappear, but it's not happening. Seabrook has a no-movement clause and the only team he might waive it for -- Vancouver -- is nowhere near the playoffs. And honestly, why would a team want to add a 32-year-old D-man whose contract carries a $6.875 million cap hit until the 2023-24 season?

• Artem Anisimov. This isn't happening either. Centers are like gold and although Anisimov has been injury prone, he fits well in the Hawks system and has three years remaining on a reasonable contract. Oh, and he has a no-movement clause as well.

• Tommy Wingels. He's proven to be a very capable bottom-six center, so a team needing depth could easily give up a middling prospect or mid-round pick for the Wilmette native.

• Cody Franson. The 30-year-old defenseman would bring a veteran presence and ability to chip in on the power play. Don't think just because he cleared waivers that a team wouldn't make an offer because it's often easier to add a player via trade than making a claim.

• Vinnie Hinostroza. The speedy winger would give a slower team some jump in the bottom-six forwards. He's a restricted free agent after the season who would probably re-sign for $1 million or less so the Hawks won't let him go unless the offer is too good to refuse.

• Ryan Hartman. With power plays being so important in the postseason, Hartman's ability to draw penalties could be invaluable. Like Hinostroza, he will be a restricted free agent after the season.

• Jan Rutta, Michal Kempny, Erik Gustafsson and Gustav Forsling. The odds of moving any of these four young defensemen seem slim, but Rutta and Kempny are unrestricted free agents. If a team suffers an injury on the back end, maybe Bowman can get a little something and then re-sign one or both of them in the off-season.

• Lance Bouma. A team looking for grit could beef up its fourth line with a player who is second on the team with 114 hits.

That's really about it. Wingels and Franson seem to be the most likely candidates to be moved, but they won't bring a lot in return.

Bowman, of course, could go the other way and attempt to bring in a player or two to make a run, but the Hawks probably have to go at least 8-3 in their next 11 games to justify something like that. So if the .500 play continues, we'll all be watching to see which of the above names will be on other teams trying to help them make a run at the Stanley Cup.

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