Should Chicago Blackhawks be worried about Wild's big acquisition?
Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher stepped up to the plate Sunday and, in his words, took a "big swing" by trading for Arizona's Martin Hanzal and Ryan White.
Already the top team in the West, the question is will the move to get Hanzal -- considered by many the best rental player on the market -- result in a Stanley Cup for the Wild?
"Right now we're just putting our chips in the middle of the table for this year," Fletcher told reporters in a conference call. "We like our group, and we think our players deserve the best chance possible to compete and see what we can do."
Jonathan Toews responded with a verbal shrug, but his coach was a bit more impressed.
"A lot of teams are going to make pushes for the playoffs, and that's usually acquiring some last-minute additions or players that they think will bolster the lineup," Toews said after the Chicago Blackhawks defeated St. Louis on Sunday for their ninth win in 10 games. "I love our group right now. Everyone is getting better individually, contributing more and more, and it's a lot of fun to see the way we're playing.
"We know that the ceiling is way higher and we can keep getting better, too."
Said Quenneville: "Big addition to their team and we knew how good they were already. … Certainly they've helped themselves."
So should Hawks fans be worried about this move?
Hanzal is a beast -- standing 6-feet-6 and weighing 226 pounds -- and plays a "heavy game," according to Fletcher. He's also 1 goal from a career high in a contract year and figures to be energized by joining a Cup contender.
"It's hard to say goodbye to guys, my teammates, the staff and coaches," Hanzal said told The Arizona Republic. "But it is what it is. I have a shot at winning the Stanley Cup this year. That's something I'm really looking forward to."
Minnesota, already one of the deepest teams in the league, will slot Hanzal into its third or fourth line, which figures to give opponents bigger headaches than they already were dealing with. He won't be expected to provide a ton of scoring -- a la Antoine Vermette with the Blackhawks in 2015 -- but will provide a defensive edge to a team that already plays awfully good D.
The Wild beat Los Angeles 5-4 in overtime Monday to increase its lead to 3 points over the second-place Hawks in the Central Division. Minnesota, which got a goal from White in the second period, also has two games in hand.
The Wild didn't have to part with any rostered NHL players to acquire Hanzal but did give the Coyotes a first-round pick this year, a second-rounder in 2018, a conditional pick in 2019 and a 24-year-old minor-league winger.
"Of all the guys with expiring contracts, we thought he, at forward, would have the biggest impact on any roster," Fletcher said. "So certainly our goal was to have him play for us and also to keep him away from other teams in the West."
That includes the Hawks, and Fletcher was asked if he was trying to keep Hanzal out of Chicago.
"Clearly in the West they're always the team you have to go through and you have to beat to get anywhere you want to go to," Fletcher said. "But there's a lot of other good teams, too. To be honest, the focus was just on improving our depth."
Tick, tick, tick:
With the trade deadline fast approaching -- it hits Wednesday at 1 p.m. Central time -- many Blackhawks fans are wondering if their team might pull off another deal. About a month ago I wrote that Patrick Sharp would really solidify the team's four-line rotation, but with the team jelling so well, I wouldn't be surprised to see them try to upgrade the blue line.
Instead of Sharp, maybe they make a pitch for teammate Johnny Oduya, who played with the Hawks from 2011-15. Putting Oduya, who just returned from an ankle injury, together again with Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brian Campbell, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Michal Kempny would really shore up an already impressive D corps.
If the price isn't too steep, I wouldn't be surprised to see GM Stan Bowman pull the trigger.
Thanks to scoring 4 goals and dishing out 5 assists, Jonathan Toews was named the NHL's second star of the week Monday. The Nashville Predators' Filip Forsberg (8G, 2A) was the first star. … The Hawks assigned goalie Lars Johansson to Rockford.