Rozner: Chicago Blackhawks don't believe their window closed

Updated 2/27/2018 8:48 AM
  • Daily Herald file photoChicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said NHL teams "can change and turn things around fairly quickly."

    Daily Herald file photoChicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said NHL teams "can change and turn things around fairly quickly."

OK, so that was weird.

The Chicago Blackhawks spent NHL trade deadline day looking to sell off assets.

It's been a while. Actually, it's been 11 years. That's how good of a run the Hawks have been on for the last decade, a minor fact seemingly forgotten amid the misery of 2018.

The Hawks did very well in sending local favorite Ryan Hartman -- a restricted free agent after the season -- to Nashville for a 2018 first-round pick and 6-foot-5 Victor Ejdsell, a 22-year-old two-way center playing in the Swedish League.

They also sent hometown kid Tommy Wingels to Boston for a conditional fifth-round pick.

Hartman is a tough one for fans and, of course, for close friends Vinnie Hinostroza and Nick Schmaltz, but a break for Hartman, who can play on any line and has a chance to win with Nashville immediately.

As for the Hawks, how fast they can reload -- or rebuild -- remains to be seen, and is contingent largely on whether they can get some expensive players to surrender their no-movement clauses or rebound from some awful seasons.

It's not impossible for the Hawks to win again with this core -- the Penguins have done it -- but it requires adding young talent that contributes immediately and veterans finding their old form.

"Our young players have done their job. They've taken the next step. That's the one bright spot," said GM Stan Bowman. "They've held up their end of the bargain and are pushing for bigger roles.

"The players that are here right now that will be back, they have to find a way to grow their games.

"The young players have to expand their arsenal, and the veterans who were better in previous years, they've got to find a way to get back to that level. I'm looking for improvement across the board."

Bowman, however, does not believe the Hawks' run at a Stanley Cup is over for the current core.

"I don't know if I subscribe to that whole theory of our window. Things change dramatically in our sport, year to year," Bowman said. "Teams can change and turn things around fairly quickly, and they can also fall off quickly.

"Tampa is a great example. They didn't make the playoffs last year and they're one of the top teams this year, and they didn't make dramatic changes over the summer.

"The whole window thing? We need to be better. There's no question about that. But as far as a window of time, I'm not sure I buy into that."

Not since 2007 have the Hawks sold off, recognizing that the aging, slow group of veterans they signed coming out of the 2004-05 lockout -- when Gary Bettman wiped out an entire season -- were woefully unprepared for the new rules and a much faster NHL.

Beginning with the trade deadline in 2007, and through August, the Hawks dealt Adrian Aucoin, Jassen Cullimore, Bryan Smolinski, Brandon Bochenski, Brian Boucher, Lasse Kukkonen, Karl Stewart, Tony Salmelainen and Radim Vrbata, and let Jeff Hamilton walk in free agency.

Yeah, take a moment with that if you need it, and remember that the Hawks have seen growth from Schmaltz, Hinostroza and Alex DeBrincat this year, and have several kids on the way who could help quickly.

But none of it will make enough of a difference if the veterans eating up so much of the cap don't improve -- or approve a trade.

"It's disappointing, for sure, but you can't feel sorry for yourself," Bowman said. "You have to plan for the future, and what we've done here today is position ourselves to get some really high-value assets.

"We don't want to be in this position, obviously, but you are where you are and you have to try to make the best of it.

"We're trying to get better and we're optimistic and we're looking forward."

That's a whole lot better than looking back -- especially to 2007.

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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