Plenty of routes Blackhawks can take as trade deadline approaches
Remember when the Blackhawks signed Mattias Janmark and Carl Soderberg in the weeks leading up to this season?
There were one of two prevailing thoughts at the time:
• "Huh? Why are the Hawks bringing in two veteran forwards when they're rebuilding?"
• "Ahhh. Good move. If either or both can have solid seasons, teams will be knocking down the Hawks' door at the trade deadline."
A funny thing happened along the way, though: The Hawks have outperformed all expectations and have a legitimate chance of qualifying for the postseason.
So what to do?
Do you trade Janmark and/or Soderberg for a prospect and/or draft picks? Maybe you dangle Dylan Strome? Or an underperforming Calvin de Haan? Offer up Connor Murphy for a king's ransom?
These are questions GM Stan Bowman is likely mulling over as the April 12 deadline nears.
There are, of course, other paths the Hawks could take.
One popular notion is that they will acquire an underperforming, high-dollar player on an expiring contract from a contender. The thing is, there aren't that many guys who fit that description.
Another possibility, which was raised by Elliotte Friedman on the Blackhawks Talk Podcast, is the Hawks being the facilitator for a trade of someone like Buffalo's Taylor Hall. So let's say cap-strapped Colorado wanted Hall. The Sabres would trade him to the Hawks, who would retain a portion of Hall's $8 million salary. Then the Hawks move him to the Avs for draft picks or prospects.
The Hawks could also make a straight-up hockey trade, as they did with Strome and Nick Schmaltz two years ago. They actually did this in a small way Saturday, acquiring Vinnie Hinostroza from Florida for Brad Morrison.
One thing you shouldn't expect, though, is for Bowman to explore the rental market.
"There's a time and place to do that, but I think we're still building," Bowman told the Blackhawks Talk Podcast late last month. "Our best years are ahead of us going forward."
Janmark, who has 10 goals and played in the Stanley Cup Final with Dallas last season, is the most likely to be dealt. Lose a second player and it could all but dash the Hawks' playoff hopes.
Not that coach Jeremy Colliton sees it that way.
"We're going to do everything we can to make the playoffs, but obviously we're still looking to build to being an elite team again," Colliton said. "That focus, that mindset, hasn't changed. But we've shown that we can play hard and be committed to a team game and find a way to get results. You can do both at the same time."
This trade deadline comes with a few complications.
• One is that any traded player must quarantine before joining his new team for practices or games. The number of days depends on where they are coming from, which city they are traveling to and what mode of transportation they use to arrive.
• Another is the fact that many contenders are right up against the salary cap, meaning they don't have much room to add a true difference-maker.
• Finally, a playoff run could be a huge financial boost for bubble teams like the Hawks, Blue Jackets, Stars, Predators, Blues, Coyotes, Bruins, Flyers and Rangers. In addition to TV advertising revenue, seven of those nine squads are currently allowing fans; and by mid-May, it's possible the Hawks and Flyers will join them. It's been a rough season for many owners, so understand that this is definitely a big deal.
As usual, there are some very talented players who may be dealt. Chief among them are Buffalo's Hall and Brandon Montour; Columbus' David Savard and Nick Foligno; Anaheim's Rickard Rakell; New Jersey's Kyle Palmieri; and Nashville's Mikael Granlund and defenseman Mattias Ekholm.
As for the Hawks, they don't figure to get much for Janmark or Soderberg. With that in mind, they may just stand pat, play out the season and see if they can snare the fourth seed in the Central Division.
"I don't know if you'd call us a seller or buyer," Bowman said. "We're willing to do a little bit of both, but we're not going to sell off players who we think have a future for us."