Ah, Kris Versteeg.
The resident whipping boy for much of the collective fanbase of the Chicago Blackhawks. With Brandon Bollig now residing in the desolate wasteland that is the Canadian province of Alberta, it's sure to only get worse with every moment in which the veteran forward stickhandles just a bit too much. That's assuming he's not traded, and with someone needing to go before training camps get underway, he's certainly on the list of those that could say goodbye before the month runs out.
However, while Kris Versteeg may be the preferred trade candidate in the eyes of many fans, it may not be quite in the best interest of the Chicago Blackhawks, for a couple of different reasons. As they stand a touch over $2 million over the salary cap, hanging on to Versteeg may not only be the most logical move from a financial perspective, but it could pay dividends in the upcoming season.
Obviously the 2013-14 season was not kind to Versteeg. Many were excited to grab a player of his caliber at such a bargain bin price, given that Florida Panthers general manager took a couple of young castoffs that the Hawks simply had no room for, in addition to the fact that he paid half of Versteeg's $4.4 million cap hit. A former 40-point getter at just $2.2 million on the books? Sign me up.
This was, of course, the thought process for most fans prior to Versteeg coming in and struggling throughout the year. His numbers weren't terrible, but he certainly wasn't the player we saw the first time around in Chicago, let alone the guy who looked like a top six player in Florida. This could certainly be attributed to the fact that he dealt with some serious injury woes in his time in South Beach. As such, his time last summer was spent getting healthy and rehabbing, rather than actually conditioning and preparing for the 2013-14 campaign. The results reflected that lack of preparation, as he put up just 36 points in 81 total games on the year, 29 of them coming in 63 tilts with the Blackhawks. He faded as the season wore on. Even so, he still posted some decent possession numbers, including a 54.6 Corsi For% and a 69% point share.
His playoff performance was what drew the ire of Blackhawk fans, and eventually the coaching staff. He found his way into Joel Quenneville's dreaded doghouse, posting just three points in 15 games. He was a minus-5 for the postseason and saw his ice time shrink to almost nothing as the playoffs wore on. It was ultimately his playoff performance that began something of a campaign to see the former Stanley Cup champ donning a new sweater next year.
Nonetheless, it would behoove the Blackhawks to consider other options. That's not to say that they're considering a deal involving Versteeg in one way or another. Outside of affirmations from the agents for Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya declaring that their clients wouldn't be traded, we haven't heard much on that front. Even so, it's difficult to see the Hawks dealing Kris Versteeg, simply because of the cost. Moving him and his contract wouldn't even get the Blackhawks under the salary cap, given their current state. That alone makes a deal unlikely.
Additionally, the Hawks could benefit from that type of player in their bottom six group, and especially at that low a cost. This is a three-time 20-goal scorer, two of those campaigns coming in Chicago, as well as a player with decent two-way ability. His mental mistakes certainly may have been related to his lack of preparation time, as they seemed to get worse as the season wore on. Better decisions with the puck, in terms of zone entry and pass/shoot decisions, could turn this return trip to Chicago right around for Kris Versteeg.
Call me an optimist. Call me sentimental. Hell, call me a fool. But I'd be perfectly okay with the Hawks giving Versteeg another run at this. Given the high reward capability of a player like him in your lineup, and the low cap hit he represents for the Blackhawks, there would be absolutely nothing wrong with hanging onto him.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.