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Fixing a Hole: Filling spots on the blue line before they're open

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The second half of our two-part series examining who could replace potentially traded players before they're actually traded.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, we took a look at some forwards who could work into the mix up front for the Chicago Blackhawks in the event that a guy like Patrick Sharp or Bryan Bickell finds his way out of the Windy City in the next few weeks. The consensus was that Jeremy Morin likely benefits from any deal involving a forward, but at the same time, the likelihood of a forward actually being moved is relatively low.

For one, the Blackhawks don't have the stable of young forwards available to fill holes like they do on the blue line. For another, the dropoff from a Sharp or a Bickell to the next available guy is much too significant for a deal to take place. In any case, if someone gets moved before training camp opens at the University of Notre Dame next month, it's likely going to be from the Blackhawks' defensive corps.

As things stand right now, this is how the Blackhawks' defensive pairings figure to shake out on opening night, if a trade were to not take place (handedness notwithstanding):

Duncan Keith

Brent Seabrook

Niklas Hjalmarsson

Johnny Oduya

Nick Leddy

Michal Rozsival


At least half of the Hawks' blue line has been the speculation of trade. That starts with Johnny Oduya, whose cap hit is over $3 million. However, his agent has said that the Blackhawks told him a trade is unlikely for the handsome defenseman. Leddy and Rozsival represent additional trade chips, with Leddy carrying a hit of $2.7 million and holding RFA status at the end of the year; Rozsival comes in at $2.2 million, with UFA status after the season. Oduya is also an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. That fact alone makes a trade of a defenseman likely, as Leddy would be the only candidate potentially returning of that free agent group.

If the Blackhawks do trade a defenseman, they have plenty of candidates to step into the lineup. Their defensive prospects are much more clear-cut than that of their forwards, and are represented by a higher number. Names that immediately come to mind include David Rundblad, Adam Clendening, Stephen Johns, and Klas Dahlbeck. Each represents a different type of d-man, though, and their opportunity could depend on who is moved.

  • Johnny Oduya -- Oduya doesn't bring size to the blue line, but he brings a defensive pedigree that has led to he and Niklas Hjalmarsson spending time as the Hawks' top defensive duo. They consistently drew the toughest assignments, and for the most part they succeeded. While trading Oduya would obviously represent a notable loss in the lineup, his skill set is likely one that could be replaced, in addition to the fact that he wouldn't be brought back as a UFA anyway. A trade of Oduya likely wouldn't mean an increase in time for Nick Leddy, given the defensive aspect. Instead, we could see a young guy like Dahlbeck or Johns make the move to that spot, as they represent more of a defensive entity. Let's just assume that the Blackhawks want Johns to log some time in Rockford, in order to get used to the pro game. That leaves Dahlbeck as a potential option next to Hjalmarsson to start the year, which would have the lineup looking like this:

Duncan Keith

Brent Seabrook

Klas Dahlbeck

Niklas Hjalmarsson

Nick Leddy

Michael Rozsival

In that situation, you have Leddy remaining with Rozsival, where he experienced some success last year. You avoid a potentially rough pairing in Hjalmarsson and Leddy. As far as a seventh defenseman, you have David Rundblad in the mix, but perhaps someone like Sheldon Brookbank could be brought back on a six-figure deal with the money freed up from an Oduya trade. Either way, this is the likeliest route.

But it's not the only one.

  • Nick Leddy - Leddy has found his way into Joel Quenneville's doghouse on more than one occasion in the last couple of years, and there are questions about whether or not we've already seen the best he has to offer. There is plenty of offensive skill there from the blue line, and when he's aggressive in carrying the puck up the ice, it's a thing of beauty. However, we saw some apprehensiveness from him last year that limited his offensive output to a certain degree, and he struggled in his own end, as has been the pattern. Given his skill set, Leddy could bring about a nice haul, likely in terms of picks, and would open up an opportunity for another puck mover. David Rundblad is likely to get the first crack there, but Adam Clendening is another candidate, bringing a game similar to that of Leddy.

Duncan Keith

Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya

Niklas Hjalmarsson

David Rundblad

Michael Rozsival

It would be a neat thing to see Rundblad get a shot at regular playing time, something he hasn't really received to this point in his NHL career. He brings a high-end offensive game and an improving defensive one. While Clendening is similar, he may get a bit of extra time at Rockford while Rundblad is afforded an opportunity to show what he can do and demonstrate whether or not he's a player worth keeping around for the future.

  • Michal Rozsival - Last and probably least, due to the unlikelihood of a trade, is Michal Rozsival. The veteran was a key piece of the Hawks' 2013 Stanley Cup run, providing stability on the third defensive pairing, but his age reared its ugly head last year. He moved at a glacial place, which led to him taking a number of poorly timed penalties. His performance, in addition to his salary that would get the Hawks barely under the cap threshold (if at all), makes a trade a low probability. Even if he's not traded, he's likely going to be cycled in and out of the lineup quite a bit. Given how unlikely it actually is, it stands to question how the Hawks would replace him. Do they go pure offense and put Rundblad next to Leddy? Probably not. What's more likely is that Dahlbeck or Johns get a crack as the defensive yin to Leddy's offensive yang. Or both Roszival and Leddy end up moving in order to insert a pair of youngsters into the lineup. Again, very unlikely. Probably not worth exploring an actual Rozsival-less lineup.

When it comes down to it, Johnny Oduya or Nick Leddy appear to be the players, at any position, that the Blackhawks will most likely deal. Their salaries fit the profile, and the Hawks have the personnel to replace them. Leddy could be the most logical mover, given that the Hawks could get a decent return for him and they have guys like Rundblad and Clendening with similar skill sets to mix in. At the same time, Leddy could still figure into future plans, leaving future UFA Oduya to be jettisoned off.

Either way, stay tuned, as we're nearing doomsday for a certain member of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.