Trevor Daley was, at the very least, supposed to score. The 32-year-old defenseman, who was brought over as part of the Patrick Sharp trade with the Stars, entered this season coming off a 16-goal, 38-point effort with Dallas. Even if he wasn't a great positional player and took time to find himself in the Blackhawks' system, we all at least figured his potent shot and offensive I.Q. would lead to some extra pop on the blue line.
Instead, Daley has been a borderline disaster (note: this might be slight hyperbole) through 18 games with the Blackhawks, looking as sloppy as we expected defensively while failing to record a single goal. The occasional mishap on defense? Sure, we expected that. It's been far more surprising to see Daley struggle to assert himself on the other side of the ice, where he's on pace to record just 13 assists this season.
Even in a smaller role than the Stars used him in, Daley has been confounded by Joel Quenneville's demanding system. It's enough that Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported Tuesday that Daley "could be had" in a trade. The problem for other teams -- and the Hawks -- is that the defenseman is signed through next season with a $3.3 million cap hit. That affordable salary is still giving pause to other teams as Daley struggles to produce on one of the better teams in the league.
It has opened up a challenging situation for Chicago. The team could pull the trigger and try to move Daley now with the goal of ensuring he won't be on the books next season. Most likely, the team could find someone willing to take a risk on a reasonably priced player who put up big scoring numbers a season ago. However, you start to wonder whether the Hawks could wait too long, and with Daley playing this way, convince teams that he's not worth going after. The more the Hawks play Daley and he struggles, the harder it will be to ship him out and expect any kind of useful return.
So with the rumors already swirling and the Hawks recently demoting two intriguing young players -- Erik Gustafsson and Viktor Svedberg -- to Rockford, Daley could end up being the odd man out.
Why the Hawks would move Daley
The Blackhawks can't afford to pay anyone who isn't earning their keep. Daley, with his $3.3 million cap hit for this season and next, hasn't exactly lived up to that salary. With the Hawks needing to maintain their flexibility going into 2016-17, it would be a risk to keep Daley and hope that he'll start producing eventually.
The longer Daley is on the roster and struggling, the more difficult it will be to trade him. This isn't a situation where patience will necessarily be rewarded. Waiting too long and getting stuck with a struggling Daley next season would be a significant hurdle to overcome, not unlike how the Hawks had to deal with Bryan Bickell's unmovable $4 million cap hit this season.
And with Gustafsson and Svedberg performing admirably to begin the season, moving Daley likely wouldn't hurt the team too much in the short-term. Moving the former Star would still leave Chicago with Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Michal Rozsival, David Rundblad, Gustafsson and Svedberg to fill spots on defense. There's no point in keeping Daley for depth given that cap hit, so now is the time to bail if the team would rather see what it has elsewhere in the organization.
Maybe it would mean getting lower draft picks and prospects or taking on a player with a similar salary whose deal expires at the end of the season. Either way, with raises coming to players like Artem Anisimov and Brent Seabrook, the Hawks can't afford to overpay for a third-pairing blue liner.
Why the Hawks would keep Daley
Well, for one, there just might not be a deal out there. Nobody seems to want Bickell, and maybe nobody will want Daley, either. If teams come up to the Hawks and tell them it'll mean retaining salary and/or including assets to make a Daley trade, the Hawks might give pause and consider whether it's better to simply ride the course for now and see whether the 32-year-old can make improvements.
There are also some reasons to believe Daley won't be this unproductive all season. He's not going to shoot zero percent for 82 games. After a disastrous year possession-wise on the Stars' top pairing last season, his numbers -- 56.9 percent even strength Corsi, 59.1 percent overall Corsi -- are among the best on the Hawks. Learning Chicago's system isn't easy and maybe he'll just take a little bit longer than some other players to pick up all the nuances. Then again, younger guys have occasionally had less trouble and Daley's never been a defensive stalwart so maybe he's just not cut out for this job.
Still, a wide variety of factors brought Daley to Chicago in the first place, and a wide variety of factors could end up keeping him here. The Hawks probably aren't interested in packaging assets or retaining salary. They probably don't want to give Daley away for nothing, either. If that was the case, we would eventually see him hit waivers like we did with Bickell. Maybe it'll come to that, but not yet.
But if the goal is to shed salary going forward, and some team wants the Hawks to retain salary, that cuts into the whole point of the deal. So moving Daley might make sense, but only if the terms are right.
If the Hawks can move Daley's salary and get an actual return at this point, it's hard to see why the team wouldn't jump at the opportunity. Considering that hasn't happened yet, maybe the team isn't quite ready to bail on Daley or the opportunity to make that kind of deal doesn't exist at the moment. Still, we're getting to the point where moving Daley needs to be an option, and based on the reports, it sounds like the Blackhawks are exploring it. Being stuck with his cap hit going into the summer, if the team has lost confidence in him, makes no sense. Maybe they still think he can be salvaged at this point, but if not, you can see why the feelers are already being put out there.