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What does Kris Versteeg's return mean for the Blackhawks?

Getting back Kris Versteeg is good news for the 'Hawks, but it would be even better if it wasn't at Teuvo Teravainen's expense.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The awaited return of Chicago Blackhawks winger Kris Versteeg to the lineup comes this week, a welcomed shot in the arm for a group that's had some ups and downs during his absence. Versteeg was on a roll before suffering a hand injury during the Winter Classic, putting up a career-high 0.79 points per game, and could be the additional steady scoring hand the team needs.

That's the good news. The bad news, on the other hand, is the crowded roster that Versteeg finds himself returning to. Teuvo Teravainen and Joakim Nordstrom have worked into the mix over the past month, and Daniel Carcillo remains a coaching staff favorite even after his latest dust-up with the league's safety rules.

The Blackhawks' forward depth might be the envy of the entire league, but it's forcing the team into some tough decisions right now. These are good problems to have, mind you -- Patrick Sharp on the third line is just unfair -- it's just that management probably won't take the route we're all hoping for.

With Versteeg returning, the reality is that one of Teravainen, Nordstrom and Carcillo will be taken off the roster. The easiest way to do that is to simply reassign one of the young guys to Rockford, and move on our marry way with the veteran-laden forward corps the team was using earlier this season. The ideal scenario, meanwhile, probably doesn't involve Carcillo.

However, the one thing afforded by all this talent is flexibility, and the team has some options:

(a) keep Teravainen in lineup, Nordstrom in press box, waive Carcillo
(b) keep Carcillo in lineup, Nordstrom in press box, reassign Teravainen
(c) keep Teravainen in lineup, Carcillo in press box, reassign Nordstrom
(d) keep Nordstrom in lineup, Carcillo in press box, reassign Teravainen

Note that I don't really consider any possibility where Teravainen ends up primarily in the press box. It just won't happen. Either he sticks in the lineup where he's been, or he's sent back to Rockford for steady reps. So you're basically looking at the four options above.

The most likely one, I think, is the one that we want to see least. That would be good ol' Option B, because I just don't really see any way that Carcillo gets pulled from the lineup after the past two games. The winger has the coaches on his side and it's easy enough for the team to send down a guy on a two-way contract.

You'd be looking at similar lines to earlier in the season, with the return of PB&J (which seems a lock no matter who says or goes), Sharp on a third line centered by Andrew Shaw, and Carcillo on the fourth line with Ben Smith and Marcus Kruger.

That's certainly not the ideal scenario, though. I think we can all agree that Teravainen has earned the chance to stick for the rest of the season, and while it would mean benching Carcillo, Option C would give us an absolutely insane depth chart:




Brandon Saad

Jonathan Toews

Marian Hossa

Kris Versteeg

Brad Richards

Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell

Teuvo Teravainen

Patrick Sharp

Andrew Shaw

Marcus Kruger

Ben Smith

Yeah. Sweet baby. A third line of Bickell-Teuvo-Sharp. The return of PB&J, which was easily the most productive stretch of the season for Richards up the middle. Shaw back on the wing, boosting a fourth line that would be arguably the best in the league. And then you still got Carcillo on the bench, where the coaching staff could deploy him as necessary depending on the matchup.

The Blackhawks probably won't do this, because they love having Carcillo in the lineup and that can't happen every night with a full commitment to Teravainen. We can only go off so much about things the team seemingly won't budge on, though. So prepare to see Carcillo back in the lineup later this week, and hope Teravainen responds positively when shuttled back downstate.

This could be the team's chance to solidify its best lineup, though, if it wants to.