In a trade market that wasn't exactly loaded with premium options, Stan Bowman has done a magnificent job for the Chicago Blackhawks. He went out and shored up the blue line on Friday, in adding Kimmo Timonen, before landing what was likely the best forward being shopped on the market in Antoine Vermette on Saturday evening.
The price was a bit more steep than it was for Timonen, as the Blackhawks had to surrender a first round pick in this year's draft, leaving them without a pick in each of the first two rounds, and defensive prospect Klas Dahlbeck. If this move works out in the way that Bowman and the Hawks hope, however, the price is a small one to pay given what Vermette can bring to this club.
While the Blackhawks were never going to be able to replace Patrick Kane, a move for a player like Vermette certainly does a lot of good things for them that can help them to at least survive until he comes back.
Vermette has been a key piece of the Coyotes in the last few seasons, and was a catalyst for them a few years ago when they ran all the way to the Western Conference Finals. His numbers have certainly declined in the last couple of seasons, but when you consider the team he was playing for, especially this year, that's certainly understandable to an extent.
For the Coyotes, Vermette led all forwards in ice time, was a primary center on the power play, and a key penalty killer. He was also trotted out against top competition. He isn't going to have to do that with the Hawks, but he's definitely going to see some time on the PK, and could find himself in the power play mix a bit as well. In bringing in Vermette, there are a couple of real bonuses.
For one, you get a top faceoff guy. At the time of the trade, Vermette was at 58 percent at the dot, just a touch behind Jonathan Toews on the league leaderboard. You now have a center group that includes Toews, Vermette, Brad Richards, and Marcus Kruger. Four true centers, and three of the four (Toews, Vermette, Kruger) are going to win a helluva lot more draws than they'll lose.
Left off of that list of centers is Andrew Shaw. There's your other bonus. Andrew Shaw now gets booted to the wing, likely on the third line. Perhaps we see an improvement in his performance now that he's not being asked to do things that he isn't necessarily capable of.
In terms of the price, it was a steep one. Dahlbeck could've been a nice second pairing guy next year, and you hate to surrender a first. At the same time, the Hawks are going to recoup draft picks, and probably more, when they move players this summer to get back under the salary cap. Dahlbeck, while a nice prospect, doesn't deplete the farm too much, as there are still defensive prospects to like down in Rockford and beyond to be excited about. If there are reasons to dislike the trade, the return probably isn't one of them.
Who knows, maybe the Hawks do enough moving around of salaries to keep a guy like Vermette around for a year or two, though you'd have to figure if he makes it to the open market then there will be a few teams vying for his services, and likely ending that dream. Nonetheless, he's the ideal move for the Blackhawks right now and, in conjunction with the acquisition of Timonen, makes this team a lot better than it was early on Friday.
You have to give credit to Stan Bowman here. He recognized that his team had a couple of glaring holes and filled them in the best possible way. He didn't surrender any roster players or get rid of anything that he can't recoup in deals this summer. The Hawks now have a true center who can contribute in all phases, as well as a faceoff wizard, to supplant Andrew Shaw and give them a solid lineup down the middle. Timonen shores up the blue line a great deal.
A few days ago, we may not have thought we'd see Patrick Kane again this season. This team as it stands right now is capable of getting through a round or two of the postseason, and fending off enough teams to clear the way for Kane to come back, assuming he can get back before the 12 weeks (I am of the opinion that he will). Good on ya, Stan. Now, let's see if it leads to a more consistent product in on-ice performance.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.