The Chicago Blackhawks have traded Ben Smith and a conditional seventh-round pick to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Andrew Desjardins, the team announced before the trade deadline. The deal is mostly a one-for-one swap, though the Sharks also get a conditional pick in the 2017 draft.
Given the names involved in this surprising swap, it's likely money and Teuvo Teravainen were the primary motivators for GM Stan Bowman. Smith has a cap hit of $1.5 million through next season, while Desjardins' $750,000 cap hit comes on an expiring deal. The Sharks are also eating half of his salary, adding to a total cap saving of over $1 million for Chicago.
That extra space should allow the team to keep Teravainen on the roster for the remainder of the season, and now Smith's $1.5 million is removed from next season's books. Given the possibility of the cap dipping below the protjected $73 million in 2015-16, it's easy to see why Bowman would be looking to retain flexibility.
Smith, 26, endeared himself to the Blackhawks fan base in his breakout 2013-14 season, recording 26 points (14G, 12A) in 75 games while contributing to one of the better fourth lines in the league. He finished 16th in Lady Byng Award voting and seemed like a potentially steady contributor for years to come.
However, much of that optimism hinged on Smith improving with extra playing time, and instead he's taken a step back. The winger has just nine points (5G, 4A) in 61 games with the 'Hawks this season, and put up some of the worst possession numbers on the team. Toss in his shooting percentage, which has regressed from a high of 15.6 percent last season, and it's easy to see why Chicago decided to bail now.
The move also doesn't have too much of an impact on the Blackhawks' current depth chart, as the addition of Antoine Vermette gives the team a lot more flexibility. Smith's spot on the fourth line could be replaced by Joakim Nordstrom or Daniel Carcillo, who would've been buried with the Vermette move, or maybe this will allow the team to find a way to keep Teravainen in the lineup permanently.
Desjardins could also fit into the equation somehow, depending on how Joel Quenneville wants to put together his lines. The 28-year-old has eight points (5G, 3A) in 56 games with the Sharks this season, though he's spent most of his time playing next to the likes of John Scott, Adam Burish and Tye McGinn. He would obviously be playing with superior talent in Chicago.
With just a few hours before the trade deadline, we've already seen the 'Hawks made three significant deals. It's hard to imagine much more is coming after an unusually active period from Bowman, although I suppose Antti Raanta might be one more piece to go.