It's never the most popular thing to trade a fan favorite. Even if the move makes plenty of sense from a variety of perspectives, there's always going to be the large contingent of that specific player's followers that criticize the deal and renounce the team as a result. Nonetheless, as unpopular as the move may be, it tends to be the right one.
The Chicago Blackhawks traded Ben Smith on Monday afternoon, in a somewhat surprise move prior to the trade deadline. It wasn't a surprise in that they shed salary in doing so, as that's $1.5 million off the books in advance of next summer's impending cap crunch, but simply a surprise because Ben Smith wasn't a player that was expected to go before the deadline.
Smith was a fan favorite throughout his tenure in Chicago. He kicked it off with the Game 6 overtime winner against the Vancouver Canucks in the 2010-11 playoffs that forced a Game 7 in a nearly improbable comeback for the Hawks. While he didn't turn into much more, or any more, than a fourth liner, he was a class act off the ice and the type of personality that fans of any team come to love.
It had been 28 games since Smith had scored for the Hawks, even serving as a healthy scratch at one point. He did provide minutes on the penalty kill, but his contributions didn't go too far beyond that. Many have likened trading Smith to the Chicago Cubs trading Darwin Barney in that they traded a super nice guy, and a fan favorite, but also moved a player who wasn't contributing too much in terms of performance.
Additionally, moving Smith allows the Hawks to get Teuvo Teravainen into the lineup regularly. It allows them to fit him in against the cap, as well as in terms of personnel. With the game that Teuvo had on Monday night, that aspect should make everyone extremely excited.
In exchange for Smith, the Blackhawks brought in Andrew Desjardins from the Sharks. The most notable thing there is the fact that he's an expiring contract that'll be off the books next summer. He provides a bit of a downgrade from Smith, in terms of the already limited offensive upside he brought, but does bring some extra physicality and grit to throw down on that fourth line if necessary. He's also a center who's adequate in the faceoff circle in the event that the Hawks need someone to step in there. He'll probably be in and out of the lineup throughout the rest of the year.
All in all, it's a move that you have to like from Stan Bowman when you consider the long term implications. The Hawks will likely have quite a bit of moving around to do, in terms of avoiding coming in over the cap. Players like Andrew Shaw, Bryan Bickell, and Patrick Sharp are all candidates to be moved in that respect. This move doesn't clear a ton of money moving toward next season, but moving Smith is a start as it doesn't take a whole lot away from the lineup while setting them up at least a little better financially heading into next season.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.