The Chicago Blackhawks have found themselves in the dire financial straits that we all expected coming into the summer. That element in itself is not a surprise. However, while it was widely assumed that Stan Bowman would easily be able to move the likes of Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell off the roster, that hasn't been the case. Instead, Brandon Saad found his way out of town, with the former two still on the roster.
There have been reports that it's a matter of Bickell's contract being "unmovable" but we're just a few months removed from David Clarkson, perhaps the worst contract in NHL history, being traded. It's likely a matter of Bowman positioning himself to get a larger return. This deep into the summer, that could backfire, but it's unreasonable to think that an upper tier offensive player like Sharp and a big, physical forward that has won a pair of Stanley Cups can't be moved.
Nonetheless, it could be time to explore other options. At the top of Stan Bowman's list of alternatives is likely Kris Versteeg. That's understandable, given that he slumped down the stretch and may be injured once again. But we saw what a healthy Kris Versteeg could do early in the year. With the departure of Saad, and the potentially imminent trades of Sharp and Bickell, the Hawks need secondary scoring. Bowman could be better off keeping him in a bumslaying bottom six role.
Instead, a move that Bowman might explore is that of trading Andrew Shaw. While you won't find any specific or absurd trade scenarios as to what Shaw might fetch (I'll leave that to you folks down in the comments), it could be at least a step in the right direction towards saving some money.
Shaw is on the books for $2 million next year, which is a touch less than Versteeg, before he hits RFA status following the 2015-16 campaign. Unless the Hawks were to extend him to a similar deal this summer, he could be in for a raise, given his winning pedigree and versatility as a player that can play both in the middle and out on the wing. But for the Blackhawks, his specific skill set is one that's likely replaceable, especially with the slew of forwards on the roster. That aspect, along with the 2 million other reasons, could serve as primary motivation in a trade of Shaw. Although trading Shaw wouldn't free up a great deal of cap space, it could be a case of moving an asset at the point of highest value.
With 15 goals last season, Shaw has tallied 35 in each of the last two campaigns combined. Five of those goals this season came with the Hawks on the power play, as Shaw really carved out a niche holding down the crease on the man advantage. He has a 46 percent success rate at the dot for his career, but we saw during the playoffs how much more successful he can be in a fourth line role on the wing.
Assuming the Blackhawks are able to get Marcus Kruger re-signed, they'll have Jonathan Toews, Artem Anisimov, and Kruger down the middle, with Teuvo Teravainen, Marko Dano or Phillip Danault, as well as a couple of other less likely options possessing the ability to hold down that spot as the third line pivot. With a handful of wings set to make the jump, as well as the addition of Viktor Tikhonov, the Hawks could probably afford to move Shaw and replace his specific skill set in the bottom six. Especially when you consider the Ryan Hartman factor.
A first round pick in 2013, Hartman has been touted as another Shaw. He's similar in stature, at 5'11", and plays a similar game. Though undersized, he brings that physical, gritty aspect that so many have grown to love in Shaw. He logged 69 games with the Rockford Icehogs last year, tallying 37 points, including 13 goals. If you think Andrew Shaw has become a fan favorite with his style, just wait until a local kid brings that same type of high energy play to the Blackhawks.
For the Blackhawks, it's not necessarily a matter of prioritizing an Andrew Shaw trade. But if they need to move the money, Shaw is a player that they might be able to replace relatively easily. It might not be a popular move, given how beloved he's become in Chicago, and the fact that he's holding RFA status next year could make keeping him more enticing, but given the relatively extreme situation that the Blackhawks are facing, moving a player like Andrew Shaw isn't all that unreasonable.
And it'd probably be a helluva lot easier than trying to trade Bryan Bickell.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.