The Chicago Blackhawks will probably make a trade before the NHL's deadline on Feb. 29. We've seen deadline deals in the past. We've seen several deals already this season. It just makes sense that all those shuffling pieces would culminate with the team making at least one more significant move before its next attempt at winning the Stanley Cup.
That's all led to the logical question of who the Hawks should target. Do you go for the left winger who could finally stabilize the top line next to Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa or one more veteran defenseman to solidify a blue line corps that already went through an undermanned playoff run? Do you focus on long-term pieces or is a rental acceptable?
We've heard a lot of suggestions, with Winnipeg Jets forward Andrew Ladd being near the top of the list, but it begs the question of what the team would give up. Last year, the Hawks didn't have a first-round pick because of a deadline deal. This year, they won't have their second-rounder for the same reason.
So what does GM Stan Bowman have to offer other front offices this month? Here's a look.
The one significant piece off the current NHL roster that the Hawks could conceivably move. Shaw is a restricted free agent at the end of the season and the team won't have a ton of flexibility to re-sign him, especially if a long-term contract extension for Artemi Panarin is a top priority. He's an incredibly important player for Chicago and would leave a significant hole, but it could be worth it if it meant acquiring an even better piece. The young forward would definitely appeal to other teams with his $2 million cap hit.
What if Shaw could be one of the leading assets in a package for Ladd or another top-line winger? Shaw's played admirably in that role but landing an upgrade there could be a difference-maker for the Hawks in the postseason. Ideally you'd be able to acquire that piece anyway, bump Shaw down to the bottom six and try to recreate last year's magic, but if some team says they want a legitimate NHL player in a package, the 24-year-old would be the guy to give up. You know this team loves Shaw, though, so it would likely take a major move to pry the forward loose.
The top prospects: Marko Dano and Ville Pokka
The Hawks' one-two punch of near-NHL ready prospects. Dano is the best forward in Rockford, while Pokka is the best defenseman. Both players were acquired via trade -- Dano for Brandon Saad, Pokka for Nick Leddy. They were expected to get opportunities with the big club this season, but now it seems more likely that happens in 2016-17.
Unless a trade happens. If the Hawks are expected to give up one of their best prospects in a trade, it would likely mean one of these two. Teams usually prefer to get prospects closer to the NHL who are easier to project. Dano has already had success during a stint with the Blue Jackets last season and Pokka is largely considered to be polishing the edges to his game with the IceHogs at this point. Either one could slide into an NHL lineup for many teams tomorrow.
Of course, the fact that Dano and Pokka are the Hawks' two big pieces near-ready for the NHL also makes them quite valuable to the team. Chicago's been able to fill out its roster so successfully this season because of cost-controlled young players on ELCs like Panarin, Teuvo Teravainen, Erik Gustafsson and Phillip Danault. Keeping a steady flow of those players toward Chicago is important and moving Dano or Pokka -- especially Pokka given the lack of D prospects -- would be a risk.
If there's any day to trade Bickell, it'll be a leap day, right?
Roster fodder: Panik, Sekac, Mashinter, Scuderi, Svedberg
Three of these guys were already traded this season. The others are a pair of useful-but-limited big bodies. None of these players would command much of anything on the trade market, but the fact that three of them have already been moved shows the possibilities. The thing is, guys at this level tend to be swapped in the kind of minor moves that we already saw. Maybe you use a guy like Panik, Svedberg or Sekac as a throw-in -- or some kind of wizard magic convinces a team to take Scuderi. Still, if you're talking about expendable pieces, all of these guys qualify.
The Rockford forwards: Hinostroza, Hartman, McNeill, Baun, Kero, Ross, Haggerty
And then there are all these guys. The Hawks have a ton of intriguing secondary forward prospects who have varying degrees of potential at the NHL level. Undersized center Vincent Hinostroza and former first-round pick Ryan Hartman stand out as the two bigger names in that group. Hinotroza and Hartman both got looks with the Hawks earlier this season but failed to stand out before returning to Rockford.
The other pieces could also interest other teams looking for bottom-six forward fodder and general organizational depth. None of these pieces could really anchor a significant deal, but their additions could help push the needle if talks are getting down to the wire.
And finally, the draft picks. The Hawks have eight selections in the 2016 NHL Draft and six selections in the 2017 NHL Draft, which will be held in the fine city of Chicago. Obviously these will be some of the biggest assets Bowman can bargain with in trade talks.
The big question will be whether the team's first-round pick is in play again after last year's was traded to Arizona. Team president John McDonough joked at the press conference announcing the draft that he'd prefer Bowman keep that 2017 pick -- which will be 30th overall, obviously -- but the GM is going to keep his options open as much as it would pain Hawks fans not to have a first-rounder to cheer in 2017.
Here's a breakdown of the team's picks over the next two years. Picks listed in italics have been traded, while picks that are in bold have been acquired.
Traded to PHI (Timonen)
Traded to CAR (Versteeg)
|4||Own pick; Acquired CBJ's pick (Saad)
|5||Own pick; Acquired FLA's pick (Pirri)
||Own pick; Acquired CAR's pick (Versteeg)
Traded to SJ (Desjardins)