The Chicago Blackhawks have "serious interest" in Radim Vrbata and Dan Hamhuis of the Vancouver Canucks, reports TSN's Farhan Lalji. The Hawks are expected to be active buyers before the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 29 and appear to be casting a wide net for targets before then.
Vrbata and Hamhuis are considered two of the top players potentially available this month. With the Canucks struggling to keep up in the Pacific Division and the trade deadline looming Monday, it seems increasingly likely the team could consider moving some of its veterans -- Vrbata and Hamhuis are both free agents this summer -- rather than let them walk for nothing after the season.
Hamhuis, 33, is in the midst of his sixth season with the Canucks. He's played in just 35 games due to missing time after taking a puck to the face. In that limited time, he's recorded five assists. Hamhuis' points-per-game figure (0.14) would be a career-low and his shots per game (1.17) would be the second-lowest of his career. Those are obviously bad signs, but in a market lacking no-brainer options on the blue line, Hamhuis could be a compromise depending on what Vancouver wants in return.
One extra wrinkle on Hamhuis is the defenseman's no-trade clause. There's "no word yet" on whether Hamhuis will be willing to waive his NTC and leave Vancouver, per Lalji.
The other option, Vrbata, was actually discussed recently as a possible fit for the Hawks. As a veteran scoring wing on an expiring contract, he's naturally the kind of player Chicago would target this month. A former member of the Hawks back from 2005-07, Vrbata is traditionally a right winger but could give Joel Quenneville some additional options for laying out his top-six. In 57 games this season, Vrbata has 12 goals and 12 assists despite his team shooting just 5.5 percent when he's on the ice. That deflated performance could give the Hawks a chance to potentially buy low relative to other options, although it's hard to know how interested Vancouver is in making a deal.
The other challenge would be the salary cap. Hamhuis has a $4.5 million cap hit, while Vrbata has a $5 million cap hit. The Hawks would either need to ship out extra salary or convince the Canucks to retain some money in order to acquire either player. And as Mark Lazerus warns, Chicago's interest doesn't necessarily mean a deal is likely, especially this time of the year. Still, it appears we can add Vrbata and Hamhuis to the list of possibilities before Feb. 29.