The Chicago Blackhawks have interest in adding a big-name winger, and they’ve “checked in” on the Avalanche’s Gabriel Landeskog and the Maple Leafs’ James van Riemsdyk, according to NHL.com’s Brian Hedger. Either player would definitely qualify as the kind of top talent Chicago is reportedly trying to acquire to pair with Jonathan Toews.
However, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported later Friday that the Blackhawks are “not talking to teams about anything big” and they’re hoping their young forwards can provide some improvement. It’s unclear if this means the team has simply shelved talks for a player like Landeskog or JVR for now, but it’s possible they simply “checked in” like Hedger said, only to find the price prohibitive.
The Blackhawks are currently leading the Western Conference standings in points, but they’re a thin team with worrisome underlying statistics. Rather than wait and see whether there’s grand improvement coming in the future, GM Stan Bowman could be considering upgrades that could push the team over the top.
Hedger didn’t offer up many other details regarding the trade talks, although he said that no deals are imminent. He also mentioned on Twitter that he’s heard a name that potentially go back to Colorado, although he declined to put that out in the public. It seems like a good chance that player is a prominent part of the current roster.
Like with any trade the Blackhawks might make before the trade deadline, the salary cap will play a key role here. According to Cap Friendly, if Chicago keeps its current roster right up until the trade deadline, it could acquire $5.33 million in cap hits on deadline day and still be salary cap compliant at the end of the season.
Landeskog, 24, has a cap hit of $5.57 million through the 2020-21 season. He’s recorded seven goals and six assists in 30 games with the Avalanche this season, which would represent the lowest points-per-game rate of his career. Over the previous three seasons, he averaged 23 goals and 36 assists in 79 games per year.
There’s been word that Colorado is open to trading anyone on its roster other than Nathan MacKinnon and 2015 first-round pick Mikko Rantanen, so Landeskog, Matt Duchene, and Jarome Iginla have come up in trade rumors repeatedly recently. We already got one rumor tying Iginla to the Blackhawks, although you have to imagine Chicago would prefer to acquire the younger Landeskog if it’s feasible.
The other name mentioned, van Riemsdyk, has also come up in trade rumors a lot over the years. He’s signed through next season with a $4.25 million cap hit before he’s set to hit unrestricted free agency. The lower cap hit might make him easier to acquire than Landeskog, although he’s performed better this season and Toronto is trending upwards.
JVR has 14 goals and 19 assists in 39 games for the surprisingly competitive Maple Leafs. He’s never been great at driving possession, but he racks up shots on goal, and that finishing ability would be a perfect fit on a Blackhawks team that needs to spread out its scoring a bit more.
It’s also fair to wonder who might go to Colorado or Toronto in these potential deals. Given Landeskog’s cap hit, it would be hard for Chicago to acquire him without sending salary back the other way. The Avalanche have reportedly asked for a ““top-level defenseman, a first-round pick, plus” to deal Landeskog. Does that mean the Hawks would give up someone like Brent Seabrook or Niklas Hjalmarsson — i.e. a top-level defenseman — in order to acquire Landeskog? And how would that impact the team’s already complicated situation this upcoming offseason?
There’s a lot to unpack here, but it seems like the Blackhawks have considered some major moves recently. Based on LeBrun’s reporting, it also sounds like they’re not particularly urgent to get something done, so we’ll see what happens over the next few weeks. The trade deadline is on Feb. 28.