The Chicago Blackhawks may be in the market for a veteran defenseman at the NHL trade deadline, according to The Athletic’s Scott Powers. The team is reportedly looking at forwards and defensemen for possible midseason deals, and could end up trying to bolster its blue line.
One possible name mentioned as an available option is Coyotes defenseman Michael Stone. It doesn’t sound like the Hawks have initiated talks on this front yet, but the idea of going after a defenseman is a new development.
Most trade talk surrounding the team lately has involved acquiring a forward, and specifically a high-level left winger who could try to help rejuvenate Jonathan Toews. That’s why this report comes as a bit of a surprise, as pretty much every rumor leading up to Friday has been about a winger.
The Blackhawks also already have seven defensemen on their active roster, plus Gustav Forsling, Ville Pokka, Erik Gustafsson, and others in the AHL. That’s more depth than the team can boast at forward, where middling players like Andrew Desjardins and Jordin Tootoo have played regularly due to a lack of alternatives.
The issue on defense is a little different, as the team has options but doesn’t seem to know what to do with them. Part of that is an issue of handedness, as the Hawks only have three right-handed blue liners (Brent Seabrook, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Michal Rozsival) and often play Niklas Hjalmarsson on his offside.
Seabrook’s struggles lately also haven’t helped things on the back end. He looked better earlier in the year, but the veteran has seen his game take a step in the wrong direction over the past few weeks. We’ve seen more sloppy zone clearing attempts and more questionable decision-making, and not enough offensive punch to make up for it.
Stone is a right-handed defenseman, so he could be a somewhat logical target for the Hawks if they’re trying to re-balance their top six. Maybe you add Stone (or another right-handed defenseman) so you can go Duncan Keith-Seabrook, Hjalmarsson-Stone, Brian Campbell-TVR as your pairings going forward.
The Coyotes defenseman has a $4 million cap hit, but he’ll be a free agent at the end of the season so it would likely only be a rental. He’s also played fairly poorly this season, which could be seen as a buy-low opportunity, not unlike when the Penguins struck gold with Justin Schultz last year.
Part of the idea here, most likely, is that an improved defense would make things easier on the offense. The Hawks’ system is built on the defensemen quickly passing the puck up to the forwards in transition, and greater effectiveness in that area theoretically could prove a greater benefit than going after a big-name winger like Landeskog, Sharp, or van Riemsdyk. Or at least, I imagine that’s part of the thinking here.
One thing this report does blow up, however, is the idea that the Hawks will definitely acquire a forward if they make a deal. We had largely assumed before that the team was content with its defense and would just to make the pieces in house work. Now that’s not so clear, so we’ll have to see just how creative the Hawks are going to get in the coming weeks.