The Chicago Blackhawks have come up in a lot of trade rumors recently, but don’t hold your breath waiting for a deal. GM Stan Bowman discussed the team’s situation before its 3-1 loss to the Sharks on Tuesday night, and told the Chicago Sun-Times that he’s not expecting to make a deal before the March 1 trade deadline.
‘‘There’s something to be said for chemistry and keeping your guys together and not having someone come in externally, swoop in and try to find a role for him,’’ Bowman said. ‘‘So we’ll see. Things change quickly. But as we look at it today, I’m not expecting a big addition like that.’’
It’s an interesting signal from the Blackhawks given their midseason aggressiveness over the past couple seasons. In 2015, the team gave up big assets to acquire Antoine Vermette and Kimmo Timonen before the trade deadline. Last year, it was Andrew Ladd, Dale Weise, and Tomas Fleischmann coming in as costly reinforcements.
This time around, it doesn’t sound like Bowman is as anxious to make a deal, which is probably for various reasons. The Blackhawks aren’t as close to being no-brainer Cup contenders as in previous years, and there’s not an obvious name out there who could put them over the top.
The team also doesn’t have much salary cap space (currently on pace for $1.77 million in deadline money, per Cap Friendly), an underwhelming top prospects list, and is hosting the 2017 NHL Draft, so it’s trying to avoid moving its top pick this year. Combine all those variables, and the Blackhawks’ path to a big trade isn’t readily apparent.
Instead, Bowman says the team hopes for improvement from within.
‘‘I’ve said this from the beginning of the year, and I mean it: We have a different dynamic this year because we have a lot more young players that have been with our team this year from the beginning,’’ Bowman said. ‘‘Established players, they don’t typically get better as the year goes on. They’re at their level, and they maintain it.
“If anything, they drop off due to injury or fatigue or whatnot. But we’ve got a different dynamic at play. We’ve already seen it with a few of them. They’re better now than they were in October.’’
Still, the Blackhawks could be buyers at the deadline, and that means they’ll keep showing up in trade rumors. We’ve heard ties to big names from the Avalanche (Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Jarome Iginla), Red Wings (Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist), and Maple Leafs (James van Riemsdyk). All of those players have sizable cap hits, though, and would only be moved in major deals.
There’s a month until the trade deadline, so a lot can change over the next few weeks, and you never know if a team will call up Bowman with an offer he can’t refuse. But unlike in past years, when the Blackhawks were arguably the league’s most aggressive deadline buyer, it sounds like they’re using a more cautioned approach this year.