Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said before the trade deadline that he didn’t expect to make any big moves, but in the end, the key word there was “big.” Bowman still completed three deals in the lead up to Wednesday afternoon, including the re-acquisition of Johnny Oduya from the Dallas Stars to bolster the blue line.
None of the deals Bowman made would qualify as major additions like Andrew Ladd a year ago, a trade that cost the team a huge haul. Instead, the Blackhawks went out and found a couple pieces they really liked, paid a reasonable price for them, and finished off their effort with a little asset management that deserves appreciation.
It wasn’t a glitzy, exciting trade deadline for the Blackhawks, but it seems like they didn’t need one after the way they played in February. They’re banking on the young players to keep doing their thing in the playoffs, and while that’s a gamble, the same goes for making deals in the middle of the season.
Here’s a look at each of the Blackhawks’ 2017 trade deadline moves:
To Blackhawks: Johnny Oduya
To Stars: Mark McNeill, conditional 2018 4th-round pick
This one was a no-brainer. Oduya was the No. 4 defenseman on the 2015 Cup-winning team, and the hope is that he’ll be able to jump back into that role after coming over from Dallas at an affordable cost.
McNeill had played his way out of favor with the organization, which was reportedly shopping him in the run up to the trade deadline. He already cleared waivers back in October, so it’s not like he was going to have much trade value, especially after an underwhelming fourth season in the AHL.
But McNeill is pretty much just a toss-in to this trade, with the bigger piece for Dallas being the conditional fourth-round pick, which turns into a third-round pick if the Blackhawks reach the Western Conference Finals and Oduya suits up 50 percent of the time. The second part of the stipulation covers the Blackhawks in case Oduya gets hurt and can’t play in the postseason.
This is the kind of move the Blackhawks needed to make to shore up their blue line. The Blackhawks apparently feel good enough about his condition post-injury to take a shot, and as good as Michal Kempny has looked at times, Oduya should be able to quickly jump back into the system, likely next to Niklas Hjalmarsson. At the price paid, it’s a potential upgrade the Blackhawks couldn’t pass up.
To Blackhawks: Tomas Jurco
To Red Wings: 2017 3rd-round pick
This is the kind of deal you can make when you have 10 draft picks. It’s a gamble on a 24-year-old who wasn’t living up to his potential on his old team and wanted a change of scenery. Jurco seems excited about being on the Blackhawks, and there’s reason to believe he can be a solid bottom-six winger.
That makes this a potentially very good deal, as Jurco will be a restricted free agent this summer and can be re-signed at a reasonable price. It seems like the Hawks specifically targeted someone who wouldn’t be a rental after going that direction repeatedly in recent seasons.
The Jurco deal also made sense from the perspective of maintaining the possibility of adding Oduya. If the Hawks went out and adding a more expensive forward, the money to acquire Oduya may not have been there. But by adding the affordable Jurco ($900,000 cap hit) instead, they were able to try to add depth in two spots instead of one.
While it remains to be seen whether Jurco will pan out in Chicago, it’s a reasonable flier that kept the team flexible for other options.
To Blackhawks: Kenton Helgesen, 2019 7th-round pick
To Ducks: Spencer Abbott, Sam Carrick
This deal came in right before the buzzer, and it’s a sneaky move by Bowman. Abbott and Carrick are AHL players with expiring contracts, so they were going to play out the string in Rockford then hit the market anyway. Instead of letting that happen with an IceHogs team out of the AHL playoff mix, he found a way to land a draft pick for them.
Sure, it’s a seventh-round pick for a draft that’s two years away, but the Blackhawks have made an art of compiling draft picks. Nobody has drafted more players over the past decade, and all those lottery tickets help restock the farm system despite few high picks and win-now trades.
This is really smart asset management by the Blackhawks. They could’ve just let those two players wrap it up in Rockford and get nothing for them, but like with Corey Tropp and the Ducks a year ago, the Blackhawks found a taker in Anaheim that was willing to give up a late pick to bolster its AHL roster. That’s the kind of deal Chicago should take every time, especially when the IceHogs aren’t even sniffing a possible postseason run that might provide prospects with useful experience.
And with Vinnie Hinostroza and Tyler Motte now in Rockford, the team should be okay even after losing its top three scorers (McNeill, Abbott, Carrick) in just a few hours. This was a great move by the Hawks that won’t get much attention, but shows how they work at the margins.