The Chicago Blackhawks probably won’t be major buyers or sellers at the 2018 NHL trade deadline. They’re too far out of the playoff race to make acquiring rentals worthwhile, and too loaded with no-movement clauses to make wholesale changes easy to execute.
So we’re likely to have a pretty quiet Feb. 26 around these parts. There won’t be any Antoine Vermettes or Andrew Ladds this time around. It just doesn’t make sense for where this team is at.
But that doesn’t mean that general manager Stan Bowman will spend the next two weeks watching the Olympics rather than working the phones. He still has a lot of work cut out for him over the next 7-8 months to get this team ready for the 2018-19 season.
There are pieces that the Blackhawks could still move in the next couple weeks. They probably won’t be members of the “Core Four” or a veteran like Artem Anisimov, but smaller deals remain possible to recoup some draft picks and prepare the roster for next season.
With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of the probable trade assets that Bowman could work with until the trade deadline on Feb. 26. As you’ll notice, it’s not exactly a stacked group, and probably won’t return too much to get excited about.
Tommy Wingels — $1 million cap hit
Lance Bouma — $1 million cap hit
Cody Franson — $1 million cap hit
Jan Rutta — $925,000 cap hit
Michal Kempny — $900,000 cap hit
The most obvious trade candidates for the Blackhawks are the five players set to become unrestricted free agents this summer. The team is already without its second- and fourth-round picks in the 2018 NHL Draft as a result of other deals, so you have to figure they’ll try to add more picks in the coming weeks.
Wingels and Bouma could appeal to teams looking to add some grit to the back end of their rosters. Neither player has performed particularly well for the Blackhawks this season, but they’re on affordable deals and bring a high energy level whenever they’re on the ice. Some time might think it could use a bit more oomph on its fourth line.
Kempny, Rutta, and Franson could also be options for teams searching for depth on the blue line. Kempny seems like the obvious top candidate there given the flashes of ability he’s shown the past couple years. Franson cleared waivers in early January, so there’s a chance that nobody wants him, but he could be a throw-in to a deal.
Anthony Duclair — $1.2 million cap hit
John Hayden — $925,000 cap hit
Ryan Hartman — $863,333 cap hit
Tomas Jurco — $800,000 cap hit
Vinnie Hinostroza — $717,500 cap hit
Erik Gustafsson — $650,000 cap hit
If the Blackhawks wanted to push beyond the middling return they could potentially receive for the upcoming UFAs, they could dangle upcoming RFAs from the list above. Someone like Hartman or Hinostroza would surely command more on the trade market than a veteran like Wingels or Bouma.
However, Bowman said recently that he still anticipates re-signing Duclair, Hayden, Hartman, and Hinostroza.
Stan Bowman expects Ryan Hartman, Vinnie Hinostroza, Anthony Duclair, John Hayden to all be re-signed, though it's not something they're thinking about just yet.— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) February 11, 2018
It’s unclear why Gustafsson and Jurco aren’t included in that conversation, but you could speculate that it’s because they’re available in trades right now. It definitely seems possible that Gustafsson’s surge in playing time over the past couple weeks is partially an effort to showcase him to other teams.
But at the same time, all six of these players could likely be re-signed at affordable rates, so there’s no urgency to move any of them.
The big fish
Brandon Saad — $6 million cap hit
Connor Murphy — $3.85 million cap hit
The two big names that the Blackhawks acquired last summer haven’t quite panned out yet. Saad has been in an unfathomable slump that’s led to his playing time cratering in recent games. Murphy keeps on getting healthy scratched even though he’s tended to perform well whenever he’s on the ice.
If the Blackhawks really wanted to do something wild this month, it would most likely involve one of these two players. They’re both young, relatively affordable, and neither one has trade protection in his deal. Surely other teams would come calling if the Hawks made them available.
But the problem here is that you’d undeniably be selling low. Saad is playing the worst hockey of his career right now but spent a lot of this season pumping out strong underlying numbers despite the lack of raw production. It’s hard to see him continuing at a 35-point pace for the duration of his contract. Murphy has been pretty good, but largely in a third-pairing role.
Neither player seems close to their peak value right now, so the Blackhawks should be weary of making deals. But, I mean, if the Oilers came calling and offering Oscar Klefbom for Saad, you probably pick up the phone and have that conversation.