Kristi Loucks The Hockey Writers
Chicago Blackhawks Go All in for Another Cup
Once again, the Chicago Blackhawks have taken the biggest name off the market ahead of Monday’s trade deadline as they sent Marko Dano, a first round pick (plus a conditional pick in 2018 if they win the Cup) to the Winnipeg Jets for Andrew Ladd, Matt Fraser, and Jay Harrison. Though Ladd was the target of this trade, the other players will likely report to Rockford.
It was a high price to pay, but one that Stan Bowman felt was a step towards defending their Stanley Cup. Few will find fault with this deal.
On Friday afternoon, Bowman also made a smaller trade that sent Rob Scuderi back to the Los Angeles Kings for Christian Ehrhoff. Another journeyman blue liner, but one that perhaps could fit into the Blackhawks system a little better. This deal was not as significant, but could prove useful as the playoffs near.
Fun fact, Ehrhoff will be the first German player to suit up for the Blackhawks.
Updates from @ChristopherHine on the Blackhawks' deal for Christian Ehrhoff https://t.co/O5yHqeUnPW pic.twitter.com/evNDIkQeBa
— ChicagoSports (@ChicagoSports) February 27, 2016
Bowman wasn’t finished yet. Before any other team has had a chance to make a bigger splash, Bowman went ahead and pulled the trigger on another big deal. He sent Phillip Danault to the Montreal Canadiens for Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann. He found the gritty winger on his wishlist to slot in beside Teuvo Teravainen in Weise but gave up the promising Danault in return.
Time will tell if that one might come back to haunt the Blackhawks later. Danault was certainly a player that fit into the system and stepped up to fill the void left when Marcus Kruger went down with an injury.
G-Ladd To Be Back
Ladd was a part of the Blackhawks 2010 Stanley Cup championship team and has stayed close to several of the players who have remained in Chicago. He is a big, solid two-way left winger who can step into the void left by Brandon Saad. He is not a major scoring threat, but he has the ability to get to the right areas of the ice to create scoring opportunities, and he knows both Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews’ tendencies very well. All three players should benefit from this move. He is also a much needed physical presence and a top notch leader in the locker room.
Welcome back @aladd16! pic.twitter.com/QUkNrB014x
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) February 26, 2016
For Ladd, coming back to Chicago should be an easy transition. Even though it has been six years, the core group remains nearly untouched apart from Patrick Sharp. His familiarity with the system and coach Quenneville’s game plan should eliminate that transitional play that plagued Antoine Vermette last season.
During his first two-year stint in Chicago, Ladd played most of his minutes with Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa among others. He also played limited minutes with Toews.
Back then, he was not relied upon for the power play or the penalty kill units, but in his time with the Winnipeg Jets (previously the Atlanta Thrashers before the move to Canada) he has honed those skills as well. Ladd is a better all around player today than he was in 2010.
While he has had a down year production-wise, some of that is likely a product of the overall play in Winnipeg. The team as a whole took a significant step back from where they were last season, and they are currently well outside the playoff picture. It is reasonable to think that Ladd’s numbers could swing in a more positive direction with Toews and Hossa (when he returns from injury). The hope is that Ladd’s presence will also have a positive effect on Hossa and Toews’ production as well.
Ladd will get his old number 16 back as Kruger has agreed to switch to 22.
Bowman Shakes Things Up Again
As the other teams appear to be sitting back waiting for the deadline to get closer, Bowman’s bat phone stayed active. He made yet another trade that sent Danault to the Habs for Weise and Fleischmann. Weise is 27 years old and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, but he is an affordable piece at $1.025 million of which the Habs have reportedly retained 30 percent.
He plays on the right side and will likely find a spot on the third line with Teravainen as his center, and possibly Andrew Shaw once Hossa returns to action. Weise is a gritty forward who could bring some physicality to Teravainen’s finesse game. Should Shaw find his way onto the third line, this could be an interesting line to watch both offensively and defensively.
BREAKING: @NHLBlackhawks acquire Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise from Habs https://t.co/Zq78HAIb4G pic.twitter.com/koEkDG2hEa
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) February 27, 2016
Weise currently has 14 goals (career-high) and 12 assists, numbers that could improve if the pair can find some chemistry. It is possible that he could also slot in on the right side of Toews and Ladd until Hossa returns (possibly next week). However, it would seem that Shaw is more likely to stay there for the time being so that Weise can start to develop a rapport with the young Finnish centerman.
Fleischmann is a wild card. He plays the left side, but it is a bit uncertain where he fits into the lineup. He is 31 years old, and currently has 10 goals and 10 assists. He would appear to be the odd man out (along with Jiri Sekac) once the kinks get ironed out with all the changes. Currently, the Blackhawks have several players that can play wing on the bottom six in Richard Panik, Dennis Rasmussen, Shaw, Andrew Desjardins, and Weise.
Fleischmann would have to be borderline extraordinary to even crack the lineup on a nightly basis. However, it never hurts to have a little depth going into what the Blackhawks are certainly hoping will be another deep run in the playoffs.
In fact, based on the moves that Bowman has made, it is certain that they are all in with the Stanley Cup or bust mentality.
If it works in their favor, everything will have been worth it. If it doesn’t, people will come out of the wood work to question every transaction. The role of an NHL GM has never been for the faint of heart.
The Chips Are All on the Table
It is unclear whether Bowman is done before the deadline though it would seem likely that his hand will remain on the trigger as he works every possible angle to deliver Bryan Bickell to another team. The question is, can it be done without costing the Blackhawks in the long run. There is not exactly a line forming in the Bickell lottery at the moment.
It is certainly not out of the question for the Blackhawks to seek out another defenseman to add to their depth on the backend as they are unlikely to be able to pull off the four man defense for a second playoff campaign (this year it would be without Johnny Oduya). Erik Gustafsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk have done an admirable job all season, however, they are both still relatively green and could use a bit more mileage before they carry the heavy workload as a 4th D-man.
After #Blackhawks' trades to bolster forward depth, one question remains: Is their defense deep enough? https://t.co/qbNVQKJCqG
— Kevin Allen (@ByKevinAllen) February 27, 2016
Should it become necessary, it is clear that the Blackhawks and Joel Quenneville have enough faith in the duo, but it would be nice to have some depth in the event that anyone was injured as Michal Rozsival was last season.
What the Deals Mean for the Future
All of the deals free up space for next season. They will be looking to give Kruger the deal that they could not offer this summer, extend Artemi Panarin and possibly Teravainen. Ladd, Ehrhoff, Weise, and Fleischmann are all heading to free agency in the offseason, so that will give the team some freedom in that respect. As they each head to their next team over the summer the Blackhawks will be left with several holes to fill and not a whole lot of picks to reload the talent pool.
#NHL 'Hawks want to extend Panarin this summer… https://t.co/XIVKsLKlrQ pic.twitter.com/LfPjm2CYtg
— NHL blog (@inkolesnikova48) January 28, 2016
Inevitably they will look to the Rockford IceHogs as they have this season to pick up some young talent, but they will no longer have Dano and Danault who were easily at top end of the talent pool. Tyler Motte and Nick Schmaltz will be another year closer to NHL ready, but as of now they are still playing at the college level. Kyle Baun, Ryan Hartman, Ryan Haggerty and Mark McNeill are all possibilities, but they will likely have to pick up a few veterans as well.
Time will tell how much of the future the Blackhawks have mortgaged for a win this year, but that is what has to be done to succeed in the salary cap era. You don’t win the Stanley Cup by standing pat, and you certainly don’t win four in seven seasons without making some tough choices.
Bowman has certainly had to make his fair share of those.
Other Teams Late to the Trade Parade
It would seem like Bowman, and his team of scouts have gone around the league disconnecting the hotlines for all the other teams as the deadline remains fairly quiet with only two and half days remaining.
Ladd was clearly one of the big tickets, but Loui Eriksson remains available though the word is Boston is still working to re-sign the big winger. Mikkel Boedker is another big name that hasn’t moved, and certainly the Blackhawks are just driving the prices up with each move they make.
With the return on Ladd, Boedker and Eriksson could command a much higher price than their respective teams had originally thought. Though the Bruins have to be considering any possible way they could hang onto Eriksson as they are currently holding the third spot in their division and will look to make an impact in the playoffs. They are certainly better with Eriksson than without. So, the big story there will be whether he is actually available, or not.
Been told Bruins not giving up on re-signing Loui Eriksson – chances of him being dealt at deadline don't seem high at this point
— Ryan Kennedy (@THNRyanKennedy) February 27, 2016
Another big piece that is in play is Jonathan Drouin, a player who has drawn a lot of interest, but his asking price is likely to be too rich for a lot of teams. There is also some question about how much of an impact he can make and certainly the manner in which he is leaving Tampa may cause some teams to hesitate. However, he is likely on several teams radar as he is a talented young player with loads of potential.
Anaheim is almost certainly looking for a little help up front while Dallas has recently been exposed on the defensive side. Both teams should be active in the coming days.
St. Louis may also be on the look out for a couple of pieces to ensure they are prepared for the playoffs, and Minnesota will be looking to add a piece or two in the hopes of gaining some ground on the wild card. They are currently four points outside of the playoff picture. Nashville could also look for one more piece.
The weekend should get exciting as the rest of the teams look to find the missing pieces that will put them over the top.
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