As the Feb. 25 NHL Trade Deadline inches closer, Zone Coverage will take a look at each team in the Central Division and evaluate what their plans could be heading into the deadline. A special guest — who covers each team — will join in as well to provide some more in-depth analysis on team needs and offers speculation on what will happen. Our series begins today with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Record: 24-26-9, 57 points
Current Position: Seventh in Central Division, three points behind second Wild Card spot.
Joining us today to help preview the Chicago Blackhawks’ strategy heading into the trade deadline is friends of Giles and the Goalie Podcast, Faxes From Uncle Dale. They can be found covering the Blackhawks daily here and on Twitter @RealFansProgram.
1. The Blackhawks have miraculously found themselves in the Wild Card race. What has gone right for them?
Well first off, who isn’t in this race? That’s what went right for the Hawks basically, that the conference didn’t really get away from that. Aside from that, the only things that have changed is an abnormal amount of pucks are going in at even strength and especially the power play. They’re still a woeful, comedic defensive team, but Cam Ward and Collin Delia have made enough saves for the power play to make up the difference. I don’t want to discount the power play, because they finally figured out to get all their best players moving on it, and it should be this good. But there’s nothing structural to this. It’s just luck, really. It should flatten out tout suite.
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2. Does the recent swing in the standings change Chicago’s approach to the deadline? They were seemingly sellers but now is there a chance they buy?
I’m not sure. They really don’t have much to sell. Before the streak, you probably could have had Artem Anisimov, Chris Kunitz and Gustav Forsling, and that’s still true because the Hawks could lose all of those guys without losing any momentum, such as it is. There’s no chance they’ll be “buying,” unless they can get a long-term piece for one of the ones above. The only thing that’s probably changed is their willingness to trade Erik Gustafsson. He’s basically Swedish Justin Schultz but he’s super cheap, which meant you could have gotten more for him. This probably has convinced them he’s a long-term piece to keep, which he isn’t, but whatever. There are bigger crimes.
3. If Chicago did get into the trade market, what players should they be looking at?
The only things they should be looking at, and this is more for the offseason, is a top-pairing d-man or two, and a top-six winger or two. So yeah, Matt Duchene or Mark Stone would be cool, but the Hawks can’t give anything up to get them especially when they could just sign them in the summer. If they could get a younger version of what’s mentioned above, great, but that would take a miracle. Their movement has to be in the summer.
4. On the flip side, if the Blackhawks stayed with the seller’s route, who from the roster could be on the move?
Please god, get Artem Anisimov off this team. He’s never been good, and only Patrick Kane fooled people into thinking he was. He’s slow and not all that strong. And his salary needs to go. Gustav Forsling should be jettisoned because he might just be the worst player in the NHL and I don’t want to watch him anymore. They could honestly get a nice return on Gustafsson because he is a power play weapon and could be a third-pairing bum-slayer on a good team, but they think he’s worth keeping. If someone calls about Ward they’d probably do that, too.
5. Ultimately, what do you think Chicago does prior to the trade deadline?
I think it’s going to be pretty quiet. No one’s taking Anisimov at that salary unless the Hawks retain some of it. A move of Kunitz or Ward doesn’t really move the needle. They could shock everyone and pack a couple of their defensive prospects for a piece they can use now, but I doubt it. Not at the deadline anyway. Just things around the edges.
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