Chicago, IL — In this part of the series I’m continuing to look at the center position of the Blackhawks and who could fit in on the team well. In part II I looked at the UFAs that will be available in the summer of 2012. In this part I will look at who could potentially be a trading partner for the Hawks if they choose not to go the UFA route. I will also look at who they could potentially trade in exchange and the possibility of this happening in my opinion. Again you may not agree with my choices as GM just like we do not always agree with Stan Bowman.
If you remember in Part II, I stated that I would strongly pursue Jarrett Stoll currently with the LA Kings because of his size and physicality coupled with his great face off skills. His price tag keeps going up the further the LA Kings go in the playoffs,which could make his number too high for the Blackhawks.
I doubt however there are any cheaper solutions that the Hawks can get but let us take a look at the teams that might need to deal players either because of cap space or because they need to go in a different direction.. Let me preface this by saying none of these will be cheap either. In fact they may cost more than UFA Stoll. I will also take a look at these players’ strengths and weaknesses and how they would fit on the Hawks as their second line center.
One of the teams that will need to make changes will be the San Jose Sharks. It simply is not working there an with the organization keeping the GM and coach this signals changes in the line-up. There is no bigger target than center Joe Thornton who is currently sporting the C which makes him more accountable for the Sharks lack of success in the playoffs than anyone else. Thornton has to realize that his team just is not structured for a cup being knocked out the last three years. The knock on him is that he can’t carry or lead a team. Well with the Hawks he would not have too. His hit to the salary cap would be considerable with his current salary cap hit at 7mil but he is also one of the best set up men and face-off men in the game. He is also a big forward at 6’4” 230 lbs and is durable. He would be stepping down from first line to second but then again he would be almost guaranteed a cup which is something he has yet to achieve. If he could put his ego aside this could be beneficial to all involved.
Strengths – His face off % in the regular season was 56%. He could play on both the power play and on the penalty kill which the Hawks could use. During the regular season he had 77 points (18G, 59A) +17. Talk about a set up man and someone who could provide a big net front presence for screens and tips. Can you imagine him setting up Hossa and Sharp or Hossa and Saad on a line? Wow that would be most team’s first line and would give the Hawks the depth at center they so desperately need.
Weaknesses – I’m not sure how the chemistry would be with the Hawks. Let us not forget it was Thornton who I believe gave Toews his concussion last season when he elbowed him in the head. I’m not sure the Hawks would be willing to forgive and forget. Also as mentioned I’m not sure Jumbo Joe can put his ego aside. Can you imagine the 33 yr old at the time the season would start, having 23 yr Toews as his captain?
The Hawks could use him but they would have to give up probably too much from their defensive unit. The Sharks were interested in Hjalmarsson before if they still are, would you make the trade? It probably would take more than Hammer to get this done. You would have to package Hammer with either draft picks or current prospects or another player? Personally if I were in Stan’s shoes I would make this trade if San Jose was willing, salary cap hit and all. I would pick up the phone and make the call to see if San Jose still had any interest. Thornton is a beast and would put the Hawks way over the top at center. Hammers cap hit is 3.5 so that is half Thorntons’ salary coupled with the 4mil in UFA salaries of Bruno, Mayers and Morrison that would just about cover this. Likelihood of happening – Slim
Now the one name that everyone that is a fan of Blackhawks hopes comes to Chicago is Pittsburgh Penguins’ Jordan Staal. I know the Penguins really want to re-sign him but it may not be economically feasible for them given the huge salaries of Crosby and Malkin. The Penguins are in a salary cap crunch and will need to either ante up or part ways with Staal whose current salary cap hit is 4mil. He will be a UFA in 2013. Staal has said he wants to remain in Pittsburgh but could he refuse 5.8 or 6.3 in salary? I doubt it. Also he is their 3rd line center behind Crosby and Malkin with the Hawks he could easily be our #2 behind Toews and would be solid there. Plus it is downright unfair for one team to have Crosby, Malkin and Staal at the center ice position.
Strengths – Ahh everything. Staal is solid offensively and defensively and he is big and physical. In short he is everything that the Hawks so desperately need up front. He is only 23 yrs old and is 6’4’ 220 lbs. His past year with the Penguins had him logging 50 points split evenly among goals and assists in only 62 games. He was +10 which speaks to his being a two way player and 51% at the dot. Also he is great on the PK and ranked among NHL leaders with SH goals he is a penalty killing beast. If that was not enough he is among league leaders in shooting % which the Hawks could have used last year. They need someone who can finish and bury the puck in the net. Like I said this guy is exactly what the Hawks need. I can’t even imagine him centering fellow Thunder Bay, ON native Sharp or Kane particularly Kane. Staal could finish those beautiful Kaner set up passes WOW is all I can say.
Weaknesses – None other than it is rumored that Staal wants to stay in Pittsburgh and might take less to stay there. Also if he must leave he wants to go to Carolina to be with his brother Eric. Not sure this is the best use of Carolina’s money but they have a ton of cap space & could afford him.
Regardless if I was the Hawks GM I would heavily pursue him and throw $$$ at him to bring him to Chicago. Let us not forget he won a Stanley Cup with the Pens in 2009 so he knows what it takes to win one too. They need more defensemen in Pittsburgh, other than Keith and Seabrook everyone else on the backend line of the Hawks would be up for consideration if I was Stan to get Staal. That is how valuable I think he is. While his price tag may not be cheap, believe me in the end he would be worth every penny. Like I mentioned above I would use the $$$ saved from the UFA’s & the defensemen to pay for Staal. With Sidney Crosby’s contract coming up in 2013 Pittsburgh probably cannot afford to keep Staal and I would pounce.
Likelihood of happening – Somewhat depending on how willing Staal is to take less to remain in Pittsburgh or how much he wants to go to Carolina but I would strongly push for Staal if I’m the Hawks. If I had to pull a Lovie Smith and charter a plane and kidnap him to get him in a Blackhawks uniform I would. I’d pull nothing off the trade table short of the core to bring him to Chicago.
At the trade deadline in January the name of Derek Roy came up constantly on the rumor mill. It is no secret that the Buffalo Sabres were shopping Roy at the trade deadline. The question is would he be the right fit in Chicago?
Strengths – Roy is a legitimate center. He ended the season with 49 points (17G, 27A) -7. It’s hard to judge Roy individually because the Sabres are just a mediocre team and honestly who they have up front are not in the same league as the Blackhawks. His FOW was 50%. Would he be an improvement over their current situation at 2nd line center – yes. He is 29 yr old. I’m not sure he is the best solution however.
Weaknesses – Roy is not particularly big or physical and with a high price tag too. He is only 5’9” & 184lbs which is about Kane’s size which is not what the Hawks need. Also his current cap hit is 4mil so he will be looking for a bump probably to the 5.5-6 mil range which I believe is too high to pay for Roy for the Hawks.
Likelihood of happening– Good as Roy’s name has been rumored with the Blackhawks before. Stan Bowman apparently likes Roy, to the tune of 6 mil dollars I’m not sure of. Personally, I would go the route of Kyle Wellwood over Roy who would be a cheaper solution but that’s just me.
I should mention that Ryan Getzlaf of the Ducks, Andy McDonald of the St. Louis Blues, Stephen Weiss of the Florida Panthers, Valtteri Filppula of the Detroit Red Wings and Mike Fisher of the Nashville Predators will all be UFA’s in 2013 however I do not see any of these coming to the Hawks for either price tag reasons or their current teams simply not letting them leave. I highly doubt the Blues, Predators or Wings would want to deal with the Blackhawks given they are in the same division. Ryan Getzlaf is also constantly mentioned but I don’t feel he is what the Hawks need. The defensive part of his game is not good and he did not particularly do well at the face-off dot so I would pass on him for his price tag.
In upcoming installments I will look at potential 2012 RFA centers the Hawks could be looking at and their trading partner teams and their motivation or lack thereof to deal with the Hawks. I will examine the likelihood of the trades occurring and what the Hawks could offer in return. In further installments I will look at who the Hawks have in the pipeline either in Rockford or as prospects at the center position. I will also take a look at the winger positions if the Hawks go with Patrick Kane at the 2nd line center position and the chemistry and balance with Kane centering them. Til then happy puck drops!
All Cap information was taken from http://www.CapGeek.com