There’s an overwhelming abundance of things I despise about this horrible, terrible, deplorable, dirty, rotten, no-good, put-you-to-sleep-quicker-than-Nyquil Blackhawks team.
But the thing that brings my piss to a boil more-so than anything else is this season’s gruesome beheading of the euphoria that comes with my annual trade deadline excitement. You see, deadline season to me is what Christmas morning is like to 6-year olds. But imagine if Christmas morning possessed the unpredictability and mystery of a George R.R. Martin novel. “What wizardry might Stan Bowman pull from his magic hat next?” was the prevailing question ushering me through what is inherently the year’s most miserably painstaking month. My annual “Blackhawks trade deadline targets” piece was always composed with an extra giddiness behind my typed-out rambling.
Instead, this piece, which will detail the likeliest candidates to be moved by the Blackhawks in the coming weeks, will be fueled by a combination of yawns, tears and Malort because Christmas is cancelled this year, kids. Santa is week-to-week with an upper body injury after running his head through Rudolph’s stable door after being forced, at gunpoint, to watch the Blackhawks performances in Arizona and Vegas earlier this week.
Anyway, here’s some of those names.
Tommy Wingels & Lance Bouma
Believe it or not, there actually still exists a number of GM’s and executives out there who value grit and toughness as profoundly as they do actual, real, hockey skill. You know, the things that actually garner real results. For this reason, Wingels or Bouma may be an appealing back-end, depth option for some team that is either injury plagued or simply needs relief on the penalty kill. Both are free agents at seasons and the pro-rated contracts of both are pennies compared to what many others of equal production are earning. If you can get a 6th or 7th round pick for either, why the hell not? You’re likely not going to re-sign them in the offseason, anyway.
In October and throughout the betterment of November, Rutta looked to be the steal of the international free agent pool; a potential staple of the Blackhawks defensive corps for years to come. But like the rest of his godforsaken team, Rutta eventually plummeted from whatever realm he was inhabiting back into this hellhole we call reality. He wasn’t terrible. He wasn’t great. He was just fine. And sometimes fine is miles better than what teams possess on the back-end of their defensive rotations. In that sense, Rutta would be an improvement for a lot of teams in their 5th or 6th defensive slots. With his essentially free cap hit and pending free agency, it wouldn’t shock me to see some GM, desperate for depth, throw a medium tier pick to the Hawks for Rutta’s service. That said, it’s hard to gauge exactly what he’s worth. But if there’s also a silver lining here, it’s that teams typically overpay for defense. If you can make away with a 4th or 5th round pick for Rutta, you’d be making out pretty well. Also, I must add that Rutta is currently on IR, though he did return to the ice earlier this week.
The same for what I said about Jan Rutta pretty much applies to Michal Kempny. A pending free agent earning pennies on the dollar may appeal to someone looking to add depth on their blue line. Kempny should garner more of a return than Rutta due to his surprisingly solid numbers and analytics this season. It’s not very often you come across a bottom-pairing defenseman on a last place team with a +11 +/- and Corsi of nearly 54%. It wouldn’t surprise me if Kempny were to gambit these numbers into a multi-year contract for double what he’s being paid at the present moment in free agency.
Could you imagine the utter confusion that would engulf this city if Stan Bowman were to completely retcon the deal that sent Niklas Hjalmarssson to Arizona? Despite a series of inexplicable healthy scratches, Connor Murphy, in my – and many’s – opinion has been the Blackhawks most consistent blue liner this season. Murphy, who remains just 24-years of age and signed to a long-term, team-friendly deal, could very well be the Blackhawks most enticing asset. But for this exact reason I find it not only unlikely, but also incredibly silly for a defensively-famished Blackhawks organization to even consider moving a young defenseman with loads of untapped talent that they literally just traded for. The food has yet to even digest and in a lost season where literally anything that could go wrong, has gone wrong, and you’re looking to move on from what has been one of the few bright spots for you? Hogwash. Personally, I want to see what Murphy is capable of when riding in a Blackhawks mobile that actually possesses four working wheels. If he is moved, you better hope its for something better than what they currently have, which, is – well – a 24-year old, top-4 defenseman, with an incredibly team-friendly deal that has yet to even scratch the surface of his untapped potential.
Anisimov would probably be the most given name on this list if it weren’t for that mangy no-movement clause awarded to him back when Stan Bowman was handing out NTC’s like they were Halloween candy. Still, I wouldn’t be shocked if management were to ask Anisimov to waive his. Despite being a ghost these past couple weeks, Anisimov may still hold some value for teams looking to beef up at the center position heading into the playoffs. The thing that’d really make Anisimov’s value skyrocket is if one of these prospective playoff teams were to suffer an injury in their top-six between now and the 26th when the deadline passes. Boy, wouldn’t it be alleviating to clear that 4-years, $4.55 million off the books and receive a relatively high draft pick doing so? As I mentioned previously, though, it’s all on Anisimov’s willingness to play ball here. I mean, who’d wanna stick around as fodder for this dumpster fire?
I saved the most significant and most unlikely for last. But, just because I noted its unlikeliness doesn’t take away from the fact that Brandon Saad is the Blackhawks most appealing core asset. Why? Becuase he’s the only player belonging to this team’s so-called core not to possess any sort of no-movement clause. So, by default – yes, Brandon Saad – whether you agree with it or not – is the Blackhawks most tradeable player-of-significance at the present moment. Although no Blackhawks player has fallen victim to what is now being heralded as the “LOST season” as notably or drastically as Saad, the market for the 25-year old winger is still likely as high as ever. While a brief glimpse at Saad’s numbers would paint an immediate picture of disappointment for most, a closer examination into these statistics reveals the two-way forward has been as unlucky as any player in hockey this season. Being snake-bitten and plain bad are two completely, distinguishable things. And if I can see this pretty evident fact, you bet your ass General Managers across the NHL can, too. Saad would be a godsend in the top-6 of many teams across the NHL. Could you imagine a Toronto team, already possessing Auston Matthews and William Nylander on its top line, with Saad in the mix? Now I ask, could you envision the backlash here in Chicago? Dealing beloved sparkplug Artemi Panarin for Saad and then immediately swapping Saad for something far-less valuable than Panarin? Not only would such a hissy fit, tantrum-fueled shakeup be inexcusably overboard, it’d be plain stupid to give up on a snakebitten 25-year old who has simply has fallen victim to the relentless floodwaters that have seemingly engulfed every player in a red sweater not named DeBrincat this season. Again, the odds of Saad being moved a mere 8 months into his second tenure with the Blackhawks is not one I’d put my chips on. But with this organization, I’ve adapted to the notion that there exists no move too far-fetched for the likes of Stan Bowman.