The Chicago Blackhawks have discussed a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets for defenseman Ryan Murray, per report. It doesn’t appear that a deal is likely at this point, but it’s nice to see the Blackhawks attempt to solve their defensive problems nonetheless.
Ryan Murray is a 25-year-old defenseman that has spent the last six seasons playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was selected second overall by the Blue Jackets in the 2012 NHL Draft behind only Nail Yakupov. Murray is 6’1″, 205 lbs, and has top-pairing potential. He posted solid possession numbers last season with a 50.61 Corsi percentage and a 55.24 goals-for percentage. The left-handed defenseman also had a career-high in points in just 56 games.
The problem with Murray is that he’s struggled to stay healthy. He’s played 70 games just once in his six-year career. When healthy though, he’s been effective playing top-four minutes for Columbus. Murray is set to become a restricted free agent this summer and will likely command $3.5-4.5M per year. According to Aaron Portzline of The Athetlic, Columbus would be willing to move Murray in exchange for draft picks. The Blue Jackets only have third-round and seventh-round picks in this year’s draft. The ‘Hawks aren’t going to part ways with the 3rd overall pick, but they do have a second and two fourth-round picks. Pair a prospect with a draft pick or two and a deal could get done. A fully healthy Ryan Murray certainly would be an upgrade defensively for the Blackhawks.
The Calgary Flames Are Looking To Move A Defenseman
According to a report that surfaced last week, the Calgary Flames are looking to move either TJ Brodie or Travis Hamonic. Calgary is currently loaded with young defensive talent and can afford to move one of their top-four defensemen. Both Brodie and Hamonic only have one year left on their current contracts, and it appears that the Flames don’t have the cap space to re-sign both players.
TJ Brodie is a 29-year-old defenseman that has spent 8+ seasons in the NHL with the Calgary Flames. Last season Brodie played alongside Norris Trophy nominee Mark Giordano. After back-to-back -16 seasons, Brodie bounced back to top-pairing form. He was +29 on the year while also posting career-high possession numbers. At his best, Brodie is a smooth, puck-moving defenseman that can handle significant minutes. He’s averaged 20+ minutes per game in each of his last seven campaigns. The veteran defenseman also holds a very reasonable $4.65M cap hit. That’s more than fair value for a top-two defenseman. TJ Brodie would be a strong defensive acquisition for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Travis Hamonic is another Calgary Flames defenseman that seems to be available. The St. Malo, Manitoba native had a strong 2018-19 campaign on the second pairing with Noah Hanifin. Much like TJ Brodie, Hamonic also had the best possession numbers of his career last season. He scored a career-high seven goals and was a shutdown presence on the penalty kill. Hamonic is a sturdy right-handed defenseman that has averaged at least 20 minutes per game in each of his nine NHL seasons. He’s a fierce competitor as well as an above-average shot blocker. Hamonic would immediately slide into a top-four role for the Blackhawks. With an extremely reasonable $3.875M cap hit, Travis Hamonic could make sense for the Blackhawks.
Nikita Zaitsev Is On The Market
27-year-old Nikita Zaitsev recently requested a trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs are currently desperate to shed salary, so it’s very likely the Russian defenseman gets moved.
Zaitsev has spent three seasons in the NHL for the Maple Leafs, averaging over 20 minutes per game in each. His possession numbers aren’t that great, but he tends to play more frequently in the defensive zone. Zaitsev is a solid shot blocker, with more than 135 in both of his full NHL seasons. He still recorded 134 blocked shots in 60 games during the 2017-18 season. He can also provide some physicality from the backend, something the Blackhawks lacked last year. Zaitsev had 139 hits last season, which was 15 more than Brent Seabrook, who lead the Blackhawks.
After recording 36 points during his rookie year, Zaitsev has scored less than 15 points in two consecutive seasons. He’s still fairly young, but the offensive side of Zaitsev’s game is uncertain. The biggest problem with the right-handed defenseman is that he has a $4.5M cap hit for the next five seasons. He also has a modified no-trade clause that comes into effect next season. $4.5M isn’t ridiculous for a top-four defenseman, but there are just too many question marks about Zaitsev’s game to pay him that much. Especially with five more years left on the deal. Nikita Zaitsev may be a slight upgrade defensively, but due to the contract, he doesn’t seem like a good fit for the Blackhawks.
Help Is On The Way
While nothing has come from the trade talks so far, it’s still encouraging to see Stan Bowman and the front office asking around for a defenseman. It’s no secret that the Blackhawks defense was the weakness of the team in 2018-19. It was a big reason why they were unable to sneak into the postseason. The ‘Hawks are more than likely going to address that problem with all the cap space currently available. Whether it’s through free agency or via trade, the Chicago Blackhawks seem persistent in adding a defenseman this offseason.
For more Blackhawks news and updates, follow the author (@JackBushman2) on Twitter. Make sure to check out the author’s podcast, Talkin’ Hawkey, which can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Twitter (@TalkHawkey).