The Chicago Blackhawks made a splash on Thursday when they brought back forward Kris Versteeg in a trade with the Florida Panthers. In exchange, they sent former second round pick Jimmy Hayes and 2010 first round selection Dylan Olsen, both of whom had been playing with the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL.
Once the trade was finalized, the general consensus was that the Blackhawks had gotten quite a steal. After all, they had not only acquired a forward familiar with their system (Versteeg played with the Hawks during their 2010 Stanley Cup championship run), but also a player that bought into the emphasis on two-way play that head coach Joel Quenneville has instilled into the club.
On top of that, Versteeg’s $4.4 million annual salary cap hit isn’t all on the Blackhawks either. The Panthers agreed to keep half of it on their end, meaning that the Hawks are getting a talented bottom-six forward for only half price. When combined with the fact that both Hayes and Olsen were expendable assets for Chicago (guys like Jeremy Morin and Mark McNeill are better long-term options than Hayes, while guys like Adam Clendening, Stephen Johns, and Viktor Svedberg are ahead of Olsen prospect-wise), this might very well be the best trade that GM Stan Bowman has ever pulled off.
But is it the best? There are plenty of other contenders for that spot. There was the acquisition of Johnny Oduya back in 2012 from the Winnipeg Jets for two draft picks, and all the Hawks have done in his 82 career games with the team is gain at least a point in the standings in 71 of those contests.
The Hawks also benefitted in a big way from their trade of Andrew Ladd to the then-Atlanta Thrashers (now the Jets) in 2010. With the second round draft pick they received in the deal, they picked Clendening, one of the guys that made Olsen expendable.
Finally though, there is one trade that stands out in much the same way as the Versteeg trade, and that was the one that netted the Hawks Nick Leddy in 2010. That deal saw the Hawks shed some major salary in getting rid of the under-achieving Cam Barker, and in addition to Leddy, a first round pick in 2009, Chicago also got veteran defenseman Kim Johnsson, who helped them out in a big way during their 2010 title run.
Sure, there were other deals (Troy Brouwer for a first round pick in 2011, Brian Campbell for Rostislav Olesz as a cap relief deal in 2011), but the Leddy and Versteeg trades both stand out in Bowman’s regime. It’s easy to pick the Leddy deal as the best considering the way the trade has worked out over three years, but the value that Bowman got in getting Versteeg for the price he did may end up making it the best deal he’s made in his five seasons at the helm of the organization.