The Chicago Blackhawks were forced to make some moves prior to Monday’s NHL trade deadline as they dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness, and now that the 2 p.m. Central time deadline has passed, the team is confident that they are heading in the right direction.
The biggest move they made came on Saturday night, when they acquired center Antoine Vermette from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Klas Dahlbeck and a first round draft pick. The move allows the Blackhawks to put Andrew Shaw back out on the wing, and gives the team center depth that they have sorely been lacking in the past few seasons.
“[This is] probably the strongest we’ve been at the center position in many years,” Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman told the media at a press conference following the trade deadline on Monday.
The Blackhawks also made a move to bulk up their blue line on Friday night, acquiring Kimmo Timonen from the Philadelphia Flyers. Timonen hasn’t played yet in the 2014-15 season after suffering from blood clots in his legs at the end of last season, but he will be on the ice for the Blackhawks when they take on the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday at the United Center.
There are some realistic concerns that the rust that Timonen has will prevent him from getting up to full strength quickly, but down the stretch the move helps the Hawks to improve on the blue line in a big way.
Michal Rozsival has been struggling badly for the team, and when factoring in Trevor van Riemsdyk’s return and the fact that David Rundblad is likely in the mix for the long haul, the Hawks should be able to make a solid six-deep group of blue liners come playoff time.
The Blackhawks finished off their moves about three hours before Monday’s deadline, sending Ben Smith to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for center Andrew Desjardins. Smith, who only has one assist in his last 28 games, was an important part of the Blackhawks’ penalty killing unit over the past year-plus, but his deteriorating production at even strength led the Hawks to go with a bigger, more physical option at the forward spot as they eye another potential first round matchup with the St. Louis Blues.
Overall, the Hawks’ moves addressed some of their most pressing questions.
They needed to add more depth up the middle of the ice to allow Jonathan Toews some extra rest (an especially important thing to consider with Patrick Kane on the shelf), and the Vermette trade accomplished that. They wanted to secure a veteran defenseman that could play third pairing minutes and potentially fill in on the penalty kill, and the Timonen trade did that.
They wanted to add a bit more size to the fourth line while saving a bit of money on next year’s salary cap, and the Desjardins trade (he’s a free agent after the season, whereas Smith was owed $1.5 million next year) accomplished that.
There are still question marks that the team will have to face in the coming weeks, especially in terms of their scoring ability and getting through whatever’s left of Johnny Oduya’s absence from the lineup, but with options limited to short-term rentals because of the coming salary cap purge, the Hawks overall did about as good of a job as could be expected under the circumstances.