SAN JOSE, Calif. — General manager Stan Bowman went for broke last spring, dealing his first-round pick, his second-round pick, Marko Dano and Phil Danault in trades that landed Andrew Ladd, Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann.
Ladd never really clicked, Fleischmann fizzled after a hot start, Weise was a disaster and the Blackhawks lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Blues.
The cost was extremely high and the payoff nonexistent.
That’s surely not the only reason Bowman doesn’t expect to make a big splash by the trade deadline March 1, but it’s part of it.
‘‘There’s something to be said for chemistry and keeping your guys together and not having someone come in externally, swoop in and try to find a role for him,’’ Bowman said before the San Jose Sharks defeated the Hawks 3-1 on Tuesday, handing them their third consecutive loss. ‘‘So we’ll see. Things change quickly. But as we look at it today, I’m not expecting a big addition like that.’’
In fact, Bowman went so far as to say, ‘‘I’m not expecting to make a deal this year, unlike previous years.’’ Take that with a big grain of salt, of course, because Bowman has said such things in the past and then been one of the biggest players at the deadline.
But with the Hawks strapped for salary-cap space and with rookies such as Ryan Hartman, Vinnie Hinostroza and Nick Schmaltz getting better and better as the season goes on, Bowman thinks the answer this season might come from within.
‘‘I’ve said this from the beginning of the year, and I mean it: We have a different dynamic this year because we have a lot more young players that have been with our team this year from the beginning,’’ Bowman said. ‘‘Established players, they don’t typically get better as the year goes on. They’re at their level, and they maintain it. If anything, they drop off due to injury or fatigue or whatnot. But we’ve got a different dynamic at play. We’ve already seen it with a few of them. They’re better now than they were in October.’’
Bowman acknowledged the massive hole at top-line left wing is ‘‘the million-dollar question.’’ But with Schmaltz getting a spin up there Tuesday and with Hartman and Hinostroza each having moderate success with Jonathan Toews in recent weeks, it might work out.
The other thing that might tie Bowman’s hands is the remarkable — some might say forced — parity in the league because of the point teams get for overtime losses.
Among the 30 teams in the league, only the Avalanche and Coyotes are hopelessly out of the playoff picture. The Red Wings are in last place in the Eastern Conference, and a source said the Hawks have asked about forwards Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist. But they’re only seven points out the playoff picture with a game in hand on the eighth-place Flyers. Sure, there are eight teams the Red Wings would have to climb over, but they’re still alive.
All that does is drive the price up even higher on truly available players, such as the Avalanche’s Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog.
‘‘The way the standings are going, I don’t know if teams are going to fall out of the race,’’ Bowman said. ‘‘There may be fewer players than ever on the market, relative to other years, just because of the way the standings are.’’
As a result, Bowman said trade talks are ‘‘pretty slow’’ at the moment, but he figures they eventually will pick up in the next few weeks.
Bowman also said the fact the Hawks are hosting the draft is not a primary factor why they might be more reluctant to trade this season, though keeping a first-round pick is thought to be a priority.
The way Bowman put it, keeping draft picks is always a priority because you build teams through youth — both in the long term and, perhaps this season, in the short term, too.
Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.