Numerous Blackhawks potentially on the move at NHL trade deadline Monday
Erik Gustafsson is almost certain to be traded, but a number of others — from Robin Lehner to Brandon Saad and beyond — must keep the possibility in the back of their minds, too.
DALLAS — Blackhawks wing Brandon Saad is no stranger to big trades. His moves between Chicago and Columbus in 2015 and 2017 were part of huge deals that got the attention of the NHL world.
But they both took place during the summer. If he’s dealt before the trade deadline at 2 p.m. Monday, it would be his first in-season deal.
‘‘You’re a hockey player, so you’re going to play hard for whoever you’re with and take it as it comes,’’ Saad said Sunday. ‘‘I’ve never dealt with it at the deadline, so that’s always a new experience. But hopefully I’m here in Chicago.’’
That last sentence is what all the Hawks’ potential trade chips — from Saad to goalie Robin Lehner to defenseman Erik Gustafsson and beyond — have said publicly, and they’re probably not lying.
The period to adjust to a new team, new coach and new city will be stunningly abrupt for all players traded Monday. Although there’s only one game — the Senators at the Blue Jackets — around the league Monday, there are 13 on the docket Tuesday.
So no matter how slim the odds, no player on the Hawks’ roster — outside of captain Jonathan Toews, wing Patrick Kane and defenseman Duncan Keith, with their no-trade contract clauses — knows for sure whether he’ll be playing with the team Tuesday in St. Louis or somewhere else in North America.
The Hawks were reminded of that reality when Gustafsson was scratched for the game Friday against the Predators. (He isn’t on the Hawks’ trip and almost certainly will be dealt.)
‘‘It was a shock for all of us when Gus was ready to go, on the ice for warmups, then was told to stay off for the game,’’ said forward Dylan Strome, who also has appeared occasionally in recent trade speculation. ‘‘[That’s] never happened to me before or to anyone I played with. It was a different thing we just had to put in the back of our mind.’’
A better run through February might have eased the pressure and persuaded general manager Stan Bowman to acquire complementary pieces to aid a playoff push — or at least to stand pat, like he did last season.
Instead, the Hawks enter Monday in the midst of their worst month of the season, having dropped eight of their last 10 games after a 2-1 loss Sunday to the Stars. They’re nowhere near the Western Conference playoff bubble, even in a down season for the conference.
This slump has made the Hawks clear sellers, and although it’s possible Bowman won’t be wowed by the offers he receives and opts to follow a quieter-than-expected route, it would be strange if he doesn’t trade at least two players on the roster.
The Hurricanes want defensive help and, suddenly, desperately need goaltending. The Golden Knights also want defensive help, and the Avalanche also want goaltending.
The Blue Jackets and Islanders need injury replacements and have money to spend. The Penguins and GM Jim Rutherford are always busy. Coach Joel Quenne-ville’s struggling Panthers need a spark.
The list goes on and on.
The players know that as well as Bowman does. Gustafsson, in what might have been his last media appearance with the Hawks, said last week that avoiding the chatter had become an impossible task. Even at the practice rink, the TVs are always on.
So they all will wait until 2 p.m. Monday.
‘‘That’s part of the business, right?’’ Saad said. ‘‘I love it here in Chicago, but it is what it is. You wait for tomorrow.’’