ANAHEIM, Calif. – Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman looked stoic as he watched his team Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks from his perch in the Honda Center press box.
But there was undeniably a range of emotions and ideas flowing through his mind as Monday’s 2 p.m. trade deadline inched closer.
Bowman has the picks and salary-cap space – which he got from trading defenseman Brian Campbell – to use but nothing to show for it. If he still believes the Hawks are capable of winning the Stanley Cup, he should be one of the busiest GMs on Monday.
The problem is that too many teams are in the playoff race while others believe they aren’t far off from being in it next season and have opted to re-sign pending free agents (notably defensemen) instead of trading them.
A source said Bowman has spoken with Eastern Conference teams recently, namely the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning. Here’s what he might be looking for:
The Hawks were trying to add one when their blue line was healthy. With Steve Montador and Niklas Hjalmarsson injured, it’s a must. Neither Sean O’Donnell nor Sami Lepisto has done enough to satisfy coach Joel Quenneville to stick in the lineup consistently. The Hawks also have been relying too much on 20-year-old Nick Leddy and 21-year-old Dylan Olsen. The Hawks were looking for a good-skating puck-mover before the injuries. A power-play quarterback also would have helped. Now the Hawks should take anything they can get, although the pickings appear slim. Defensemen to consider include Roman Hamrlik (Washington Capitals) and Chris Campoli (Montreal Canadiens).
The Hawks were already thin at center when Jonathan Toews was healthy. That’s why Bowman took a chance on veteran Brendan Morrison. Morrison still is getting up to speed from offseason surgery and has been scratched in seven games.
Marcus Kruger has done OK on the second line, but he’s a rookie. Quenneville also has shown a strong preference for keeping Patrick Sharp at wing.
Buffalo Sabres center Derek Roy might be small, but he has a track record of producing. Sabres center Paul Gaustad, a pending unrestricted free agent, also warrants a call.
As bad as the Hawks have been on the power play, their penalty kill has ranked near the bottom of the league all season. Some forwards have shown a refusal to block shots consistently.
Their lack of commitment for checking overall also shows up in the team’s high goals-against average. Their goalies and defensemen have been hurt for it. Finding Âbottom-six forwards on deadline day should be much easier than landing a top-notch center.
Bowman said multiple times he’s sticking with Corey Crawford and Ray Emery. The goalie market is bare, too. Nikolai Khabibulin (Edmonton Oilers) and Josh Harding (Minnesota Wild) are said to be available. But Bowman probably will stick with what he has.