Our Pledge To You

News

As usual, the trade deadline no sweat for Blackhawks

It was different back when Joel Quenneville was playing in the 1980s. There was no insatiable Twitter machine, churning out rumors with reckless abandon. No blogs and message boards, breeding grounds for speculation and hearsay. There wasn’t much of a national media throwing out names, either. And even the local reporters lived in generally the same bubble the players did.

“No scoops,” Quenneville said with a smirk. “Nothing.”

But in the modern-day NHL, with the March 2 trade deadline a mere 10 days away, the rumor mill is cranking at full blast, and it can be difficult for players to escape it. Across the league, from Arizona to Toronto, it’s a nervous time of year, as players sweat out the last couple of weeks before learning their fates.

“This is a time when certain players get a little anxiety, they get their name mentioned and all of a sudden that speculation can become distracting,” Quenneville said. “It can affect different players in different fashions. You just got to go about your business, and control what you can control and that’s going out there and playing your best.”

It’s not much of a concern in Chicago, however. Other than enforcer John Scott in 2012, the Blackhawks haven’t traded away a roster player at any of the last five trade deadlines. Instead, the Hawks usually try to pick up a piece — David Rundblad for a draft pick in 2014, Michal Handzus for a pick in 2013, Johnny Oduya for picks in 2012, Chris Campoli for a pick and a prospect in 2011. The last time the Hawks dealt away a player of significance was in 2009, when they sent James Wisniewski to Anaheim for Sammy Pahlsson.

That roster security is a luxury many teams don’t have, and it’s one the Hawks appreciate.

“It’s nice,” Brandon Saad said. “We seem to really stay as a group all year long and never shake too much up. It’s definitely nice as a player to know where you stand.”

A source said the cap-strapped Hawks are kicking the tires on a few depth defensemen with expiring contracts around the league, hoping to bolster the crowded-but-underwhelming competition for the sixth roster spot on the blue line. But as usual, the Hawks are not planning on parting with any core members to acquire such a defenseman. While they’ll have to deal away at least one big name, if not more, to get under the salary cap next season when the contract extensions for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane kick in, the plan is to wait until after the season to do so.

“In order to make a deal, it’s going to be money for money,” Hawks general manager Stan Bowman told the Sun-Times recently. “So to bring in a player, you’d have to give up somebody who’s a regular in your lineup. … If we get back to completely healthy, then there might be a smaller move. But I’m not looking at the trade deadline as a big moment.”

Patrick Kane said the Hawks don’t talk about trade speculation among themselves much, though Kris Versteeg and Andrew Shaw were cracking jokes about it following Thursday’s practice. Of course, it’s easy to be light-hearted about it when you know you’re not going anywhere.

So once again, the Hawks can rest easy in late February. The group that’s here now is, for the most part, the group that’s going to be here in two weeks, and in two months when the playoffs begin. Bowman believes it’s a group that can win a Stanley Cup. The Hawks themselves do, too.

“I think over the course of this season we’ve had some ups and downs,” Bryan Bickell said. “But when we’re going and we’re rolling at 100 percent and paying the right way, we’re a really good team and that’s why we’re up in those conversations [about Cup favorites]. We’ve got a history here. We know what we can do together.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com
Twitter: @marklazerus