With trade deadline looming, Blackhawks are poised to be significant sellers
During the Blackhawks fan convention last summer, Artem Anisimov was asked by a reporter for his thoughts on the possibility of Russian collusion with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
“First time I hear about it,” Anisimov said, entirely serious. “I don’t read newspapers. I probably disappoint you.”
Hockey players, like many pro athletes, often live in a bubble, where all they focus on is the next game, and when the bus leaves for the hotel. That head-in-the-sand mentality is especially useful at this time of year, when the NHL trade deadline looms over everybody — particularly players on teams such as the Blackhawks, who are obvious sellers ahead of Monday’s deadline.
So, no, Anisimov hadn’t heard the Sportsnet report that his old team, the Blue Jackets, had inquired about his availability.
“I don’t read the news, and I don’t know what’s going on in the world,” Anisimov said. “It’s easier to just focus on hockey.”
Stan Bowman doesn’t have that luxury, of course. He has been feverishly working the phone lines in an attempt to acquire draft picks and prospects. Monday’s trade of Michal Kempny to the Capitals for a third-round pick was probably just the start. Here are some other Hawks who could be on the move:
Wingels is a consummate pro and already has taken a leadership role in Chicago. He is also a versatile grinder who can play center or wing, and will be an unrestricted free-agent in the summer — exactly the type of depth player that contending teams crave. He could surely net the Hawks another decent draft pick, and it wouldn’t shock anybody if the Wilmette native re-signed with the Hawks in the offseason after a playoff run. It’d be a win-win all around.
Rutta is still on injured reserve, which complicates his situation. But like Kempny, he is a 27-year-old UFA-to-be who hasn’t been able to lock down a spot in the lineup. In the first two months of the season, he looked like a big part of the Hawks future, on a shutdown pairing with Gustav Forsling. But he was in and out of the lineup over the past couple of months as his play slipped. Depth defensemen are always in demand.
It seems unlikely that the Hawks would be willing to part with a former first-rounder who scored 19 goals last season. But Hartman has endured a sophomore slump, with eight goals in 54 games. He will be a restricted free agent, and could command about $4 million over two years this summer. Is Bowman willing to pay that? He should be, but you never know.
Anisimov isn’t going anywhere at the deadline, but the Hawks would be wise to shop him around this summer, once his full no-movement clause disappears. After July 1, the Hawks can ask Anisimov to submit a list of 10 teams he’d be willing to go to. Signed for three more years at a $4.55 million cap hit, Anisimov is a good player. But he has only succeeded in Chicago as Patrick Kane’s center. And Nick Schmaltz is now Kane’s center, and should be for years to come. Anisimov has played left wing on that line the last couple of games, but if he can’t be the productive third-line center the Hawks badly need, then his contract becomes a burden. The Hawks would be best served by trading him for picks and/or prospects, and using that cap space to improve the defense.
Despite two goals in his last three games, Saad has been a major disappointment this season. Signed for three more years at a $6-million cap hit, the Hawks might be able to improve their defense by dangling him, but they’d be selling low on a very good player. Saad’s underlying numbers suggest he is due for a big bounce-back season next year, much like Marian Hossa had last season after a frustrating 2015-16 campaign. It’d be folly to give up on him already.
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