The more the Chicago Blackhawks continue to struggle, the more evident it is that GM Stan Bowman is going to have to make a move, at the minimum, prior to the NHL's trade deadline. But it's a matter of who's going to be shipped away in order for the Hawks to improve its personnel.
Young prospects, such as Jimmy Hayes and Andrew Shaw, have emerged as of late and continue to earn significant ice time on a regular basis, and that likely won't change with Patrick Sharp's absence for the next few weeks.
Other guys' ice time is suffering lately because of the new role these young players are taking on, and this could lead to Bowman trading some players away without hesitation.
Outside of the Hawks' core skaters (Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook), depending on who Bowman may attempt to acquire, some may think that no one is safe come the trade deadline.
Despite Nick Leddy's recent struggles, posting a minus-six during the Hawks' four-game losing streak, it's safe to say the 20-year-old defenseman is as far from trade bait as anyone on the team not named Kane, Sharp, Toews, Hossa, Keith or Seabrook.
Leddy is still extremely young, he's yet to play a full season in the NHL and he's thrived this season with the exception of a few lows.
Leddy has coast-to-coast ability and shows offensive instincts similar to how Brian Campbell played in his tenure with the Blackhawks.
Duncan Keith, who's tallied 23 points, is the only blueliner on the team with more points than Leddy (20).
Leddy is still under his rookie contract, and he isn't set for a new one until after the 2013 season.
Niklas Hjalmarsson is by no means the team's best player and his $3.5 million salary is far from perfect, but he provides the Hawks with an above-average, stay-at-home defender who complements the offensive-minded Duncan Keith and/or Nick Leddy exceptionally well.
Again, Hammer's contract isn't ideal, but it wouldn't make sense for Stan Bowman to trade away one of the team's top four blueliners.
It's hard to say that Hjalmarsson is completely safe come the trade deadline, but he won't be dealt to clear cap space. The only way I can see him being traded is if it's for a significant difference maker.
Viktor Stalberg's 2012 season has, to say the least, been very streaky, but he's still managed to tally the fifth-most points (25) on the Blackhawks. When it comes to the trade deadline, Stalberg is probably in the same boat as Niklas Hjalmarsson, except his salary is nearly $3 million cheaper at $875,000.
Stalberg turns 26 years old on January 17th, so he's not the youngest player on the ice, but his potential is nearly limitless. He's physical, he's very fast and he can score goals.
It wouldn't surprise me if Stalberg was traded for the right guy, such as a Jarome Iginla or another prolific goal scorer, but he won't be a part of a minor move, similar to the Frolik or Campoli trades Stan Bowman made happen last season.
Bryan Bickell certainly won't be the center piece of any trade, but it'd be great if Stan Bowman could package him in some way to improve the Hawks.
Bickell has been the Hawks' biggest disappointment this season. He stands at 6'4", 230 pounds and he doesn't take advantage of his size, and he doesn't have the finesse or playmaking abilities to be effective in any way other then bringing a physical presence—but he fails to do that.
After scoring 17 goals and 20 assists last season, Bickell has racked up a mere nine points this season with a plus/minus rating of minus-eight halfway through the season.
Bickell is owed just over $540,000 this season and next, so that's one aspect that would make him appealing to some teams.
I'd be willing to bet that many Hawks fans want Frolik out of Chicago, and I don't blame them, but that's a lot easier said than done.
Frolik has had an awful season. He's probably the biggest Blackhawks disappointment this season not named Bryan Bickell; however, Stan Bowman re-signed Frolik prior to the start of the 2012 season.
It's probably very unlikely that any team would be willing to take on Michael Frolik and his three-year, $7 million contract. For that reason, Frolik will most likely be wearing a Blackhawks sweater for at least the remainder of the '12 season.
Stan Bowman has stated the Hawks can certainly use another blueliner because "you can never have enough defensemen." So then why has Sami Lepisto played just 11 games for the Hawks in the first half of the '12 season?
For whatever reasons, on or off the ice, Coach Q has listed Lepisto as a healthy scratch more times than not this season, and a number of teams around the NHL are in need of defense, including the Hawks.
You have to assume that if a team with any defensive need calls Stan Bowman prior to the deadline, Bowman will do all he can to package Lepsito and rid the Hawks of the 27-year-old defenseman.
Lepisto was signed this past summer to a one-year deal worth $750,000. It shouldn't be too difficult of a task for Bowman to send Lepisto packing.
I'd be willing to bet Sami is no longer a member of the Chicago Blackhawks come March.
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