The Chicago Blackhawks are in the market for a shutdown defender to bolster their blue line down the stretch. GM Stan Bowman is playing coy for now regarding his trade prospects, but the 'Hawks may be looking for a veteran with an expiring contract to fill a spot on Chicago's second defensive pairing.
Could that missing piece be Tampa Bay's Pavel Kubina?
Kubina is playing a similar role for the Lightning this season and is in the final year of a two-year contract that carries with it a $3.85 million cap hit. He is a unrestricted free agent this summer.
The 34-year-old Kubina has a plus-4 rating and has been averaging nearly 20 minutes a game in Tampa Bay. He is a big, physical skater who can play on both the power play and the penalty kill. He lacks in the speed department, but at 6'4" and 258 pounds, he can help clear the front of the crease.
Blackhawks fans will remember Kubina's hit on Dave Bolland that forced the Chicago forward out of action for over a month last spring with a concussion. However, that hard-hitting style might solve some problems for the 'Hawks, who lack a physical edge on their second pairing.
Kubina and Niklas Hjalmarsson might not carry the offensive potential that Nick Leddy brings to the second pairing. However, the issue for the 'Hawks right now is preventing goals.
Kubina gives Chicago the option of moving Leddy to the third pairing and scaled back minutes. It also gives Joel Quenneville another candidate for the penalty kill.
The Lightning are nine points out of the last playoff spot and may be receptive to a trade. Steve Yzerman may be inclined to get some return on a defenseman who is perhaps exiting his prime and may not be re-signed.
With players like Francois Beauchemin and Tim Gleason inking deals with the Ducks and Hurricanes, respectively, Bowman's options for an impact defender are beginning to dry up. Availabilities may arise as a few teams accept the fact that they are out of contention, but it's hard to count on that happening.
Guys like Ryan Suter don't appear to be in Chicago's price range. A veteran like Hal Gill could be a lower-priced option and could aid the PK, but is he a candidate for top-four minutes? Kubina would have to fit in the dynamic of the locker room, but if Daniel Carcillo could do it then that isn't an impossibility.
Bowman came up a bit short when attempting to pick up a more physical defenseman a year ago. With a few weeks before the deadline, could Kubina be a player they look to bring into the fold?