Chicago Blackhawks: Why the Hawks Should Target Vinny Prospal, Not Rick Nash

Jim WeihofenCorrespondent IFebruary 16, 2012

SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 05:  Vaclav Prospal #22 of the Columbus Blue Jackets in action against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion at San Jose on January 5, 2012 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Things are looking bleak for the Blackhawks right now. A month ago, they were a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. Now, they're looking square in the face of their longest winless streak since 1998.

Let that sink in for a minute. The Hawks are facing their longest winless streak since the 1998-99 season. Tony Amonte was the top scorer for the Hawks, Jocelyn Thibault was the No. 1 goalie and Chris Chelios was traded to the arch rival Red Wings.

Tonight, the Hawks will go into New York to face off against the powerhouse Rangers, and likely, the streak will hit 10. Sure, they've shown improvements the last couple of games, but the Rangers are the Rangers, and this won't be an easy task.

The team needs help in many areas. However, with the days inching closer and closer towards the trade deadline and the Hawks continue to slide, it seems like a trade for a superstar is nothing more than a quaint thought. The Hawks will look to try and add secondary pieces in hopes it all works, despite a mountain of cap space.

One team looking to sell is the moribund Columbus Blue Jackets. Their "all in" gambit failed, as Jeff Carter failed to mesh with Rick Nash, and James Wisnewski wasn't what they hoped for on the blue line. Grabbing guys like Nash and Carter seems as unlikely as can be (sadly), but there's still a couple of good pieces to be had in Fedor Tyutin and Vaclav "Vinny" Prospal.

Tyutin, while talented, and likely able to step into the Hawks' second pairing, is in the midst of a six-year extension signed in August of 2011, and likely wouldn't be going to a team like Chicago who has so many promising defensive prospects near ready.

That leaves Prospal. Prospal, in his second season as a Blue Jacket, led Columbus in scoring for much of the season while Nash and Carter slumped. Hardly a man to back down, Prospal has played hard in every shift of every game for the worst team in the NHL this season, which is something that has to draw some interest from the Hawks.

Currently listed as the de facto No. 1 left wing—due to Kristian Huselius' injury—Prospal can line up at all three forward positions. A 6'2" playmaker, Prospal could very well be to the Hawks everything they'd thought—and hoped—they'd get out of Brendan Morrison.

A veteran on an expiring contract for a team heading nowhere is always going to be talked about in trades. Surprisingly, Prospal's name hasn't come up as much as it should. Sure, he isn't of the same caliber as Rick Nash, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Jeff Carter or even Tuomo Ruutu, but he's arguably just as important.

Adding to the appeal of Prospal is the fact that he wouldn't cost an arm and a leg. Likely, Prospal would only cost the Hawks an expendable prospect—Chris DiDomenico, maybe—and/or a mid-to-late round draft pick.

On a team searching for an answer at the No. 2 center job, Prospal could be just that. The Hawks are also a team looking uninspired, and Prospal isn't one to back down from any challenge or take a shift off. His physicality can keep players from getting too out of line with guys like Kane, Sharp, Hossa or even Toews.

Prospal still has plenty in the tank, and Stan Bowman owes it to his loyal-to-a-fault fans to at least do his due diligence here.

UPDATE: The Hawks pulled off the upset tonight and beat the Rangers, 4-2. I'll gladly eat my words and somehow take credit for that win.