The Chicago Blackhawks weren't satisfied with a 5-4 shootout victory over Phoenix to make headlines Thursday night. General manager Stan Bowman stayed up late and pulled off what may be the biggest in-season trade in his tenure with the Blackhawks.
As reported on NHL.com, Chicago has re-acquired forward Kris Versteeg from the Florida Panthers. Versteeg, a well-traveled 27-year-old, is back with the team for whom he helped win the 2010 Stanley Cup.
This is a stunning development and a bit out of character for Bowman, who holds on to prospects like canteens in the desert. The 'Hawks GM sent Florida forward Jimmy Hayes and defenseman Dylan Olsen in exchange for Versteeg and minor-league forward Philippe Lefebvre.
Obviously, Bowman wanted Versteeg back in the fold, but why? How is this move going to impact the Blackhawks, who inched closer to the top of the Western Conference with Thursday's win?
Roster moves came earlier in the day when Chicago announced that Michal Handzus was going on injured reserve. Alex Broadhurst, who has 11 points in 16 games with Rockford this season, was recalled by the team in a corresponding move.
Following the trade, Broadhurst was promptly sent down to Rockford, along with Jeremy Morin. This should come as a surprise to no one. Broadhurst was scratched Thursday and Morin hasn't been getting a lot of minutes from coach Joel Quenneville.
Versteeg will be starting his second tour of duty with the 'Hawks very soon. Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune tweeted that Versteeg would be at Friday's practice. I would imagine that he will be in the lineup Saturday night in Nashville, probably on the third line with Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell.
Versteeg could be labeled a journeyman at this stage of his career. Following his trade from Chicago in the summer of 2010, he has been with the Maple Leafs, Flyers and Panthers. This is the fifth time he has been dealt, including when Boston, the team that drafted him in 2004, sent him to the 'Hawks in 2007.
Two questions arise from the return of Versteeg. One is his health, the other is his mindset.
Versteeg spent most of last season injured in some way or another. He was also a healthy scratch for the first time in his NHL career last Saturday by coach Kevin Dineen, who was fired earlier this week.
Quenneville is familiar with Versteeg, who was a Calder Trophy finalist in 2008-09. Before last year, Versteeg had never failed to score 20 goals in his previous four seasons. He totaled 54 points (23 G, 31 A) in 71 games for the Panthers in 2011-12.
This season, Versteeg has two goals and five assists in 18 games with Florida. If he comes to town in the right frame of mind, he could provide some dangerous veteran depth to Chicago.
Something the cap-minded Bowman may have factored into the trade is that Versteeg is signed to a $2.2 million cap hit through the 2015-16 season. For a player who has put up 50-plus points in a bottom-six role for the Blackhawks in the past, the potential value is vast.
This is a trade I sure didn't see coming, especially from Bowman. However, this could turn out to be the type of move that secures another run at the Stanley Cup come spring.
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