Which Defensemen Could the Chicago Blackhawks Target at the Trade Deadline?
At this point of the season teams are evaluating their needs and what player or players could push them over the hump to becoming big-time Stanley Cup contenders.
For the Chicago Blackhawks, their biggest need seems to be on their blue line, as they seem to lack the depth that they already possess on offense. So I have compiled a list of some names that have been associated with the Blackhawks as we near the March 3 trade deadline.
Please feel free to leave you opinion and let me know who you think the Blackhawks should add to their blue line or even on their forward lines.
Prior to the start of the 2009-2010 NHL season, many writers linked the Chicago Blackhawks to having interest in Toronto's Tomas Kaberle. Kaberle's style fits the Blackhawks' up-tempo system and would probably be a good third or fourth defenseman for the 'Hawks.
However, the Blackhawks already possess a player in Brain Campbell that possesses the same skills as Kaberle and is already taking up a big chunk of the Blackhawks' salary cap.
In addition, Leafs general manager Brian Burke has stated time and time again that he will not be moving Kaberle at the trade deadline.
Yes, Kaberle would be a nice fit in the Blackhawks' system but with the 'Hawks current cap situation, they need a player with playoff experience and more of a physical edge to his game.
During the offseason it was reported that the Blackhawks were interesting in physical defenseman Jay McKee after he was bought out by central division rival St. Louis Blues. However, the Pittsburgh Penguins snatched him up before the Blackhawks could.
Now the Penguins are looking for a wing to play with Sidney Crosby and the Blackhawks are looking for a physical defenseman to place on their blue line, so the two organizations might be able to help one another out.
A deal that would make the most sense would be sending forward Andrew Ladd to Pittsburgh for McKee and likely a pick or prospect.
There is no question that come March 4 Garnet Exelby will be on another NHL team after requesting a trade several weeks ago and Brian Burke saying that he will grant Exelby's request for a trade.
Exelby fits the mold of what the 'Hawks are looking for in a defenseman, as Exelby can provide a physical element and likely fit in a pairing with either Brent Sopel or Cam Barker.
The price for Exelby would likely be low, as teams know he is going to be traded and has not a consistent starter on the Maple Leafs blue line. Likely a pick or prospect is all that would be required to get Exelby, so he might be a low-cost addition to the Blackhawks blueline depth.
Another solid and physical defenseman that the Blackhawks might take a look at come the trade deadline would be Sean O'Donnell of the Los Angeles Kings.
O'Donnell, like Exelby and McKee, is another cheap option on the blue line, and like the previous two would give the Blackhawks a player that opponents would need to keep their head up for.
Another plus for adding O'Donnell is his experience winning a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.
However, the Kings are a young team that also seems poised to make a charge to the playoffs and O'Donnell's Stanley Cup Playoff experience could come in handy for the relatively young Kings team.
Probably the most interesting/strange name brought up in all these trade discussions involving the Blackhawks has been Tampa Bay defenseman Andrej Meszaros.
The reason that Meszaros' name is so strange to be brought up as a player that the Blackhawks would be interested in is because Meszaros is signed beyond the 2009/2010 season and has a cap hit of four million dollars.
The Blackhawks are looking to subtract salary over the long run as well as strengthen their team for this season.
However, Meszaros is a player who would seem to fit the Blackhawks up-tempo system and would be another offensive threat on the 'Hawks blue line.
Even so, the Blackhawks cannot afford to invest more money in long-term, high-pay players, and it is likely that Meszaros will not be in the Blackhawks' plans.
As you can see below in the comments, my fellow feature columnist Tab Bamford brought up a trade rumor that I had completely forgotten to add to my slide show. That being the rumor that the Blackhawks have talked about bringing back former Blackhawk James Wisniewski in exchange for defenseman Cam Barker.
Wisniewski is a player that could fit all the needs the Blackhawks are looking for in that he is a physical force on the blue line and is enjoying a career offensive year with 24 points in 53 games.
Now Wisniewski is a restricted free agent at the end of the season and will likely get s good raise from his $2.75 million to possibly $4 million so it is likely that the return of Wisniewski would be short lived.
Yes it would be a rental much like that of other players mentioned however, acquiring Wisniewski would be an easlier integration process as he know most of the players in the locker room and already knows the system the Blackhawks play.
In my opinion, Pavel Kubina is the second-best option for the Blackhawks going into the trade deadline, as he is a defenseman that has multiple dimensions to his game.
Kubina can provide a physical presence to the Blackhawks' blue line that is desperately needed, as well as provide a good amount of offensive production from the blue line. This season, Kubina has provided some good offensive numbers for the Atlanta Thrashers, recording 30 points and a plus-6 rating over 56 games.
Another major plus to adding Kubina is that he is a free agent after the season, so his $5 million salary would be shed after the season.
In my opinion the Chicago Blackhawks' best defensive opinion, if available, is Anaheim Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer.
Niedermayer is the type of stabilizing force the Blackhawks defensive core could use for a deep playoff run. In Niedermayer's 17 seasons in the NHL, he has been a winner and integral part of four Stanley Cup Championships.
The biggest questions surrounding Niedermayer and the 2010 trade deadline is the actually availability of the veteran defenseman, and what he potential price would be for him.
Sure, the Blackhawks have the likes of Kris Versteeg, Cam Barker, and Dustin Byfuglien as trade chips, but I'm not sure that Stan Bowman would like to move two of those three players in a trade for Niedermayer.
Although Scott Niedermayer is an aging veteran defenseman, he might the best and most effective option for the Blackhawks and their hopes for a deep playoff run.