While we've all been enraptured with the Blackhawks defensive play this year, there is still something that is lacking on their blueline...SIZE. I feel the Blackhawks don't have the physical presence that others contenders do. Before you start hate-mailing me about how they play a game of skill and not size, take a look at the past winners of Lord Stanley's Cup. All of those teams have had guys who are serious "bangers and crashers." Take a look at some players from the past two Finals: Kronwall, Stuart, Lilja, Cooke, Kunitz, Scuderi, Orpik, Gill, etc...Who are the guys that fill this role on this team? Ben Eager? He's a good checker, but not really the physical presence this team needs. I think the powers that be need to go after a physical defenseman that can make the right kind of impression of opposing forwards. I've been trying to construct a personal wishlist of available D-men based on reliable media sources (i.e. not HockeyBuzz) and my own thoughts on who Bowman could pry away from other organizations. Here's an updated list:
1. Roman Polak (St. Louis Blues) 6-1 / 227lbs Cap Hit: 1.2 mil through 2011
Polak is exactly the type of player I hope the Hawks can acquire at the deadline. He is a big, physical guy who would be an ideal 5th defenseman on this team. He'll bring the size, grit, and hard hitting this team is lacking. He is not an offensive dynamo, but 14 points (3 goals, 11 assists) aren't too shabby. He's also Plus-3 on a terrible team. The Blues need some scoring from the blueline, and Cam Barker might be another piece they'd like to obtain in their "rebuilding" project. A top prospect or high pick would have to be included with Polak for this deal to make sense.
2. Garnet Exelby (Toronto Maple Leafs) 6-1 / 215lbs UFA
Exelby is a little bit on a downgrade from Polak, but his youth and ferocity are on par. He has been the odd man out this season on a busy Toronot blueline, and has already asked for a trade. This makes Exelby a lot easier to get than Polak. Toronto would probably be looking for a second round pick or a prospect.
3. Pavel Kubina (Atlanta Thrashers) 6-4 / 250lbs UFA
Getting Kubina would be like winning the lottery. The 32 year old Czech is talented at everything. He has the size and physicality, the scoring (5 goals, 25 assists), and the experience of winning a Stanley Cup. The only problem with Kubina is the cost. What would the Thrashers want in return? I think Barker should be enough, but you never know with the bumbling fool that is Don Waddell. It seems like after Pittsburgh hosed him in the Hossa deal, he has gotten a little paranoid. I guess you'd be too, if you were a hockey GM in Atlanta.
4. Sean O'Donnell (Los Angeles Kings) 6-3 / 234lbs UFA
Solid, hard-hitting, all-around good D-man that brings the experience of winning a Cup with the Ducks.
This brings me to the guys that I really DON'T want to see on the Hawks' blueline come March:
1. Jay McKee (Pittsburgh Penguins) 6-4 / 203lbs UFA
McKee is physical, but takes a lot of penalites. He is worth peanuts, so Chicago couldn't unload salary. He is worth a middle-round draft pick at best.
2. Tomas Kaberle (Toronto Maple Leafs) 6-1 / 198lbs Cap Hit: 4.25 through 2011
He is a point producing machine, but that's really not what we're looking for. He is also signed for another year at 4.25 per/yr. Thankfully, this isn't gonna happen.
3. Scott Niedermayer (Anaheim Ducks) 6-1 / 194lbs UFA
Not physical enough, and I just don't know if the old man can do it anymore. Side note: He's Minus-17 for the year
4. James Wisniewski (Anaheim Ducks) 5-11 / 205lbs UFA
Do I need to even say anything here?
Only time will tell what the Hawks will do at the deadline. All we can do is hope that it was the right move.
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