The Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers completed a five-player exchange Wednesday afternoon. The Hawks sent winger Jack Skille along with minor-leaguers Hugh Jessiman and David Pacan to Florida for forward Michael Frolik and goalie prospect Alexander Salak.
The Hawks finalized the deal late in the day and informed Skille during the Hawks warm up before their game at Edmonton. Chicago had been expected to make a deal as they find themselves in the middle of the pack in the Western Conference playoff chase. Frolik should be joining Chicago for their game in Dallas Friday night.
At the heart of this deal is the exchange of two former first-round picks who have found themselves playing fourth-line minutes for their respective clubs. How does this deal break down for the parties involved? Let's take a look.
What The Hawks Get
Chicago receives Frolik, a 22-year old from the Czech Republic who has eight goals and 21 assists in 52 games with the Panthers this season. Frolik is in his third season with Florida and netted 21 goals in both his previous seasons. He was the Panthers' first round pick in 2006.
Salak, 24, plays in the Swedish Elite League, where he has a .925 save percentage and a 2.04 GAA in 41 games with Farjestad BK . He leads the league in both categories. Another native of the Czech Republic, Salak played 48 games last season for Rochester in the AHL. He was 29-14 with a .910 save percentage and a 2.89 GAA.
What The Panthers Get
Florida receives Skille, Chicago's first round pick in 2005. The 23-year old Wisconsin native has mostly played fourth-line minutes for the Hawks this season. He has seven goals and 10 assists in 49 games so far this year.
Jessiman, a AHL fixture, has been a consistent 20-goal scorer for Hartford and Milwaukee in that league. He has played in 25 games with the Rockford Ice Hogs with just five points on the season. Jessiman is a big guy (6-6, 221) and a pretty good skater, but at age 26 may be a AHL lifer.
Pacan, a center, has recorded 43 points (14G, 29A) in 47 tilts with the Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League this season. The Blackhawks’ sixth-round pick in the 2009 draft, the 19-year old Pacan spent one year at the University of Vermont. He was dismissed from the UVM team at the beginning of this season for disciplinary reasons.
What This Means For The Hawks
To hear GM Stan Bowman tell it, the Hawks have had their eye on Frolik for a while. Frolik can play center, and the Hawks may use him there or at wing on the second line. I see him possibly playing between Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp, or possibly Troy Brouwer if Sharp stays on the first line.
Frolik's arrival should allow Chicago to move Tomas Kopecky down to the fourth line, where he is better suited. He should be able to help increase the offensive production on the second line, although he has not scored a goal since December 17th. Like the Hawks this season, Frolik has shown some inconsistency. Maybe a change of scene and the move to a more serious contender will be enough.
Frolik may be a rental for the stretch run, given the Hawks cap pinch. Unless he can be signed for close to the same money he's currently making ($850,000, although bonuses push his cap number to $1.25 million), seeing him long-tern in the Indian sweater may not be a sure thing.
With another young goalie in the fold in Salak, the Hawks give themselves the possibility of suiting up an inexpensive backup to Corey Crawford next season, assuming Chicago re-signs him. Salak is a RFA after this season, but shouldn't be costly to resign and assign to Rockford. He probably moves ahead of both Alec Richards and Hannu Toivonen on the depth chart.
What This Means For The Panthers
Florida GM Dale Tallon drafted Skille and apparently still has faith in the former number one pick. He's looking for more of a physical presence in the lineup. Skille is fast and aggressive, but hasn't proved to be a finisher at the NHL level. Skille thinks he's better than a fourth-liner and may get the opportunity to prove it with the Panthers.
Pacan is probably a couple of years away from contributing to an NHL team, but Tallon is looking for all the building blocks he can get. Pacan needs to fill out but has nice size (6-3, 183) and can definitely distribute the puck.
Jessiman? Well, he went to Dartmouth. He has been hurt much of this season, but Jessiman, himself a former first-round pick of the Rangers, has been a real productive player in the AHL level. His forechecking ability might land him a roster spot, but he probably isn't going to be a big scorer if he ever reaches the NHL.
All the players involved in this trade save for Pacan is a restricted free agent at the end of the season. I don't think Tallon picked up Skille without the intent of resigning him.
Who Wins In This Deal?
The Blackhawks didn't have to give up a draft pick to make this deal and they moved players off their roster. This keeps the possibility alive that another move could be made by the Hawks, provided they can move a little salary (Viktor Stalberg?).
The Hawks had to make a move, and with limited options for a playmaker at center, Frolik may be the best they can do. It beats seeing Kopecky there. By including Jessiman, Chicago is under the veteran limit in the AHL and could assign a player to Rockford (Nick Boynton?) to free up some space to add another player.
Florida gets a former first-rounder to add to their talent stable, moved a guy who might have fallen out of favor in their organization, as well as a talented, but expendable goalie. They can afford to wait a bit longer on Skille, who could be a productive played in the league in time.
Chicago comes out ahead on this trade, but not by a ridiculous margin. On the surface, they seem to have received the better talent. We'll see if the Hawks wind up in the playoffs due in part to this deal.