Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Centers the Hawks Could Trade for
Throughout last season and this offseason, the question around the Chicago Blackhawks has been who can center the second line?
Hawks management and fans were hopeful that training camp would help solve this dilemma, and that Patrick Sharp or Marcus Kruger would be able to claim the job.
Sharp, a true winger, had an appendectomy keeping him out for a while, and Kruger has not had the training camp people had hoped for.
So Joel Quenneville has decided to give Patrick Kane a look at center. Huh? What?
That does not seem to make much sense. If you read Jon Fromi’s terrific article “Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Kane at Center? Joel Quenneville’s Cry for Help,” it outlines three scenarios, and option three suggests trading for a second line center.
After discussing the matter with fellow Blackhawks’ analysts John and Brian Lafferty, it may be time for GM Stan Bowman to think about pulling the trigger and making a deal.
So let’s think about it.
Who is out there, and who can the Hawks pursue soon, or at the latest the trade deadline? They have the depth and the prospects to make a move. A second-line center could make the difference this year, and here are five players that could fit in nicely with the Hawks.
Mikhail Grabovski (Toronto Maple Leafs)
This one would be the big splash deal.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have a lot of money locked up in forwards. Phil Kessel makes $5.4 million a year, Tim Connolly earns $4.75 million, and they have a number of other players that can play in the middle that make over $1 million. Plus, once again, they seemed destined to be on the outside looking in come playoff time.
Mikhail Grabovski is entering the final year of a $2.9 million contract. Last season, Grabovski scored 29 goals and added 29 assists for 58 points. He is a solid two-way player, and I am drooling over the idea of putting him between Sharp and Hossa.
You may need to come up with a key prospect and potentially a first- and/or second-round pick to nab him, but if the Hawks are in the hunt, he would come in under the cap and make a huge contribution.
Martin Hanzal (Phoenix Coyotes)
After losing Ilya Bryzgalov to free agency, many prognosticators see the Phoenix Coyotes having a dismal season. Considering that and financial difficulties, should they not be in the playoff hunt, they will be looking to sell at the deadline.
Martin Hanzal makes $1.8 million before becoming a restricted free agent at season’s end. He is large at 6’6” 228 lbs, and can provide some offense.
Hanzal knotted 16 goals in 61 games for Phoenix last year and while he is a little raw at 24 years old, he could rise to the occasion if he had the right line mates up front.
Hanzal will come at a cheaper rate than Grabovski, and the upside would be substantial.
Paul Gaustad (Buffalo Sabres)
Here is the wild card in the mix and for two reason.
The Buffalo Sabres will be in the Eastern Conference playoff mix, so would they be willing to part ways with a key shutdown center? If the Hawks did get Gaustad, is he too much like a Dave Bolland?
Gaustad could be the player to go after if we find Dave Bolland logging significant second-line minutes this season and performing well at that role. The Sabres are a center-laden club and could use Gaustad to improve in other areas.
Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Ennis, Cody McCormick and Derek Roy are all centers that are under contract after this season with the exception of Ennis. No doubt, signing Ennis will be a priority for them next summer.
Gaustad is a $2.3 million free agent-to-be after 2011-12, and I could see him wearing red and black. The Fargo, ND native can move the puck very well, and registered 12 goals and 19 assists with a plus-seven rating in 2010-11.
He will come at a reasonable price, but a second- or third-round pick along with a mid-range prospect could do the trick.
Bryan Little (Winnipeg Jets)
There will be an enormous amount of excitement in Winnipeg for the beginning of the hockey season this year. The Jets will win games early, but when reality sets in, they will most likely find themselves out of the playoff picture in 2011-12.
Bryan Little may be a player they are willing to move, and although he has two years left on a $2.38 million a year deal, he could be valuable to the Hawks for longer than just the 2012 playoff run.
In 76 games, Little had 18 goals and 30 assists on a subpar Atlanta squad in 2010-11. Though a little smaller at 5’10’’, a speedy player to insert on a team built for quickness and puck movement sounds cheeky. A lot will depend on the Little’s season this year whether or not the Jets would be willing to move him.
At the same time, with a new franchise, the Jets will have to be concerned with sustainability and should be thinking long term. The Jets could potentially have a season which would give them a top 10 pick in the first round of the 2012 draft.
If the Hawks are willing to dangle another pick in that round or a second rounder and a prospect, Winnipeg may be willing to bite.
Kyle Brodziak (Minnesota Wild)
The Minnesota Wild are top heavy in high-priced forwards, and if they are having difficulty getting into the post season, Kyle Brodziak may be expendable.
Brodziak is a very talented young center who will be concluding a $1.8 million a year contract at the end of the season. He is due for a raise and the Wild may have to prioritize locking down some key defenseman.
That’s right Hawks fans; Cam Barker is not their problem anymore.
In 81 games last season, Brodziak pocketed 16 goals and added 21 assists on a very defensive-minded hockey team. There may not be a better fit for the Hawks than this guy. He is 6’2” 209 lbs with a right-handed shot that would make the Hawks attack lethal.
Based on the results of the Cam Barker for Nick Leddy and Kim Johnsson trade, this one may cost the Hawks a bit, and perhaps an early-round pick and an extra player.
But if the timing is right and it means a legitimate shot at a Cup, I would welcome Brodziak with open arms.
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