10 Players Chicago Blackhawks Could Bring in as 2nd-Line Center

Matt BauerCorrespondent IIDecember 20, 2011

10 Players Chicago Blackhawks Could Bring in as 2nd-Line Center

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    The Chicago Blackhawks' second offensive line is lacking a permanent solution at the center position, and the NHL trade deadline is slowly approaching.

    Marcus Kruger has been centering the Hawks' second line with veteran playmakers Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp occupying the wings. 

    Kruger has filled the Hawks' void at center to the best of his ability, but he hasn't had the most ideal amount of success on faceoffs.

    Kruger is more fit to play center on the fourth offensive line.  He's still young and improving, but centering the second line is too much responsibility for him to handle right now.

    Blackhawks' GM Stan Bowman will have to trade for a player to replace Kruger at center if he wants to find a permanent solution for head coach Joel Quenneville to implement on the second line.

    There are a number of young players, as well as veterans, for Bowman to attempt to acquire prior to the trade deadline.

Olli Jokinen

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    Olli Jokinen has played 13 seasons in the NHL and he hasn't come close to a Stanley Cup championship. 

    Now in his 14th season, the 33-year-old is playing on a sub-par Calgary Flames team that's heading nowhere.

    Jokinen's made the postseason one time in his NHL career; you'd think he's dying to get there again and actually have a chance to play for the Stanley Cup. 

    With all the trade speculation swirling around Jokinen's teammate, Jarome Iginla, there's no guarantee that Calgary won't be rebuilding in the near future.

    Jokinen is a free agent at the end of this season, and he's owed a mere $3 million until then. 

    A trade involving Jokinen is very doable; he can provide the Hawks with a second-line center and a well-traveled veteran who can mentor some of the young talents on the Blackhawks' roster, including Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik.

Nik Antropov

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    Nik Antropov, the 6-foot-6, 245-pound center who could fit right into the Blackhawks' second line.

    Antropov is in his 12th NHL season and his third with the Winnipeg Jets, formerly known as the Atlanta Thrashers.

    The large, veteran center has tallied at least 30 points in eight of the last nine seasons, and he's on pace to do it again this season.

    Winnipeg is in the process of establishing its identity right now; there's a handful of young talent on the roster, as well as a number of veterans, including Antropov.

    Antropov is the oldest center on the Jets' roster, and moving him would give Jets' young center Alex Burmistrov an opportunity for more ice time.

    Antropov signed a four-year contract with the then-Thrashers prior to the 2009-10 season that pays him $4 million in each of the four seasons. 

    His cap hit would fit into the Hawks' limited salary cap space.  He is a free agent at the end of next season.

Tuomo Ruutu

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    It's possible that Tuomo Ruutu may return to Chicago before the trade deadline.

    Ruutu was a member of the Blackhawks before being traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in the middle of the 2007-08 season. 

    Carolina is one of the NHL's worst teams this season, so it's likely they'll be selling prior to the NHL's trade deadline.

    Ruutu's cap hit is just under $4 million, and he's a free agent at the end of the season. 

    He can be a temporary, but productive solution for the Hawks' need at center on the second line.

Josh Bailey

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    Josh Bailey is one of the New York Islanders' skilled centers, but his ability may often get overshadowed by the production provided by 21-year-old John Tavares and 27-year-old Frans Nielsen.

    Bailey is a very talented two-way center and works his tail off at both ends of the ice.  He thrives when it comes to setting up his teammates, something that could go a long way skating in between Hossa and Sharp.

    In Bailey's first three NHL seasons, he played in a total of 211 games, tallying 88 points. 

    His 2011-12 season hasn't started off ideal, which could be enough reason for the Islanders to ship him off prior to the deadline.

Jarret Stoll

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    Jarret Stoll is another player who's set to be a free agent at the end of the season; he's currently playing for the Los Angeles Kings.

    If the playoffs began today, the Kings would be watching from the confines of their own homes.

    The Kings are making changes around the organization stemming from the recent firing of their head coach, Andy Murray. 

    I wouldn't be surprised if more changes were to come to the Kings' organization from now until the trade deadline.

    Stoll lost in the 2005-06 Stanley Cup when he played for the Edmonton Oilers

    The Chicago Blackhawks and Stoll would be a perfect match, providing each other with what they're both in search of.

Antoine Vermette

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    Antoine Vermette is a dispensable player in the NHL, but he can be a valuable piece for a team in need of a hard-working center. 

    Vermette is currently playing for a Columbus Blue Jackets team that's going to be undergoing some personnel changes over the next few months due to the team's lack of success since the start of the year.

    Vermette isn't a free agent until after the 2014 season, and he's owed $3.75 million each season until then. 

    It would make a lot of sense for Columbus to get rid of Vermette, the role playing center, and trade him for some pieces they could use in other trades, or in the future.

    Vermette's services are not needed in Columbus any longer; it's time for the organization to look ahead and start rebuilding.

Saku Koivu

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    Saku Koivu's days in the NHL are limited, and the 37-year-old has yet to hoist the Stanley Cup in his career.  It doesn't look like he'll be doing so in an Anaheim Ducks jersey any time soon, either.

    Prior to the 2010-11 season, Koivu signed a two-year deal with the Ducks worth $5 million, meaning he's a free agent at the end of this season.

    Anaheim is likely to become sellers by the time the NHL trade deadline passes, and it would make a lot of sense for the Ducks to take whatever any organization is willing to give them for a player like Koivu.

Tomas Plekanec

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    Tomas Plekanec is one of the best options available to fill the Blackhawks' void at center on the second line.

    Plekanec, the 29-year-old seven-year veteran, is playing on a Montreal Canadiens team that's currently out of the playoffs.

    Prior to the 2010 season, Plekanec signed a six-year contract with Montreal that's worth $30 million.  That means Plekanec is owed $5 million each season until the end of 2015-16.

    Considering the Canadiens have to deal with their young defenseman P.K. Subban, who's a free agent at the end of the season, getting $5 million off the books for the next four-plus seasons would certainly ease the process of signing their young star-in-the making, Subban.

Patrik Elias

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    It's safe to say the New Jersey Devils are on the brink of a rebuilding process, considering future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur's days in the NHL may be limited.

    New Jersey's main priority right now is re-signing 27-year-old forward Zach Parise.

    Patrik Elias, New Jersey's 35-year-old center, re-signed with the Devils prior to the 2006-07 season.  Elias' contract was worth $42 million over a seven-year span.

    Elias is in the final two years of his latest contract with the Devils, and he's owed $5 million for each of those seasons. 

    New Jersey could do themselves a favor by trading away Elias, removing an extra $5 million off the books for the next two seasons in an attempt to improve their odds of re-signing Parise.

Jeff Carter

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    Prior to this season, Jeff Carter signed a contract with the Philadelphia Flyers that locked him up until 2022, and then Philly proceeded to trade him to the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Carter is set to earn over $5 million until '22.

    Carter played his first six NHL seasons with the Flyers before being shipped to Columbus; he came very close to a Stanley Cup championship in 2010 before losing to the Blackhawks in the Finals.

    After playing in the postseason in each of the last four seasons, it's assumed that Carter is miserable in Columbus and would be open to any trade that would send him to a playoff contender.

    Carter scored 181 goals and 162 assists in his first six seasons in the NHL, and he's a center who could add to the already deep Blackhawks power play.

    Hossa, Sharp and Carter could combine as the best second line in the NHL.

     

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