The Chicago Blackhawks have brought back Kris Versteeg, of the 2010 Stanley Cup Champion team. Stan Bowman acquired the former-Hawk from the Florida Panthers, and former Hawk GM Dale Talon, for two young prospects in forward Jimmy Hayes and defenseman Dylan Olsen.
This was a fantastic deal for the Blackhawks, and upon closer inspection, Bowman appears to be a hockey-genius once again.
Between 2008 and 2010, Versteeg's two full seasons with the Blackhawks, the left winger scored 42 goals and had 55 assists. Although in four seasons with the Maple Leaves, Flyers and Panthers, Versteeg put up a modest 46 goals and 58 assists, he played in only 161 games throughout that span, as injuries knocked him out for large parts of two seasons. In 18 games in 2013, the winger has potted two goals and five assists, and is healthy once again.
Speculation has Versteeg taking Andrew Shaw"s spot on the third line with Bryan Bickell and Marcus Kruger, with Shaw then likely filling-in for Ben Smith on the Bollig-Handzus line. This is a key component of reacquiring Versteeg, as in his time without the Blackhawks, he was usually playing a larger role as a top-six forward for his other teams.
Adding Versteeg to the Blackhawks' third line means better matchups for the winger, and likewise allows coach Quenneville to cease the Jeremy Morin/Sheldon Brookbank at forward experiment. This move seriously solidifies the Hawks' roster, filling the only glaring void that could be found on the team.
On top of this, the Blackhawks only have to pay half of Versteeg's remaining salary, and acquired another player in the deal as well. Forward Phillipe Lefebvre will report directly to ECHL. Talon continues to find ways to help the Blackhawks, even three years following his departure from Chicago.
While losing some young talent stings a bit, Bowman truly lost very little in this deal. Defenseman Dylan Olsen literally has no spot to play on this team in the foreseeable future. With Keith, Seabrook, Leddy, Hjalmarsson, Oduya, Rosival, and Brookbank, not to mention more young talented prospects still in the system, Olsen was more than expendable.
Although Jimmy Hayes may turn out to be a fine NHL player, the team clearly was not interested in him adding to his NHL ice time anytime soon, and again the wealth of talent in the Blackhawks' system allows Bowman to move prospective talent without hesitation when an opportunity like this arises.
At 13-2-4, good for 30 points, third in the Western Conference, and leading the Central Division, the Blackhawks have posted a very strong start to the season. Despite looking choppy defensively, the team has succeeded. Adding Kris Versteeg into the mix is very exciting for the team this early in the season, and the Blackhawks look to be well-positioned for a serious defense of their Stanley Cup Championship.
Versteeg is set to make his first start for the Blackhawks tonight against the Predators in Nashville. The team is looking for its fifth straight win, and ninth straight game with a point.