Throughout their mini-dynasty, the Hawks have tinkered with the roster every year around this time, making small and even a couple not-so-small deals to shore up an area of weakness or two, and bring some fresh blood into the locker room. But not this year. Don’t be surprised if the Blackhawks don’t make a move.
Look, it’s not because they couldn’t use some help. It’s that damn salary cap. Even if they were to go out and acquire a player, they can’t take on any more salary after this season, so it would have to be an expiring contract. And even that probably isn’t likely to happen.
In fact, the Hawks already are facing the prospect of losing backup goalie Scott Darling after the season.
Meanwhile, Hawks GM Stan Bowman has been a fairly aggressive GM so it’s against his nature not to tinker a bit. But even he has started to prepare Hawks fans for the inevitable by managing expectations downward. Perhaps he truly feels this roster can compete without help.
Some don’t believe him when he says the Hawks aren’t going to participate in the trading derby. At the trade dealine in 2015, Bowman added Antoine Vermette and Kimmo Timonen and went on to win the organ-I-zation’s third Cup in a decade.
Last season, Bowman was once again fairly active, as he brought in Andrew Ladd, Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise, although those Hawks didn’t go on to bring home a Cup.
Despite his past history, I believe that Bowman could be less aggressive this time. For one thing, the Hawks have relied on kids more than in the past and maybe Bowman feels these guys are starting to come into their own and as they get more comfortable will produce more down the stretch and into the playoffs.
But the NHL postseason is about the veterans—guys who have been there and won that. And we all know that Coach Q has been reluctant to trust rookies in the past, but this year he has no choice. So maybe that thinking will have to extend into the playoffs as well.
Bowman, for his part, is careful to let everyone know he’s trying to win the Stanley Cup, even though he may not be dealing. Bowman is in Sweden on a scouting trip. When asked by ESPN if he’s going to go after help at the deadline, he said, “No, I don’t think so. I’m not saying 100 percent we’re not going to make a trade, but I’m not expecting to make a significant trade.”
Again, there are rumors out there that the Hawks may bring back Patrick Sharp. But I just don’t see it. Sure, there is time for Bowman to change his mind, as the trade deadline is March 1st. In fact, when asked if that could happen he said, “Yeah, anything can happen,” But he quickly added, “But we’ve had [internal] meetings and that’s not our focus at all as we get ready for the trade deadline.”
The Hawks have always struggled with cap space, but they have even less room than last year. Plus, the Hawks see the value of young players more than ever, and Bowman is more reluctant to deal them away.
Costly rentals may not be the route the Hawks take this time around. But don’t mistake that as Bowman not wanting to win this year.
“If you don’t make one, it doesn’t mean you don’t want to win. It just means that it wasn’t the right situation for a variety of reasons. It could be that you think the available players won’t make much of an impact. It could be that the price you have to pay is too high. It could be that you can’t afford it with your cap situation. It could be that adding a new player is not easy, chemistry-wise. Trying to find minutes for a significant player sounds easy, but it might upset the rhythm of your team that’s been together 60 games. So there’s a lot of reasons why it doesn’t make sense — just like in some instances it certainly does make sense.”
Bowman is a good GM and we should trust his judgement. The million dollar question, of course, is if they don’t make a move, do the Hawks have enough to win it all? I don’t know. But I do know that whatever Bowman does it’s with the best interests of the Blackhawks at all times.
Speaking of best interests, it’s in your best interest to follow me on Twitter @BobWarja