Stan Bowman Goes To CarMax
So, the Blackhawks did not win the Kovalchuk Sweeps. Some in Hawk Nation are disappointed, others relieved.
Personally, I believe Kovalchuk would have elevated the Hawks in a couple of critical areas. But, at the same time, sometimes the best deals you make are the ones you don't. Stan Bowman still has many chips to deal and there are players out there who could help the Blackhawks this year.
But, let's also be crystal clear; Stan Bowman, at some point, needs to make some deals, both for salary cap and playoff reasons.
I equate the Hawks brief flirtation with Kovalchuk to a guy going to CarMax to buy a nice, high-end SUV (like a Lexus GX or an Escalade). He sees a Porsche 911 on the showroom floor at a great price and thinks, "man, that would look great in my garage." He even dickers with the salesman on it. But someone else comes in and pays the asking price and that's it. Our guy is back to buying his S.U.V.
So who out there is the Hawks' Lincoln Navigator?
Eklund has the Hawks hot on the trail of Niedermayer. Darren Dreger, I'm told, has linked them to Andrzej Mezsaros (I have no idea if that's spelled correctly. Although I won my 5th grade spelling bee at Grove Avenue School in Barrington, IL, it was in English, not Slovak or whatever language that's derived from).
I know the Blackhawks kicked the tires on Nic Wallin. Spector had them linked to Sean O'Donnell.
Let me go back to the car analogy. This morning, I believe the Hawks are in the market for two S.U.V.'s: a luxury/performance model AND a rugged, utility model.
Let me be less oblique. I believe the Hawks are contemplating a minor overhaul of their defense.
No, it will not involve Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell or Niklas Hjalmarsson.
I don't even think Brent Sopel is going anywhere. Except maybe the press box.
What I do think could well happen is the Blackhawks will acquire another puck-moving defenseman (if not Niedermayer, then a lesser approximation like Mezsaros), AND a rugged, physical, stay-at-home guy like an O'Donnell.
Yes, they'd have to lose a couple of defensemen to fit them in. Cam Barker and his $3 million a year salary is one obvious component. Jordan Hendry goes back to Rockford.
Some might question why such fairly dramatic moves on an already good defense. Three reasons.
First, the Blackhawks are stuck, for contractual reasons, with their current goaltending tandem: an enigmatic, inconsistent veteran and a raw rookie. The only way the Hawks can fortify that position for the playoffs is to improve their blueline corps.
Second, aside from Brian Campbell, the Hawks do not have anyone on the roster currently who has an abundance of native, instinctive skill on the point on the power play.
Third, their recent mini-swoon is attributable to a lack of consistency and physicality among their young, more offensive-minded d corps. They need a road grader. Or a Chevy Suburban. Heck, Sean O'Donnell or Matt Greene might do the trick.
Can the Hawks do this? Sure. I still maintain, had Bowman wanted to go get Kovalchuk, he was there for the taking. No team could have beaten a package like Barker, Kris Versteeg and even Jack Skille and/or Corey Crawford, without seriously damaging their roster. Not to mention possibly including Patrick Sharp. The Blackhawks, if they get the right components back, can make such a move without damaging themselves in the near term.
Will the Hawks do this? I believe they will. Go get two defensemen. One a puck-mover, the other a stay-at-home guy. Then, for the playoffs, you have depth, versatility in terms of your pairings, and you've done everything you can to shore up less than ideal goaltending.
Watch this situation unfold.
I believe New Jersey won the Kovy Sweeps largely because they made the best offer Don Waddell was going to get before the Olympics; that is to say, a lot of teams were unwilling to offer big packages before Kovalchuk played for Russia, risking injury, in the Olympics. And, for the same reason, I believe Waddell wanted Kovalchuk dealt before then.
For the same reason, look for a lot of trade talk— but maybe not as much action— before the Olympics. The sellers will be identified by their desire to move players before the Olympics (hence why a Niedermayer deal could be coming soon), and the real buyers by who bites before then. Still, some buyers will hold off because of injury worries.
As always, thanks for reading,