By Adam Hess
The Chicago Blackhawks have operated for most of this season with a pretty glaring hole on their top line. While several players have had opportunities to play in the top line left wing position, only few have had continued success.
Teuvo Teravainen had some success there, but that left a major gap in the bottom six. Since he’s been moved to the third line, the lineup has found much more balance, so it’s unlikely we see Teuvo return there long term. Andrew Shaw has had success there recently, but he isn’t a top line forward and doesn’t represent a long-term solution at the spot.
Marko Dano was a candidate for call up and a potential fix at the top line left wing, but at this point it seems as though he will be staying in Rockford for the reminder of the season. So at this point, the Blackhawks only true option may be to seek outside help via trade.
Here are three players the Blackhawks could potentially trade for to slot with Toews and Hossa.
Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning
The third overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft has struggled to find a significant regular role with the Lightning. Head coach John Cooper is apprehensive about his game, and the team appears to think Drouin needs some time in the AHL to develop. Drouin disagrees, and in November he and his agent requested a trade.
Drouin would be a nearly perfect solution for the Blackhawks. He is an incredible offensive talent with elite potential. Those don’t become available via trade very often, and usually those trades work out much better for the team that receives the player.
There are two main concerns when it comes to Drouin. The first is his defensive play, which is often lacking. He sometimes seems completely uninterested in defense, which wouldn’t fly with Joel Quenneville, and hurts his fit with Toews and Hossa.
The other concern is the price. Again, players of Drouin’s caliber don’t become available very often, so Tampa Bay can demand a lot. Any potential deal from Chicago may need to be centered around Dano or Ville Pokka, and probably include a first round pick and a player like Shaw.
Andrew Ladd, Winnipeg Jets
The former Blackhawk and current captain of the Jets, Andrew Ladd appears set for departure out of Winnipeg. His contract negotiations have been a focus there for most of the season, but with the Jets re-signing Dustin Byfuglien to a 5-year, $38-million on Monday, Ladd’s fate appears sealed: he will likely be traded before the Feb. 29 deadline.
Ladd would fit in very well for the Blackhawks. He is not an expensive piece, with a cap hit of $4.4 million, and with the Blackhawks having $4 million available to them at the trade deadline, it wouldn’t take too much salary movement for Chicago to fit Ladd under the cap.
Ladd’s style of play and familiarity with Coach Q’s system would make him a great fit. Additionally, the price wouldn’t have to be too high. A package like Shaw and a third-round pick could possibly get the deal done. Even if it took a first-round pick, Ladd would be a worthwhile addition, and make the team much better.
Kyle Okposo, New York Islanders
The New York Islanders are in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race right now. The East appears to be wide open, but the Islanders haven’t shown themselves to be a threat so far.
They’ll probably have to go through the dominant Washington Capitals and then likely either the Kings or Blackhawks to win the Cup. That’d take a lot of luck on their part. It’s not very likely that they make that run, so there’s a chance that they’d be willing to move Okposo, a pending unrestricted free agent.
Okposo is a big-bodied winger with a bit of snarl to his game and a goal scoring touch to boot. He may not be elite, but he’s a certified top-six player and would fit well with Toews and Hossa. He’s also inexpensive, with a cap hit of just $2.8 million.
This deal isn’t very likely, because it would require New York to give up hope of contending this season, which most teams are hesitant to do. It’d also likely require trading a package like Shaw, Dano, and pick. That’d be a lot to give up for a player the Hawks would probably be unable to re-sign.
The Blackhawks have shown to be one of the best teams in the league this season, and are arguably the Cup favorite this season. But addressing the first line left wing spot would solidify their place as the favorite. These three players would be solid options that would help in doing so.