NHL Trade Deadline: Blackhawks investigate blue line options
By Adam Hess
If there’s any silver lining to the Blackhawks getting trounced by the Minnesota Wild 6-1 in last Sunday’s Stadium Series game, it’s that their biggest need area may have finally been identified as the NHL trade deadline approaches.
The Chicago blue line looked borderline terrible for most of the night, and front and center having a terrible game was Brent Seabrook. Seabrook is having one of the worst seasons of his career when it comes to the underlying numbers, particularly in possession, where he’s been shelled. Seabrook controls an abysmal 47.5 percent of shot attempts at 5v5, his worst clip in the Joel Quenneville era.
The struggles of the blue line in Minnesota made it evident that Stan Bowman should seek to address that area in the coming weeks. The Blackhawks need a possession driver back there in the worst way, even if that means expanding Erik Gustaffson’s role a bit more.
The best options are outside of Chicago, though. Here are three of the best players the Blackhawks could pursue via trade in the coming weeks.
Keith Yandle, New York Rangers
Arguably the best option for the Blackhawks is Keith Yandle of the New York Rangers. Yandle is an offensive defenseman in nearly every sense of the word: he moves the puck well, skates well, has a great shot, and is strong on the power play. Compared to his teammates, he starts 29.15 percent more of his shifts in the offensive zone, proving that he can be relied upon to generate offense from the back end.
He’s also the ideal possession driver for the Chicago blue line. Yandle has controlled 52.43 percent of the shot attempts at 5v5 this season. In fact, since becoming a full-time NHL defenseman in 2007-08, Yandle has finished with a Corsi For below 50 percent just once.
The Blackhawks would have a few hoops to jump through to acquire Yandle, though. The Ranger would have to be willing to deal him, which may not be the case considering they’re in a playoff spot right now. New York also just traded for Yandle last year, and paid a big price to do so. If they want to get a comparable return for Yandle that they gave up, the Blackhawks may be priced out of the market.
Overall, though Yandle is probably the best option to fill the role the Blackhaws need. If Bowman decides to go all in on a defenseman, Yandle would likely be atop his list.
Dan Hamhuis, Vancouver Canucks
Hamhuis is another solid option for the Blackhawks to add to the blue line. Hamhuis plays more of a two-way game than Yandle, but that is always welcome in Joel Quenneville’s system. Hamhuis has tread water in the possession game just fine this season, siting at 49.26 percent Corsi in 35 games. He plays significantly less offensive situations than Yandle, though, so there’s where the difference comes from.
Hamhuis has struggled with injury lately, though, which is why he’s played just 35 games this season. If that’s a concern for Chicago, they may avoid the 32-year-old blue liner.
He’d also have to agree to leave Vancouver for Chicago due to his no trade clause. The Blackhawks haven’t been rumored to be in on him, but if they showed interest, it’s likely that Hamhuis would reciprocate interest in hopes of winning a Stanley Cup.
He shouldn’t be too expensive for the Blackhawks to acquire, and would be a solid addition to the blue line. If Bowman and Vancouver GM Jim Benning can reach an agreement, this would be a good acquisition for Chicago.
David Schlemko, New Jersey Devils
The dark horse option is 28-year-old David Schlemko of New Jersey. Schlemko would be very cost effective, in every sense of the term. He could be had for a relatively cheap return, and carries a cap hit of just $625,000.
Shclemko holds his own in possession just fine, controlling 48.75 percent of shot attempts at 5v5 this season. That isn’t great, but the Blackhawks could do much worse. He’d be able to play a good two-way game and be useful in the offensive situations, giving Quenneville some flexibility.
Yandle is obviously the best option, but there are questions about his availability. If the Ranger can’t be had, Schelmko would be a solid backup option to strengthen the depth of the blue line on a dime.