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NHL trade season is already upon us.
Ahead of Monday’s holiday roster freeze, the Detroit Red Wings, Anaheim Ducks, and Florida Panthers got together on a three-way deal.
The Red Wings traded RW Givani Smith to the Panthers for D Michael Del Zotto, then flipped Del Zotto to the Ducks for C Danny O’Regan. Not a blockbuster by any means, but it could be an indicator of moves starting to happen, and the Blackhawks might be one of the teams looking to start making deals.
During a first-period report in Sunday’s Blackhawks-Rangers game, ESPN’s Emily Kaplan reported that general manager Kyle Davidson is expecting to get updates from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on their futures “in the new year”, and has let GMs around the NHL know that all of their other pending unrestricted free agents (forwards Max Domi, Andreas Athanasiou and Jujhar Khaira, defensemen Jack Johnson and Jarred Tinordi, and goaltender Alex Stalock) are all available.
While Davidson says he hasn’t had any specific conversations as of yet, according to Kaplan he’s not going to give away guys for anything or make a trade just to get a “sixth-round pick.” He’s interested in picks and prospects, and is focused on collecting assets (prospects and picks) for the rebuild.
Meanwhile, on the latest 32 Thoughts Podcast, Elliotte Friedman reported that the Ottawa Senators called and inquired about defenseman Seth Jones, but doesn’t believe a deal will happen.
“We’ve talked about how the Senators have looked at every possible defenceman that you can think of. I think one of the guys that they at least asked about, and I don’t think it went anywhere, but I thought was interesting… I think one of the guys they asked about was Seth Jones. They just made the call and said, ‘Would there be (any interest in moving him)?’, and they’ve dealt with Chicago before in the DeBrincat deal. I think they just called and just felt it out. I don’t think it’s happening. I don’t think it’s going to, but I heard that on the weekend. They’re calling on everybody and they called on Seth Jones, but I don’t think it’s happening.”
The Senators have looked at every possible defenseman that you can think of. I think one of the guys they at least asked about…and I don’t think it went anywhere…was Seth Jones. I don’t think it’s happening. They called on Seth Jones, but I don’t think it’s happening.”Elliotte Friedman on the 32 Thoughts Podcast
It would be nearly impossible for the Blackhawks to trade Jones for several reasons. The Sens won’t want to pay Jones’ entire salary. Even if they did, they only have $2.4 million in cap space, and wouldn’t be looking to add Jones if they were trying to dump other big contracts to make the deal work. In addition, the Blackhawks are likely unwilling to pay for half of his deal for the next seven years while he plays elsewhere.
Still, stay tuned … business could be picking up in a hurry.
Isaak Phillips is ready to go
Last week on the CHGO Blackhawks podcast, I discussed the team’s need for some sort of shakeup. Anything to have a different look or feel in the locker room. Well, injuries have forced a shakeup.
Defenseman Jarred Tinordi has been placed on injured reserve after suffering a facial fracture in Sunday’s game vs the Rangers. As a result, the Blackhawks have recalled defenseman Isaak Phillips from Rockford.
Phillips leads all IceHogs defensemen with three goals and 14 assists in 19 AHL games this season. He also leads the AHL with a +17 plus/minus rating. People around the organization have raved about his athleticism and puck-moving ability. He also turned some heads in his four-game call-up to Chicago last season.
“He’s a big guy. He’s an athlete. We’re not asking him to be a wrecking ball out there. We want him to use his skating ability and his skills,” Luke Richardson said after practice on Tuesday. “We also want him to use (his skills) also in a way that he defends hard, and makes the other team (think), ‘Maybe I’ll dump the puck in the other corner,” and maybe it’s not the best play (for them).”
Alex Stalock returns
In more positive injury news, Alex Stalock has been activated off of injured reserve. The goaltender has been sidelined with a concussion since November 1 after a nasty collision with the Islanders’ Casey Cizikas.
I’m happiest for Arvid Söderblom, who did the absolute best he could in his time with the Blackhawks. A return to Rockford will do wonders for his confidence and will allow him to play under more “normal” circumstances, meaning his team won’t be chasing leads and won’t be outmatched night after night.
With the Blackhawks’ goaltending situation as fragile as it is, it’s almost a certainty that Söderblom will be back, but let’s hope Stalock and Petr Mrazek can maintain health for the good of the team and for the good of Söderblom.
Richardson said Mrazek will get the start Wednesday vs Nashville, and hinted that Stalock would likely get the start Friday vs the Blue Jackets.
The Week Ahead
Wednesday, December 21 vs Nashville Predators
7:30 pm on NBC Sports Chicago & WGN Radio
This year’s Nashville team is the very definition of average. At 13-13-4, they’re not Cup contenders. Yes, they remain pesky, but pesky doesn’t hang banners. When I find myself getting frustrated with the Blackhawks rebuild, the Preds are a good reminder of what “halfing it” looks like. They have some expensive vets like all-world defenseman Roman Josi, and leading scorer Filip Forsberg, but what does a roster like this accomplish? Maybe they get hot and steal a wild card spot? Maybe they surprise and win a round, but then what? They’re right in the middle of the pack, which is the worst place to be. Not good enough to win, not bad enough to get a great draft pick. As painful as the Blackhawks rebuild is to watch, at least it’s a direction.
Friday, December 23 vs Columbus Blue Jackets
7:30 pm on NBC Sports Chicago+ & WGN Radio
Maybe we should call this the real Winter Classic. Chicago will be covered in snow by Friday night, but as of the time I’m writing this, the game is still on. The Blue Jackets play Tuesday night and are expected to arrive in Chicago on Wednesday.
On the ice, the Jackets have been a disappointment. They are third in the “tank standings,” behind only Chicago and Anaheim. The excitement of unexpectedly landing last summer’s top free agent prize, Johnny Gaudreau, quickly tapered off after a poor start. Their top defenseman, Zach Werenski, has been on long-term injured reserve since November 19th. I fully expect the Blue Jackets to be right there with the Blackhawks in the race for the league’s worst record.
Tuesday, December 27 @ Carolina Hurricanes
6:00 pm on NBC Sports Chicago & WGN Radio
This is what a Stanley Cup contender looks like. While the New Jersey Devils have been the darlings of the Metropolitan Division (and with good reason), the Hurricanes have an identical 44 points in 31 games, and that’s playing nearly a month without our special boy Teuvo Teräväinen. The offseason addition of defenseman Brent Burns has brought both star power and playoff experience to a team that had been considered a legit Cup contender for the last few years.
Goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov has taken the bulk of Carolina’s starts in goal and has been excellent. He’s third in the league with a 2.01 goals-against average, and sixth in the NHL with a .923 save percentage.
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