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Thursday, February 29

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Blackhawks Thu Mar 05 2015

New Blackhawks Looking to Help Team as Playoffs Approach

Chicago Blackhawks As the trade deadline approached Monday at 2pm, Blackhawks fans were bracing either for a Bryan Bickell or Patrick Sharp (or both) deal that would free up some much-needed cap space for next year and yet still help a team looking to fill the void of an injured Patrick Kane. As the trade clock expired, both players were still in town and Vegas odds makers still felt confident in giving the Hawks a 6-1 edge to win it all come June.

There's no question general manager Stan Bowman has confidence in his team to make it that far, despite the loss of, at the time, the league's leading scorer. The evidence of that comes from the trades made over the last week, which brought in a highly-sought after forward; a veteran on the blue line, who hasn't seen action all season; and a young winger who has more fights (6) than goals (5) this season.

With 18 games remaining in the regular season, and a tightly-packed playoff push in the Central, Bowman is hoping his wheeling and dealing creates a run reminiscent of the 2010 winner, which also could mirror how the team is broken apart, win or lose.

First there was the acquisition of former Coyotes center Antoine Vermette. The Blackhawks were rumored, along with a few other teams, to be in the running to get the highly-skilled forward last season. The Hawks dealt 23-year-old Klas Dahlbeck, who played four games with the big club this season, tallying one goal in four games. The team also sent over a 2015 first-round draft pick to round out the deal.

Seems like a bit much for the 32-year-old Vermette until you look at the numbers involved. It's no secret the Hawks struggle at the dot, and Vermette immediately fixes that issue, winning 55.7 percent of his draws this season, 10th in the league (Jonathan Toews is eighth in the league at an even 56 percent).

So right there, the Hawks have two of the top-10 faceoff winners in the league, and that will come in handy down the stretch and into the post season. Also, referring back to Bickell and Sharp, they're undoubtedly gone after the season ends. The Hawks are right at the cap line, and shedding $4 million and $6.5 million, respectively, will lighten the load and likely will produce a first-round pick in return.

Vermette scored 13 goals and 22 assists for the Coyotes this season in 63 games, and averages nearly four shots per game. If he can help launch this team deep into the playoffs, he'll likely be looked at very closely to re-sign with the team as he currently is in the final year of an $18.75 million deal that stretched over the last five seasons (the Hawks are only paying $866,935 of the $3.75 million deal for this year).

The Hawks also managed to add to the blue line by acquiring 39-year-old veteran Kimmo Timonen from the Philadelphia Flyers for a second-round pick in 2015 and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2016. The deal in acquiring Timonen is that it came with a bit of a risk.

Prior to his debut in Monday night's 5-2 winner at home against the Hurricanes, Timonen was shelved due to blood clots in his right leg and in his lungs. It's likely this is Timonen's last season as a player, and there's nothing he'd like more than to raise the Stanley Cup over his head for the first time in his career.

Last season, Timonen scored six goals and had 29 assists in 77 games played. He also was on the ice in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2010 when Kane scored the game winner. So needless to say, Timonen is excited to be a part of an established winner, despite doing a little gambling of his own with his latest health issue.

Lastly, in what was a bit of a surprise, Bowman dealt Ben Smith to the San Jose Sharks for center Andrew Desjardins. Smith wasn't too big of a cap concern, coming in at $1.5 million per season; however, the Hawks are only paying Desjardins half of his remaining $750,000 salary for this season, and then he becomes a free agent. So, ultimately, the Hawks will have that $1.5 million to use for next season, providing they decide not to re-sign Desjardins.

As previously mentioned, the 28-year-old Desjardins has five goals this season, but also tallied only three assists in 56 games with San Jose. The numbers are a bit low, but perhaps it's his "grit" that Joel Quenneville always seems to gravitate toward that allowed for Bowman to pull the trigger.

It's comforting to Hawks fans that Bowman made these deals, even if some didn't seem to make sense at first. The main thing to remember is that the Hawks will undoubtedly shed some big cap numbers at the end of this season, and that's going to mean some favorites will be playing elsewhere by the time the puck drops on the 2015-'16 season in October. The tradeoff for winning it all this year will make those moves a little less easier to accept before the NHL Draft.

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