After losing to the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Chicago Blackhawks are starting to look towards the offseason. Even though they surprised everyone by beating the Edmonton Oilers in the qualifying round, there is still room for improvement on the Blackhawks’ roster. Specifically, who needs to go and who needs to be brought in – for the Chicago Blackhawks trade targets.
Chicago Blackhawks Offseason Targets
As seen in the two series, the Hawks have some weaknesses in their lineup. Their offensive weapons are solid, and their defence is serviceable. To make their roster more complete, the Chicago Blackhawks trade targets should be a goaltender and a physical forward.
Who Needs to Go
Even though many people are quick to say Brent Seabrook needs to be traded, Stan Bowman said that “there’s no question he’s a big part of what we do.” So, with Seabrook seemingly staying, eyes turn to the players that seemed to be underperforming during the regular season. One of those players is forward Zack Smith and the other is defenceman Olli Maatta. Mark Lazerus, a senior writer for the Athletic, believes both of these players will be bought out, clearing $5.5 million in cap space.
Smith was essentially useless for the Blackhawks this season with only 11 points through 50 games and a season-ending back injury suffered on February 13. Even though Maata could be helpful to bolster the Hawks’ defensive core, he is not a necessity on or off the ice. With Duncan Keith, Calvin de Haan, and Brent Seabrook are the veterans and leaders. The Hawks’ have an incredibly deep defensive prospect pool, so it will only take a season or two for the young defencemen to fill in the shoes of the older players once they retire.
In terms of goaltenders, Malcolm Subban is not the backup the Hawks can trust to lead their team to the playoffs. And with Corey Crawford‘s age becoming more and more apparent in his play, the Blackhawks desperately need to trade Subban.
The Blackhawks are in desperate need of a starting goalie. The tandem of Crawford and Subban is not capable of leading this team to a deep playoff run. Collin Delia, current goaltender for the Rockford Ice Hogs, has performed very well in the AHL. However, he is not ready to split time, or even backup Crawford yet.
So, the Hawks need a goaltender. And this offseason is loaded with netminders. Braden Holtby, Robin Lehner, Jacob Markstrom, Thomas Greiss, and Anton Khudobin, just to name a few. And Crawford himself is a unrestricted free agent as well. So, the Blackhawks need to bring back Crawford, and go after one of the big name goalies in free agency.
They only have about $1.5 million in cap space, assuming they let Dylan Strome, Slater Koekkoek, and Subban go. Greiss and Holtby are likely too expensive, and Lehner might not want to come back after the organization let him go at the deadline. Khudobin’s contract is only $2.5 million AAV. If the Hawks do some math with their contracts, they could sign Khudobin to a short-term deal. He fits the Hawks’ needs: he played well this season, and he can either start or back up Crawford.
The second priority for the Hawks is a physical and “gritty” player. The Blackhawks have never been a physical team, usually playing to their strengths of speed and offensive weapons. In the playoffs, this was apparent, with Drake Caggiula really the only physical player on the team.
The Hawks need at least one other player like Caggiula to be more physical. The fourth line of Ryan Carpenter, David Kampf, and Matthew Highmore was a hard-working line, but they were not hitting that much. Playing a faster and more agile game can work. But against more physical teams, that low-hitting game plan becomes more difficult to execute.