The Blackhawks are poised to make some changes after a disappointing 2010-11 season, and with cap space to spare this offseason there’s potential for some quality moves. Blackhawk Up will take a look at who’s available for Stan Bowman to pursue over the next week. However, Bowman cannot negotiate before July 1 – or should he? On the docket today is Phoenix Coyotes center Eric Belanger.

Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

CONTRACT STATUS: Unrestricted Free Agent; $750,000 cap hit in 2010-11

2010-11 STATS: 82 GP; 13 G; 27 A; 36 PIM; plus-11; 2 GWG, 71 hits

Why Stan Bowman Should Be Texting Him Right Now: Belanger may be the bargain-basement find of the off-season, for those who take the time to look at him. He’s 33 years old, 716 games in the NHL, no injury history to speak of, and he plays 75 games a year pretty much every year. He has good speed, good hands, and boasted a 55% face-off percentage last year — just ahead of Pavel Datsyuk, just behind Jonathan Toews. Interested now, aren’t you?

Is he the 2nd-line center that we desperately need between Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa? Not even close. But if we wanted to give that job to Dave Bolland, the 3rd-line pivot slot would suit him just fine. The kicker on this guy came in the 2010 playoffs against Montreal when, after taking a high-stick to the mouth (no call, of course), he yanked his tooth out of his gums and was back on the ice within minutes. Those of you with a heart condition, please leave the room:

Don’t Risk the Fine: Supply and demand. Belanger has played for 5 teams in the last 5 years, so nobody’s going to be knocking his agent’s door down on July 1. He took a pay cut of $1 million a season when he signed with the Coyotes last summer — September 14th, to be exact, with training camp already underway. Belanger falls into the category of the aging veterans I mentioned in my Brooks Laich post yesterday: in this off-season, there are a lot of familiar names trying to get one last gasp in the big league. Belanger will be lost in the shuffle.

Verdict: Don’t tamper, but don’t ignore him either. The fine would probably be bigger than the salary we would have to pay to get him. But if the guys on the Blackhawks’ short list for that 2nd-line center slot get snapped up early, Belanger might just be a solid (if unimpressive) component in Plan B.

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