Photo: Universal Pictures

With the up-and-down play of the Blackhawks in the new year, the talk about trades has ramped up considerably on the blogosphere and among the social media faithful. The Cheer The Anthem staff sat down recently to discuss who should (or could) stay, who should (or could) go, and who the Blackhawks might get in return — or are any changes needed at all? Check out what they had to say in the January edition of the Round Table…

The cry since last summer has been for the Blackhawks to acquire a proven 2nd-line center. So far GM Stan Bowman has not pulled the trigger on a deal to obtain one. 3-part question: Can Marcus Kruger do the job? Is there anyone else on the team that can do the job if Kruger can’t — and who is that? Should the team go in search of a 2nd-line center now, or not, or wait?

JEFF BARTL, Founder & Lead Writer: For a guy no one seemed sure would make the opening-day roster out of camp, Kruger has been solid enough to date for me to believe he’ll be plenty serviceable at 2C come mid-April. It’s kind of funny the person probably best suited for the job – Patrick Sharp – doesn’t want it, or so it seems. With that said, Sharp will ultimately do what’s best for this team as he did when the ‘Hawks lifted that beautiful silver chalice. If Kruger can keep playing well, this may be a moot point. If Bowman is going to overpay, it’s not going to be for a 2C, it will be for another defenseman. Therefore, this falls under the “If You’re Willing to Part with a Top-Notch Center, (insert NHL team), I’ll Listen,” category.

TIM CURRELL, Contributing Writer: This is a tough call, since we just got Kruger back from injury, and the guy who is likely his left-winger (Sharp) is also sidelined. So it’s tough to get a feel for how that line will produce with Kruger at the pivot. Additionally, Kruger’s playoff performance last year was sub-par, and we won’t know if he’s going to repeat that performance until the playoffs get here. With limited success trying other guys at the 2C position, I say it’s time to start making inquiries. Pull the trigger when the deal looks right.

JIM NAKIS, Contributing Writer: It wouldn’t be the end of the world if Kruger was our 2C between Sharp and Marian Hossa come playoff time. Now, I also seem to recall the Blackhawks winning a Stanley Cup with some guy, Peter Sharp I think was his name? That having been said, I think we’ve reached the point where if the right deal is there, Stan pulls the trigger.

CHRIS DEME, Contributing Writer: Marcus Kruger is doing a good job for his age and experience level. That being said, the Hawks can do better. They don’t necessarily need to make a trade, but they should definitely see what players would be available in a trade. The Hawks should wait with the 2C until it gets closer to the deadline. That way more teams will have an idea of whether or not they should be sellers and it will give the Hawks more options. Stan has said a number of times that he is aggressively trying to pursue trades, but the players he wants are not yet available.

Assuming that the team does go after a 2nd-line center, what type of player should we be after (big/small, tough/fast, scoring/playmaking, etc), and who would be a good fit with the Blackhawks?

JIM: I still think it could be a left wing like our old friend Tuomo Ruutu or Jussi Jokinen, but if it’s a Center, it should be a guy with some size who can also dish to Hossa and Sharp. Derek Roy?

CHRIS: The Hawks toughness does not need to be addressed so much anymore with the additions of Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes. In my opinion, the Hawks should acquire a playmaking second-line center who can win face-offs, set up goals, and be a factor on the power play and penalty kills. I still think the Hawks should make a push for Rich Peverley from the Bruins. While the Bruins are not going to be sellers at the deadline, their depth at center makes it a real possibility. Having guys like Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tyler Seguin, and Chris Kelly as well as Peverley means they can part with one for the right price. Peverley wins 61% of his face-offs, is a playmaker, and has great numbers on the penalty lines.

JEFF: The main thing here is that we can’t expect a contender to part with a second-line line center for a prospect unless it has someone who can immediately step in and fill that role. And if that’s the case, is said player the ‘Hawks would be getting really, actually a solid enough to 2C who can do better than what Kruger or any other center in the system can do?

While winning now is obviously the priority, it doesn’t appear Bowman would part with a top prospect for a rental. And the ‘Hawks have plenty of centers in the system, making me believe Bowman is not going to spend cap space on someone with years and money on their current deal who may or may not beat out who is already in the system for the same spot next season. Not to beat around this question, but I don’t think the ‘Hawks will be going shopping for a second-line center, and I think that’s the right move given the Blackhawks’ current state.

TIM: I’m going to disagree somewhat with Jeff on this, I think that Bowman has shown significant shrewdness in framing deals that benefit the Blackhawks quite well so far. I think he will pull the trigger, and I see him going after a young, hybrid player from somebody who has needs greater than the Blackhawks. Toronto, for instance, is in the bottom 10 in goals agaisnt, and has the worst PK in the league. Would they part with Mikhail Grabovski for the right package? Also, even though the knock against them is that they are unproven, youngsters Derek Stepan (NYR), Adam Henrique (NJD) and Zack Smith (OTT) are interesting possibilities.

The other need that appears to be of immediate concern is #3/#4 defensemen. Nick Leddy is a great offensive tool, but is lacking on the back-end; and both Steve Montador and Niklas Hjalmarsson are having sub-par years. Who do you think the Blackhawks might make a run at for a middle-tier blueliner?

CHRIS: I’ve gotta go with Francois Beauchemin. Anaheim has said that they are selling hard. Beauchemin hits, he blocks shots, and he is one of the NHL leaders in penalty-killing minutes per game. This is everything that the Hawks need at the blueline right now.

JIM: I’ve got an itch for a Carolina trade, so somebody like Tim Gleason would be great. Nobody would complain if Beauchemin came to town though.

TIM: In addition to Beauchemin, I will put in a request for either Kevin Shattenkirk down in St. Louis, or Carl Gunnarson from the Leafs. All have the right kind of numbers with hits, blocked shots, plus-minus, and a few assists thrown in for good measure.

JEFF: I’m also up for someone like Beauchemin, and I say that because it seems as if everyone this side of Mickey Mouse is for sale in Anaheim. I think by the time Feb. 13 roles around – two weeks before the Feb. 27 deadline – we’ll have more of any idea who the buyers and sellers will be.

There are two ways to go about acquiring players for a playoff run: target rent-a-players with UFA contracts that will expire at the end of the season; or spend the money to acquire a more solid, long-term player that will be with the team more than just 3 months. Which should the Blackhawks pursue right now?

TIM: I think the answer is actually both — somebody who we have the ability to walk away from if they suck woodchuck weiner, but whose current contract would be enticing enough to allow the Blackhawks to try to re-sign them before July 1. Teams are going to try to screw us over, since they know we’re looking for the right pieces to make a Cup run again: good idea to keep our options open.

JEFF: As I mentioned earlier, I don’t think Bowman is shopping for someone with years and dollars on a current deal given the core group and plethora of prospects who seem ready to contribute. Granted, if Rick Nash wants to wear the Indian head, things change. However, that’s highly unlikely. It more will be a rent-a-player though, again, it would have to be someone who doesn’t cost much and can almost be guaranteed to do a better job than what the ‘Hawks already have on the roster and in the system.

CHRIS: I suppose this totally depends on the hypothetical players and their age and health history. The Hawks have a super talented core locked down for years to come so they can make due with rentals. The only problem with getting rentals every year is that you never truly know how the team is going to mesh and whether there will be missing pieces. Case in point, our defensive struggles this year.

JIM: It doesn’t matter. Just get the right player. It does seem like Stan is uber-cautious about the next CBA though, so I’d think it’s more likely than not were getting an expiring contract.

Our defensive corps currently consists of a top pairing, and six guys who are playing like they belong in the bottom pairing. With the exception of John Scott, who would be on everybody’s list, which of the Blackhawks’ bottom-six D-men should we be shopping, and who would actually have value to other teams?

JIM: The obvious answer is Hjammer – but he’s been trending up lately and I don’t think Stan is going to subtract too much from the current roster, especially on defense.

JEFF: There won’t be any subtraction from the defense through trade. Leddy is too young to make a final judgement on, and Hjalmarsson is pretty much non-moveable with his cap hit and shoddy play when factoring in the whole body of work this season. Same goes or Montador. Unless it’s Shea Weber with a signed extension coming to Chicago, the only way the current defense gets a shake up is if someone is waived or in the press box.

TIM: Again, gotta disagree with Jeff (sorry, dude). I think Hjalmarsson will definitely be shopped, in particular to teams with lots of cap room and shitty defense: the Islanders are on the top of that list. Even if all we get for him is draft picks, it frees up cap space. But that’s the only deal that is really possible: nobody else has any value. And how ironic is that? We go from nearly impenetrable defense in 2009-10 to a crew with only two top-caliber players?

CHRIS: I would not move Leddy. I still feel he is struggling, because he is over-worked.  People are freaking out about him, but let’s not forget that he’s only twenty years old. He has so much potential growth left, and it would be a disservice to the future of the organization to even consider moving him. Hjalmarsson is the most likely to move. His high contract and mediocre play this season makes him tradable for the right return. I still feel that he has potential left, but the Hawks should definitely listen if someone is looking for a $3.5 million shot-blocker.

The ‘Hawks are very deep at wing, something we’ve seen with Jeremy Morin, Ben Smith, Andrew Shaw, and Jimmy Hayes being called up from Rockford. If a potential deal depended on shipping off one or two of these youngsters, which ones are potential bait and which are absolutely untouchable?

TIM: This really does require a crystal ball to see who is going to continue their level of play, who is going to drop off, and who is going to just get better. From what I see from these guys so far, I would say that Shaw and Brandon Saad are the most likely to bring greater returns down the road; whereas Smith and Morin have likely peaked. But truth be told, I’d fight to keep every damned one of them.

CHRIS: I would say Shaw and Hayes are untouchable for what they bring to the team, physicality and energy-wise. While I really like all of these guys, I would think one or more would likely be included in a deal for a second-line center or defenseman. Again, my opinion would all depend on who the Hawks got in return. The problem with having a lot of talent is that the team might be more inclined to give up too much in a trade. I hope that this doesn’t happen considering the NHL potential of all of these guys.

JIM: Morin and Brandon Pirri are probably the most intriguing prospects the Blackhawks have right now — if you’re another GM. If the right deal came along and you had to ship one or both, make it. I think Saad is probably the only untouchable the Hawks have.

JEFF: None of these guys are getting moved for a rent-a-guy deal. If you’re going to trade your top prospects in the NHL world, you need longevity back in return. With that said, if a superstar is available who can help immediately and hopefully next year at the very least, trade who you have to of said prospects. It’s the way of the world if you want to win titles.

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