Friday January 30th, 2015

The Thursday night deal that saw the Chicago Blackhawks send Adam Clendening to Vancouver for Gustav Forsling rates somewhere around Ruth Buzzi on the sex appeal scale. But as a hockey trade, it reveals two general managers expertly managing their assets.

Both players have similar upsides as smaller, offensive-minded defenders. Clendening, Chicago's second-round pick in 2011, led AHL Rockford with 47 assists and was named to that league's First All-Star Team in 2013-14. Forsling, Vancouver's fifth rounder last June, is coming off an impressive performance at the World Junior Championship where he led all defensemen with eight points in seven games and earned a berth on the tournament All-Star team.

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The key to the deal is their ages. Vancouver's Jim Benning wanted a player who is closer to being NHL-ready. At 22, Clendening fits the bill. He played four games earlier this season for the Hawks and could step in right away for a Canucks team that has a clear need for a righthand-shooting, puck-moving presence on the blue line. A scout reminded SI.com this morning that Clendening is still a work in progress and will need time to improve his skating and defensive awareness, but described him as “a very poised player who could quarterback a power play.”

While that's been a huge need in Vancouver, he was trapped in a logjam of similarly aged and skilled players in the Hawks' system. With Klas Dahlbeck, Ville Pokka, Stephen Johns and most surprisingly Trevor van Riemsdyk alongside (or ahead of) Clendening, Chicago's Stan Bowman was able to deal from strength and add an 18-year-old asset whose development curve was a better organizational fit.

Clendening may step right in and light it up for the Canucks, but don't judge this deal in the short term. Over time, this should be a winner for both sides.


 

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