While the rest of the league idly kicks tires ahead of Monday’s trade deadline, Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman is making deals that have his team poised to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.
Bowman completed his third swap in a span of 26 hours on Friday night, acquiring depth forwards Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for center Phillip Danault and a 2018 second-round pick. The Habs also retained 30% of Weise’s salary to complete the deal.
Earlier on Friday, he engineered a swap of depth defensemen, sending Rob Scuderi to Los Angeles in exchange for Christian Ehrhoff. That one followed Thursday's bold acquisition of Andrew Ladd, arguably the top rental forward on this year’s market.
This latest deal won’t generate the attention of that blockbuster, but in the end it might have a greater impact on Chicago’s championship chances.
The hallmark of the 2010, 2013 and 2015 Blackhawk teams was their depth. This trade elevates the 2016 squad to those levels by upgrading talent and allowing players to slide into roles where they’re more likely to succeed.
Weise, who had 14 goals and 26 points in 56 games for the Canadiens this season, and Fleischmann, who had 10 goals and 10 assists in 57 games, will likely skate alongside Teuvo Teravainen on a new-look third line that mixes speed, skill and a relentless physical presence. Coach Joel Quenneville can then reunite Andrew Desjardins, Marcus Kruger and Andrew Shaw on the fourth line. That trio was highly effective during last spring's postseason run, providing energy and timely offense.
They’ll complement a top-six that features Ladd, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa on a heavy, battle-tested first line and Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov on an explosive second unit.
Add in Richard Panik as the 13th forward and this group ranks among the very best in the league.
This remodel hasn’t come cheap though. To make it all happen, Bowman has traded away two former first-rounders in Danault and Marko Dano, a 2016 first-round pick, a 2018 second-round pick and a conditional 2018 third-round pick.
That’s a sizable chunk of the team’s future. Anything short of a trip to the Final and he’s bound to take some heat.
In the meantime though, Bowman deserves nothing but praise. While other teams are hemming and hawing, he had the courage to go all in.
None of these moves guarantee anything, of course. But if the Hawks weren’t already the favorites to repeat, they certainly are now.