After going 1-4-0 on their Canadian road trip, the Blackhawks will begin a two-game homestand tomorrow before a four-game road trip.
Of the six games, three will be against Central Division foes in the Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues; with the remaining three against Eastern Conference opponents in the New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers.
Currently with 60 points, the Blackhawks have fallen from six to eight points behind the final Wild Card spots (Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes), with three teams separating them from the final seed. Nashville – who the Hawks will face this Friday – and the Winnipeg Jets are five points ahead of Chicago, with the Minnesota Wild one point ahead.
These final six games will close out a disastrous February in which the Hawks have gone 2-4-2 in their last eight games; and in which their power play has plummeted to dead-last in the league. If the writing isn’t already on the wall for the Blackhawks, it certainly will be once the month is over.
With only three games scheduled until the trade deadline this Monday, it’s all but certain the Blackhawks will be anything but buyers. Fortunately, the trade market has begun to heat up the last two days, with huge returns being exchanged for veteran players.
The Los Angeles Kings traded Tyler Toffoli to the Vancouver Canucks for a massive haul including the following: forward Tim Schaller, center Tyler Madden, a 2020 second-round pick and a 2022 conditional fourth-round pick. In addition, the New Jersey Devils traded Blake Coleman to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a king’s ransom: the 27th overall pick in last year’s draft in forward Nolan Foote and a 2020 first-round pick.
But the one recent move that should have general manager Stan Bowman excited to sell is that of 37-year-old defenseman Andy Greene. Greene was moved by New Jersey to the New York Islanders in exchange for young defenseman David Quenneville and a 2021 second-round pick – a solid return for a veteran D-man. If Greene can net such a bounty, imagine what Connor Murphy or particularly Erik Gustafsson could net.
The 24 hours before the trade deadline are always the busiest. There is little doubt that Bowman will shed some pieces, especially in light of such plentiful returns around the league. Quite simply, no one is off-limits – particularly, those who do not possess a no-movement clause in their current contracts. Drake Caggiula, Dylan Strome, Matthew Highmore, and Slater Koekkoek all will be restricted free agents next year; with Gustafsson, Corey Crawford, and Robin Lehner slated to become unrestricted free agents.
For Blackhawk fans, these next two to three games will be the last time some of these players will wear the Indian-head. It will also be yet another unfulfilled season in which their general manager failed to assemble a playoff-caliber team.