San Jose Sharks

Blackhawks bolster depth with flurry of moves

Blackhawks bolster depth with flurry of moves

While the Blackhawks certainly have depth to add across the board before the season begins. On Saturday they worked to that end, signing Tommy Wingels to a one-year deal and goaltender Jean-Francois Berube and defenseman Jordan Oesterle to two-year deals.

Wingels, who hails from Wilmette, was traded to the Ottawa Senators at the deadline last season. He played in 36 regular-season games and nine playoff games for Ottawa. Wingels had been with the San Jose Sharks since the 2010-11 season.

[RELATED: Patrick Sharp is officially back with the Blackhawks]

The 25-year-old Berube was 3-2-2 with a 3.42 goals-against average and a .889 save percentage with the New York Islanders. As of now the Blackhawks are planning on Anton Forsberg, acquired as part of the Brandon Saad trade last Friday, to be Corey Crawford’s backup this season.

As for Oesterle, 25, he’s played 19 games with the Edmonton Oilers over the past two seasons. He spent most of last season with the Bakersfield Condors, recording 32 points in 44 games.

A clearer picture: A look at Blackhawks' potential first-round opponents

A clearer picture: A look at Blackhawks' potential first-round opponents

The Blackhawks have three regular-season games remaining but let's be honest: you're not thinking about the rest of the regular season. You're thinking about the playoffs, "the fun hockey," as Brent Seabrook referred to it on Sunday afternoon. 

Everything's sewn up for the Blackhawks, outside of maybe figuring out if the lineup tweak or two. The West is theirs. So is home ice throughout the conference portion of the postseason. The Presidents' Trophy is… well, someone else is winning that (Washington, most likely), but that's not a big surprise.

So, back to the playoffs. While the Blackhawks' spot is secure their first-round opponent is not. Who are the possible foes? Hockeyviz.com has a day-to-day update on the odds of that, so let's look at the candidates, along with their percentage possibility as of Monday afternoon.

1. Nashville Predators (63 percent chance): Oh, quelle surprise that the Blackhawks may be facing the Predators again. Even winning the West, they may not get away from the division matchup in the first round. For the Predators this season, consistency has been an issue. Nashville has gone 8-4-0 since March 11 but, three of those losses have come in their last four games (including their 4-1 loss to St. Louis on Sunday). Pekka Rinne has looked more like himself lately, however, winning six of his past eight outings. But both times they faced the Blackhawks in the playoffs (2010 and 2015), they gave Chicago everything they could handle. Corey Crawford was chased in Game 1 and wouldn't appear again until Game 6. No matter how the Predators come into the postseason, they'll push their first-round opponent.

2. Calgary Flames (33 percent): Well, this would be a different look, wouldn't it? The Flames had a rough go the first half of the season but they have been a different team down the stretch. A 10-game winning streak in late February/early March have catapulted the Flames back into the playoffs, where they entertained us all with their appearance in 2015. These Flames have a few playoff veterans to help them, including former Blackhawks Cup winners Troy Brouwer (2010), Michael Frolik (2013) and Kris Versteeg (2010 and 2015). When leading after two this season, the Flames are 32-0-1. All apologies to my friend and colleague Mark Lazerus, who wants no part of that perilously perched press box, it would be nice to have a different series in the first round.

3. St. Louis Blues (1 percent): Yeah, the chances of this one are dwindling by the day. But in the true spirit of, "so you're saying there's a chance," let's talk about it anyway. At the start of this season, with identity players like David Backes going elsewhere, Kevin Shattenkirk talked of, "new, fresh faces and a new fresh mindset." Well, there's been even more "new" since then. Ken Hitchcock was fired on Feb. 1. Shattenkirk was traded to Washington. Death blows for a team that was struggling through late January? Hardly. The Blues have lost just one game in regulation since March 5 (12-1-2). Chances are, they're the Minnesota Wild's problem in the first round but in case the unexpected happens, we all know the fire and brimstone that will accompany a Blues-Blackhawks series.

4. San Jose Sharks (1 percent): It's another unlikely scenario but since there's endless internet space let's fill it with a look at the Sharks. San Jose has a few concerns right now, the latest being Joe Thornton's status after suffering a lower-body injury on Sunday. As for their overall game, the Sharks are in the same camp as the Wild, a team that found a lot of success until the calendar hit March. San Jose has lost eight of their last 10. Could the fatigue effect be hitting the Sharks, who went to the Stanley Cup final last season? Maybe.  
 

NHL Trade Deadline review: Around the Western Conference

NHL Trade Deadline review: Around the Western Conference

Western Conference contenders:

Minnesota Wild

GM Chuck Fletcher pushed his chips to the front of the table by acquiring Martin Hanzal and Ryan White — and also a 2017 fourth-round pick — from Arizona, and managed to give up none of their top prospects or blue liners to get it done. They sacrificed a 2017 first-round pick, a 2018 second-round pick, a 2019 conditional pick and center Grayson Downing, with the Coyotes retaining half of Hanzal's salary.

The Wild strengthened their center depth, which alleviates some pressure off Eric Staal and Mikko Koivu, and pushes Erik Haula to the fourth line. It makes them deeper, more balanced and certainly even harder to deal with.

While they paid a steep price, can you blame them? The West is as wide open as it's been the past decade, and other contenders in the West were in on Hanzal, preventing him from going to a rival. It was worth taking a shot.

Chicago Blackhawks

GM Stan Bowman worked his magic this February, electing to add depth players rather than go for the home run. He first acquired Tomas Jurco for a third-round pick in hopes of sparking his true potential, and giving coach Joel Quenneville another option on the Blackhawks' four-line rotation.

The one that really reinforced the Blackhawks as serious contenders was the reacquisition of defenseman Johnny Oduya. There's instant familiarity there after he helped anchor the top-four on the blue line during their Stanley Cup runs in 2013 and 2015.

It allows every member on defense to shift back into place, and it further strengthened their six-man group that's the deepest it's been in years.

San Jose Sharks

The Sharks had been quiet up until Tuesday night, when they acquired Jannik Hansen from Vancouver in exchange for prospect Nikolay Goldobin and a conditional fourth-round draft pick in 2017 that could turn into a first if San Jose wins the Stanley Cup.

Another steep price paid, but if the Sharks win the Cup, will anyone complain? It will be worth it for a franchise seeking its first Stanley Cup.

They realize Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, both of whom are 37 years of age, are approaching the 18th hole of their NHL careers, and must take advantage before they hit free agency this offseason.

Western Conference playoff teams:

Nashville Predators

The Predators made a few tweaks leading up to the trade deadline, making a late depth move by adding winger P.A. Parenteau in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick in 2017. They also acquired center Vernon Fiddler in February from New Jersey for a fourth-rounder in 2017.

They've been trending in the right direction as of late, so making a big splash — something GM David Poile is used to doing — didn't seem necessary. And it wasn't.

Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks jumped out ahead of everyone else by trading for Patrick Eaves before it got to a bidding war, in exchange for a conditional 2017 second-round pick that can become a first-rounder if he plays in at least 50 percent of the games in the first two rounds of the playoffs, and they advance to the Conference Final.

He bolsters an already-deep forward group, stabilizing their four-line rotation and taking some of the load off the top-two lines, particularly Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf up the middle. 

Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers made an interesting swap with Montreal, an Eastern Conference contender, acquiring forward David Desharnais for defenseman Brandon Davidson. Desharnais is a skilled center who's not afraid to stick his nose into the dirty areas. 

It was a wise decision for the Oilers not to be aggressive at the deadline, and risk mortgaging the future. They know this is a process, and there was no reason to go all-in here despite a favorable path to a long playoff run.

But it also would have sent the wrong message had they simply stood pat, so giving Connor McDavid and his group up front another forward wasn't a bad idea.

Western Conference bubble teams:

St. Louis Blues

After watching David Backes and Troy Brouwer walk for nothing last offseason, the Blues couldn't afford to see that happen with Kevin Shattenkirk. Despite being in the playoff hunt, the Blues shipped Shattenkirk — along with goaltender Pheonix Copley — to Washington in exchange for a 2017 first-round pick, a 2019 conditional second-round pick, center Zach Sanford and center Brad Malone. The Blues also retained 39 percent of Shattenkirk's salary.

Perhaps the thought would have changed if the Blues didn't enter the deadline on a four-game losing streak after previous winning six in a row. But GM Doug Armstrong didn't really have a choice other than to acquire assets for next year.

Calgary Flames

The Flames opened up the trading period by landing defenseman Michael Stone to shore up their defense. They finished by adding winger Curtis Lazar, who could slide into their top-six.

They're fighting to stay above water, and have been riding a roller coaster all year after a rough start. These moves will probably get them into the postseason, but they're going to have a tough draw in the first round no matter where they finish.

Los Angeles Kings

The Kings felt they needed insurance in goal despite Jonathan Quick returning from a 59-game absence, so they went out and got Ben Bishop from Tampa Bay for Peter Budaj, who is tied for the league lead with seven shutouts, along with a prospect and draft picks. Two of the three Vezina Trophy finalists are now sharing one crease.

The question mark wasn't necessarily that they acquired another No. 1 goaltender. It was about not using their resources and cap space to address their scoring needs.

They eventually did that, by adding 39-year-old winger Jarome Iginla to play alongside Anze Kopitar on the top line. It appears to be a good fit, considering the Kings don't play a fast game, and he will certainly give the power play a little boost. But you have to wonder how much gas he has left in the tank, and whether he consistently play at a high level against the opponent's top units.