The Blackhawks have shuffled the cards on defense over the last several weeks, and now they're slowly trying to clear the decks and make room for their prospects to play bigger roles.
After being a healthy scratch for the past eight games, Brandon Manning was traded to the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday along with defenseman prospect Robin Norell in exchange for 24-year-old forward Drake Caggiula and 34-year-old defenseman Jason Garrison.
It's a move largely motivated to clear Manning's $2.25 million cap hit next season, and the Blackhawks successfully did so without having to retain salary or attach a noted prospect — Norell spent three seasons with the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League from 2015-18 before getting sent back to Djurgardens IF in Sweden this year. It also gives Manning a fresh start elsewhere on a less crowded blue line.
As far as the return, Caggiula is the most noteworthy player coming to Chicago. He has 11 points (seven goals, four assists) in 29 games with the Oilers this season, spending a good amount of time playing on a line with two-time Art Ross Trophy winner Connor McDavid.
The two of them played 144:21 minutes together at even strength and controlled 56.5 percent of the shot attempts when they were both on the ice, according to naturalstattrick.com. When Caggiula was away from McDavid, that percentage dropped to 45.3.
Caggiula, who led North Dakota to the 2016 NCAA Championship and was named the Frozen Four Most Outstanding Player, is capable of playing in the top-six and he's clearly more effective playing with skilled players, but is better suited in a third-line role on a good team. He can also play wing or center, making him a versatile option in the lineup. He carries a $1.5 million cap hit, which runs through the 2019-20 season when he becomes a restricted free agent.
Garisson has played in only 25 NHL games over the last two seasons with the Vegas Golden Knights and Oilers after playing 58 games in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves last year. He has one point in 17 games this season and has seen his ice time dip to an average of 12:42 per game, which is a career low.
Garrison, who has a cap hit of $650,000, is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He is likely to end up in Rockford with Brandon Davidson (knee) nearing a return and Henri Jokiharju coming back after the IIHF World Junior Championship wraps up.