We're less than two weeks away from the NHL trade deadline, which means general managers across the league are just about finalizing their plans for the stretch run.
Teams near the bottom of the standings have set their price on players in an effort to maximize their return on coveted rentals or long-term assets. Bubble teams are determining whether they should be buyers or sellers. And contenders are thinking of ways to strengthen their club without disrupting the team chemistry.
The Blackhawks, no question, are a contender in a Western Conference that's as wide open as it's ever been in the last decade.
GM Stan Bowman has made it clear multiple times that he has no plans to make a big splash, putting his faith in the handful of young players that have developed nicely over the course of this season. And there's not a lot of interest in trading away draft picks since Chicago is hosting it this summer for the first time ever.
But there's certainly room to add some depth.
As of Friday, the Blackhawks are projected to have up to $4.19 million to spend at the March 1 trade deadline, according to CapFriendly.com. That number could fluctuate, however, if and when they add a 23rd player to the roster before then.
With that in mind, here are eight trade deadline options for the Blackhawks:
Note: All eight players are in the final years of their contract.
— Brian Boyle, Lightning LW; Age: 32; Remaining daily cap hit: $566,667
Winning follows Boyle. He's played in four Conference Finals and two Stanley Cup Finals in the past five years on two separate teams, but has fallen just short in each instance. Adding a player of Boyle's caliber is a move that bolsters the bottom-six more than it does the top-six, but it stabilizes the four-line rotation nonetheless.
He has 13 goals and seven assists in 50 games this season, the exact numbers he finished with last season in 76 contests.
Boyle is also a well-respected voice in the locker room and would fit right in to a club full of leaders and young players. The Lightning very well may hold off on trading pieces from their current roster as they continue their push for a playoff spot, but there's a possibility they could look to at least get something in return for a player in the final year of his deal.
— Alex Burrows, Canucks LW/RW; Age: 35; Remaining daily cap hit: $1,300,000
Wouldn't this be interesting? A player that has gotten under the Blackhawks' skin during their playoff clashes from 2009-11, Burrows would make for an intriguing addition. He adds a combination of goal-scoring ability and grit, can play either wing position, and is capable of killing penalties, which would give Joel Quenneville some flexibility.
Burrows has nine goals and 11 assists in 52 games this season, and is on pace for his second-highest point total since the 2011-12 campaign. It should be noted that he has a no-trade clause, but there shouldn't be an issue convincing him to move on from Vancouver and play on a team contending for a Stanley Cup at this stage of his career.
— Patrick Eaves, Stars LW/RW; Age: 32; Remaining daily cap hit: $288,889
A versatile winger, Eaves has been one of the best Stars forwards this season, tied for the team lead with 21 goals and third with 36 points in 58 games. His 36 points is already a new career high, breaking his previous total of 32 set all the way back in 2006-07. He's also logging 16:34 of ice time per game, which is by far the highest average of his career.
With his two-way insticts, he'd be a solid fit on the top line with Jonathan Toews and would alleviate pressure off some of the younger players who haven't been able to seize that role. The asking price wouldn't be steep, either, for a guy who signed a one-year, $1 million deal in the offseason.
— Martin Hanzal, Coyotes C; Age: 29; Remaining daily cap hit: $895,556
The Blackhawks are set with Jonathan Toews and Artem Anisimov as their 1-2 punch up the middle, but it wouldn't be the worst decision to strengthen their bottom-six with a Hanzal and Marcus Kruger duo to round out the top-four, much like they did in 2015 by adding Antoine Vermette.
Hanzal has 14 goals and nine assists in 47 games, and is among the league's best faceoff centers with a 55.8 win percentage. He's also a great penalty killer, an area they continue to improve in.
The added bonus would be taking him away from a Western Conference contender, although that's not the main motive. The problem here is that the return would likely require a top prospect and draft pick, a haul Bowman may not be interested in giving up after shipping Marko Dano and a first-round pick away at last year's trade deadline for Andrew Ladd only to be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
— Patrick Sharp, Stars LW; Age: 35; Remaining daily cap hit: $1,704,444
The Stars winger that Blackhawks fans are really eyeing is Sharp, who needs no introduction as a three-time Stanley Cup winner in Chicago. The benefit of reacquiring the veteran forward would be bypassing the transition phase of a new player joining a team late in the season and adapting to their style of hockey. There's instant familiarity.
Plagued by concussions, Sharp hasn't quite found his groove this season on an underwhelming Stars team, recording only seven goals and six assists in 33 games.
Although you could argue it was due to their depth, Sharp was also playing on the third line for the Blackhawks during the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, so he wouldn't necessarily be a slam-dunk solution. But he definitely helps.
The challenging part may not be the asking price, but trying to top the offers of other teams in the hunt. He's still a valuable trade chip. And Sharp falls more under the category of a big-name trade rather than a tweak, so a return this season probably isn't in the cards.
— Michael Stone, Coyotes D; Age: 26; Remaining daily cap hit: $1,155,556
The Blackhawks are crowded at the blue line, but don't discount their desire to add another veteran defenseman if they can fit one under the cap. They'd like to shore up the back end considering Gustav Forsling, who's currently in Rockford, and Michal Kempny have no playoff experience, and 38-year-old Michal Rozsival next in line as their extra defenseman.
Stone has one goal and eight assists in 44 games this season, and is coming off a year in which he set a career high with 36 points. But the idea here is that he'd be more focused on helping out defensively despite his inconsistencies, which could have something to do with playing against top guys on a bad team.
— Thomas Vanek, Red Wings LW; Age: 33; Remaining daily cap hit: $751,111
It's no secret Vanek has left teams wanting more in the past, but he's been great for the Red Wings so far this season. He ranks second on the team with 22 goals and 36 points, and is on pace for his best offensive season since 2011-12 when he registered 61 points with the Sabres.
His price tag shouldn't be out of Chicago's range, and the reward is that he adds a potential top-line left winger and another offensive weapon to a middle-of-the-pack power play that has been inconsistent all year.
— Radim Vrbata, Coyotes RW; Age: 35; Remaining daily cap hit: $288,889
While he may not be a left winger and fill the void on the first line, Vrbata's nack for scoring would provide insurance on the top-nine to go along with Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane at right wing. Vrbata leads his club with 39 points, and owns the second-best possession numbers among Coyotes forwards this season.
Adding him to the rotation would help prevent wingers such as Richard Panik from bouncing around both wing positions, and bring more consistency to the line flow.