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Fixing a Hole: Replacing Blackhawks forwards before they're traded

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A look into what the Chicago Blackhawks might look like if they were to trade an impact player from their forward ranks.

Less than a month from now, the Chicago Blackhawks will open up training camp at the University of Notre Dame. Which means that less than a month from now, someone is going to become a former member of the team and will be donning a new sweater before the 2014-15 campaign gets underway. The player that could be dealt depends on a few different things. Obviously the return is a factor, but it also depends on who the Blackhawks can work out a deal with and what that team's cap situation is like.

After all, not everybody looking for a forward is going to be able to afford Patrick Sharp or Bryan Bickell. Not everyone looking for a defenseman is going to want to take on a $3.375 million cap hit that comes with acquiring Johnny Oduya. No matter the case of who ends up on an opposing roster in the next month, the Blackhawks are going to have to do some work to replace them. The lineup will have to be shifted and new, likely younger, faces will see an increased opportunity. While those faces live primarily on the blue line, there are some intriguing names that could get an opportunity should a forward find his way out of town.

Regardless of who ends up moved, be it Sharp, Oduya, or otherwise, there is going to be a solution.

  • Patrick Sharp - Sharp is a regular in these types of trade discussions/rumors, and that is mostly due to his contract. His cap hit will approach $6 million for the next couple of years, and the team can clear a ton of cap space by moving him. At the same time, though, he's a premium offensive talent coming off a career year, in addition to being a more than capable defensive forward. That fact makes it difficult to see Stan Bowman actually moving him. The Hawks aren't quite as strong on the left side up front as they are on the right. After Sharp and Brandon Saad, the picture at left wing begins to get a little murky.

    So how do the Blackhawks go about replacing Sharp in the event he's traded? After all, you're talking about trading a top line left winger. Any way you shake it really, moving Sharp increases the opportunity for Jeremy Morin to make an impact. Move Sharp, and you're looking at Morin, Saad, Bickell, and probably Peter Regin down the left side. Maybe Kris Versteeg. A Sharp-less lineup might look like this:

Jeremy Morin Jonathan Toews Marian Hossa
Brandon Saad Brad Richards Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell Andrew Shaw Kris Versteeg
Peter Regin Marcus Kruger Ben Smith

That's obviously a contending lineup as it stands without Patrick Sharp, but you're talking about taking 70+ points and potentially 30 goals out of the mix. There's no way any real combination of players replacing Sharp replaces that production.

  • Bryan Bickell - The likelihood that Bryan Bickell is actually traded is very slim. He's only one year into that four-year contract and is coming off of a season in which he dealt with some injury woes, which definitely affected his ability to produce consistently. He's a proven postseason contributor, though, and that alone makes him valuable. Additionally, his ability to play the physical game is a rarity in this lineup and would likely prove quite difficult to replace.

    In replacing Bickell, a left wing, the Blackhawks would be looking at a similar solution in replacing Patrick Sharp. However, given Bickell's role as that physical presence, other players may get a look, as well as a guy like Jeremy Morin, who would likely be the top candidate in any dealing of a LW. A trade of Bickell could lead to a lineup that looks like this:

Patrick Sharp Jonathan Toews Marian Hossa
Brandon Saad Brad Richards Patrick Kane
Jeremy Morin Andrew Shaw Kris Versteeg
Peter Regin Marcus Kruger Ben Smith

A list of other guys not named Jeremy Morin that could get a look likely features Mark McNeill and Brandon Mashinter. McNeill is a versatile forward who still needs to fine tune his game a little bit, but he brings that physical aspect that the Hawks would be without in trading Bickell. Mashinter has been looked at as a potential "successor" to Brandon Bollig in the nonsensical enforcer role, which could lead to Peter Regin jumping up to the third line and Mashinter being featured next to Kruger and Smith on that fourth unit.

  • Kris Versteeg - Perhaps the least impactful move that Stan Bowman could make would be trading Kris Versteeg. For one, it wouldn't even get them under the cap alone. He'd have to deal another player. Which makes moving him highly unlikely. For another, it actually wouldn't change much in the lineup at all. The result would be very similar to a Bickell trade, just with less of an actual absence being felt:

Patrick Sharp Jonathan Toews Marian Hossa
Brandon Saad Brad Richards Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell Andrew Shaw Jeremy Morin
Peter Regin Marcus Kruger Ben Smith

Again, Jeremy Morin in the mix here. There's a chance Regin could spend some time in the press box for Mashinter (if Joel Quenneville is dead-set on an enforcer), but this trade would mitigate any significant changes from taking place. Of course, there is the fact that multiple players would still have to be moved that makes this scenario unlikely.

In each scenario, there is a common theme. That theme is Jeremy Morin. The kid was promised more playing time when he re-signed with the Blackhawks, and he's likely going to get the first crack at the lineup when somebody is moved. There are other intriguing names in the mix, of course, and a trade of a forward opens up some opportunities for these guys down the line in 2014-15. But the bottom line when discussing trading a forward is that it opens a spot for Morin immediately.

As for Tuevo Teravainen, there is no center spot opening up, nor is there a spot on the right wing in the top six. That makes any involvement unlikely for the time being.

Stay tuned, as we'll delve into the defensive aspect of this trade business next week.

Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.

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