The trade deadline is fast approaching, and teams looking to make playoff runs are trying hard to acquire some secondary talent at the last second. Jim Benning has already offered up his ripped up, possibly counterfeit Pokemon cards to the rest of the league, but the Chicago Blackhawks are more interested in the crown jewels with short term contracts.
— Farhan Lalji (@FarhanLaljiTSN) February 25, 2016
A move that would send both of them to the Windy City would have to be massive, to say the least. Even with the deadline bump, the Hawks are only able to take in a deadline-adjusted $4.7 million in cap space on Monday. Hamhuis and Vrbata come in at a combined $9.5 million.
There are two ways to get this closer to the cap for the Blackhawks, and both of them would likely increase the return heading back the other way. The first would be salary retention; the Canucks still have two of their three slots available (Roberto Luongo takes up the third for over a half decade more), and retaining the maximum 50% of both of their salaries would bring the hit down to $4.75 million, meaning that the Hawks could send down two of their replacement-level players (looking at you, Brandon Mashinter and Victor Svedberg) to get comfortably under the cap.
Alternatively, the Hawks may ask the Canucks to take on some salary as well. The team has aggressively tried to move Bryan Bickell for months; the left winger is playing in Rockford to save a few hundred thousand over a league minimum player, but still carries a burial cap hit of $3.05 million until the end of next season.
A combination of salary retention and taking on a year of Bickell’s contract could result in a huge windfall for the Canucks, if they’re willing to commit to the rebuild. Teuvo Teravainen’s name has come up in trade rumours over the past week, and certainly, he would be the tip of the iceberg in such a move. Chicago’s first round pick wouldn’t be out of the question, nor would a secondary prospect like Marko Dano or Ryan Hartman. If the Canucks are both willing to make Chicago’s cap situation better while giving them huge help both up front and on defence, it’s unlikely that the Hawks would be stingy with the return.
The more difficult side of negotiation might be on the Canucks side. We’ve all heard about the Aquilini family’s insistence that the team tries to compete every night though you might be able to convince them that the standings are at the point of no return come next week. Vrbata has a modified no-trade clause, but shouldn’t be hard to see on moving. Hamhuis might be the harder sell for the team. He also has a no-trade and seems more hesitant to leave the area and organization, even after the season ends. It’s genuinely possible that he’d rather stick this out than take a chance at a playoff run.
Then again, this is the Chicago Blackhawks we’re talking about. As much as it pains Canucks fans to watch, they’ve been a modern dynasty for the past half-decade, and it’s not unrealistic to think that they could pull off the back-to-back this year. Maybe that will be enough to convince the two?
Either way, we’ll find out for sure in the next four days.