With the draft taking place on Friday, the Blackhawks may be looking to make a big move and finally address their number two center position.
There are several players who could be involved in a trade such as Johnny Oduya, Patrick Sharp or Brent Seabrook. However, all three players do have some form of no trade clause so in order for them to be traded they will need to approve the trade.
There are several names that are out there that the Blackhawks have been rumored to be sniffing around for the number two center. Here’s a look at five players who could fill the number two center position from outside the team.
Ryan Kesler, C, Vancouver Canucks, 2 years remaining on contract, $ 5 million cap hit
Kesler has made no secret of his desire to get out of Vancouver and has requested a trade reportedly either to the Blackhawks or the Pittsburgh Penguins per Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun. This would be a fantastic pickup for the Blackhawks and Kesler has played with Patrick Kane before on team USA. Kesler will be 30 at the start of this season and would bring speed, scoring ability and the necessary grit that the Blackhawks lack at times. There is previous chemistry between Kesler and Kane who have been dynamic on the international stage for team USA. Despite popular opinion, Kesler has been relatively healthy playing 77 or more games in 7 of the past 9 seasons. His physical play would be a welcome addition and Kesler has scored 20 or more goals in 6 of the past 7 seasons and won the Selke Award in 2010-2011. Kesler can kill penalties and win faceoffs to take some pressure off of Jonathan Toews.
Jason Spezza, C, Ottawa Senators, 1 year remaining on contract, $7 million cap hit
Just like his counterpart in Vancouver, Spezza is another disgruntled center in a Canadian city. The Blackhawks have been linked to Spezza according to Hockeybuzz.com. If you can only give up Sharp for Spezza and a couple of picks, you have to pull the trigger. Spezza possesses great offensive skill and just turned 31. However, injuries have to be a concern with Spezza who has only played in 80 games twice in his career and reached the 70 game mark five times in his 11 year career. However, Spezza has scored 30 goals four times and recorded 80 or more points four times including 90 or more points twice. Spezza is a big right handed shot like Kesler at 6’3 and he has the speed and patience to create a deadly tandem with Kane. Spezza won 54 percent of his draws last year, slightly higher than Kesler.
Joe Thornton, C, San Jose Sharks, 3 years remaining on contract, $6.75 million cap hit
With the Sharks entering a rebuild, Thornton is expendable. His brother, John, who also serves as his agent has said that Thornton is open to a trade if fans don’t want him anymore. The team seems to be ready to move on. It’s no secret that Toews and Thornton have not gotten along and would Thornton be open to giving up leadership for the chance to win a Cup? At 35, Thornton is slower and doesn’t exactly fit with the transition game of the Blackhawks. But Thornton does bring physical play and his 65 assists were second in the NHL last year. Thornton doesn’t have durability concerns and has missed six games in the past nine seasons. In the past nine seasons, Thornton has been a point per game player and he would be able to help the growth of players like Brandon Saad and Jeremy Morin while being a good line mate for Kane. In the faceoff circle Thornton is exceptionally strong and won 56.1 percent of his draws last season.
Mike Richards, C, Los Angeles Kings, 6 years remaining on contract, $5.75 million cap hit
It is highly unlikely that the Kings would look to trade Richards after winning the Stanley Cup. General Manager Dean Lombardi has already stated that he will not be using buying out the contract of Richards. At 29, Richards should have plenty of good years left. However, with raises due to Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson and Marian Gaborik as well as the need to sign a defenseman or two, cap space could get tight. It is highly unlikely that the Kings would trade Richards to the Blackhawks, their closest rival in the Western Conference. After all Richards won 53.9 percent of his draws and is extremely durable but Richards has not eclipsed the 20 goal mark in three seasons. While he would look nice in a Blackhawks uniform, the Kings will most likely not trade Richards to the Blackhawks if they decided to make him available.
Brad Richards, C, Free Agent
Richards was bought out by the New York Rangers earlier this week. At 34 and a cap hit of $6.67 million, the Rangers could no longer afford a center that has aged in dog years the past couple of seasons. Richards only missed two games in his tenure with the Rangers but he averaged 19 goals in his three years with the Rangers and has appeared slow. If the Blackhawks wanted to go with a cheaper option and try to buy time until Teuvo Teravainen was ready this may be an option as the Blackhawks should be able to sign Richards for a few million and slot him into the lineup easily.
There is no guarantee that the Blackhawks are going to address the number two center position. But finding someone long term for Kane to play with and keep him happy should be a top priority. Plenty of options exist for the Blackhawks internally and externally. Now it’s all about finding the right fit.