Saturday, January 28, 2012

Chicago/Calgary swap could mark the begining of trade season

The NHL trade deadline is a little over four weeks away and normally we'll see one of those market-setting, benchmark trades happen right around All-Star weekend.

Nothing on that front yet, but there was a trade yesterday, one that was more significant than the swapping of AHL'ers--veteran Calgary Flames center Brendan Morrison was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for defenseman, Brian Connelly.

The Hawks have been looking for depth down the middle all season, in fact early on they even tried RW Patrick Kane there.

Forward Patrick Sharp has been out of the lineup since January 9 with a wrist injury and his absence may gave created a sense of urgency for GM Stan Bowman. Sharp is expected to return just after the All-Star break.

At 36, Morrison isn't exactly young anymore, but he should be able to hold the fort while the injured return to form and provide depth during the stretch and into the playoffs.

The Hawks are jockeying for position in the tough Central Division and are presently in fourth place, although they rank 6th in the Western Conference.

Calgary is one of six teams battling for the 7th and 8th seeds in the Western Conference and presently sit in 11th place, three points out.

Connelly is a 25 yr. old who was in his fourth season with the Rockford Ice-Hogs, was an undrafted free agent signing for Chicago in 2009. The 5'10, 186 lb,  puck-moving d-man and was pretty far down the depth chart for Chicago.

Sabres center Derek Roy is said to be on the market, although unlike Morrison, he still has one more year on his contract at the end of the season.

Calgary's depth down the middle, which was thin to begin with, now only has Olli Jokinen as a bonafide top-two. Twenty-two year old Mikael Backlund would now be looked to as the #2 center.

It's a somewhat curious move for Flames GM, Jay Feaster to move a player from a position of weakness. It could be one of those "domino" things where he's making room for a veteran #2 center.

With the Sabres playoff hopes slim at best, and a core shake-up almost a certainty, Calgary would seem to be a good fit for Roy.

Regier is said to be looking for a top-six forward in return for any of his top-six, core players and Backlund might be considered just that. He's only into his fourth NHL season having played a total of 132 games so there is upside.

Feaster and Sabres GM Darcy Regier made a swap last June--the Robyn Regehr trade--that was fair to both sides so maybe they can do it again.

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