Thursday ended up being a great day for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Not only did they beat the Phoenix Coyotes and goalie Mike Smith, who has had their number as of late. But they reacquired a key member of the 2010 Stanley Cup championship team.
The Blackhawks acquired forward Kris Versteeg and Philippe Lefebvre in exchange for Jimmy Hayes and defenseman Dylan Olsen. The Florida Panthers also agreed to pick up half of Versteeg's contract over the remaining 3 years of his contract.
That means the Hawks get a legit 20 goal scorer to stick on their third line, for a pair of players stuck in the AHL. Don't get me wrong, Hayes & Olsen are good players and belong in the NHL but on the Hawks there just isn't room.
Even with Michael Koska being hurt, they didn't call up Olsen. And while Hayes started the season with the big club he was sent back down to allow Brandon Pirri to replace Michal Handzus on the roster.
In every way this trade looks like a huge win for GM Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks.
Versteeg provides the Hawks with a player they have been missing. Someone who can play on any line while contributing on the powerplay and penalty kill. Versteeg could line up Saturday with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa on the top line or be with Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell on the third line.
Just think how dangerous the Hawks have become. A top line of Toews, Hossa & Patrick Sharp, a second line of Pirri, Brandon Saad with Patrick Kane and then Versteeg, Shaw and Bickell. That leaves Brandon Bollig, Ben Smith and Marcus Kruger on the fourth line.
This is how you make a deep team even deeper.
Because Michael Rozsival is wearing Versteeg's old number, he will wear No. 23, which is a big number in Chicago sports. Michael Jordan, Ryne Sandburg, Robin Ventrua and Devin Hester have all worn 23. Lefebvre has been playing in the ECHL and I would assume he would continue to do so.
This trade probably singles the end to the Jeremy Morin era with the Blackhawks. Morin was the big piece acquired from the Atlanta Thrashers in the Dustin Byfuglien trade.
After the trade they sent Morin back down to Rockford, where he has spent most of his career now. In the past four seasons he has played in 21 games with the Hawks while playing in over 160 games in the AHL with Rockford. With him set to become a restricted free agent this summer, there is a good chance he could be elsewhere next fall if not sent away in a trade before that.
With the addition of Versteeg the team also played Handzus and Michael Koskta on longterm IR to clear capspace. According to Capgeek.com the Hawks now have around $870,000 in cap space. Therefore this means that this was THE move for Bowman. There won't be any trade for a backup goalie or second line center. Bringing back Versteeg was it.
We will have to see how the move plays out but right now on paper it looks like another big win for Bowman and the Hawks.