It’s been another confusing season for the Chicago Blackhawks, as they currently have a 26-25-8 record which puts them eight points back of the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference. However, they have three games in hand on the Arizona Coyotes, who currently hold that spot. We don’t believe GM Stan Bowman and the Hawks will be buyers over the next week up until the deadline, as they are 3-5-2 in their last 10 games.
Consensus wise, the three best assets the Blackhawks have to sell are one of their two #1 goaltenders Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner, forward Brandon Saad, and defenseman Erik Gustafsson. To address the goaltending situation, there is a clear frontrunner as to who should be the #1 goaltender in Chicago. Robin Lehner has a record of 16-9-0 compared to Corey Crawford’s 10-16, which is nearly Lehner’s record in reverse. Lehner’s save percentage is .921 compared to Crawford’s .912, however, Lehner has a higher goals-against average with a 2.91 compared to Crawford’s 2.89. Crawford is seven years older than Lehner and makes $1 million more. Both are set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1st. If it were us, we would trade Crawford over Lehner, and work on getting an extension done with his agent as soon as possible. Crawford does have a 10-team no-trade list that GM Stan Bowman will need to work around in order to get a deal done.
As far as skaters go, Brandon Saad has always been one of the better AB players in the league over the seven years of data we have on him. His career AB score is an astounding +3.44, despite the fact he is coming off two negative seasons in a row. However, neither of those seasons were worse than -1, so they were both still somewhat respectable scores. Offensively, Saad has 18 goals and 10 assists in 47 games this season, which is a bit low for his standards. His penalty taken/drawn ratio is decent at a 7:5, but his giveaway/takeaway ratio is noticeably lackluster at 57:35. This season, he is averaging about 25 seconds less ice time per game than his previous career average of 17:03 and is an even 0 +/- wise. Saad has a year left on his current deal which pays him $6 million annually. There may have to be some salary retained by the Blackhawks if they are to trade him. Erik Gustafsson has become more and more expendable as the season progressed, due to the emergence of 2018 1st overall pick Adam Boqvist and the fact he is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. Gustafsson’s career AB score is a +0.12 but is coming off a career-worst -4.41 last season. His taken/drawn ratio is solid given his position at 9:5, but his giveaway/takeaway ratio of 53:20 isn’t good at all. Gustafsson is averaging about 37 more seconds of ice time compared to his career average of 20 minutes per night and is -8 on the season +/- wise.
It will definitely be interesting to see what Stan Bowman and his group decide to do about their goaltending tandem, as well as if they deal Brandon Saad from the team for the second time in his career. Much more to come.