By Chris Block
Chicago Blackhawks on Monday acquired center Michal Handzus from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a fourth round selection in the upcoming 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
In 28 games this season with the Sharks, Handzus posted 1 goal and 1 assist. He was a minus-9 while playing mostly third and fourth line minutes for the Sharks.
The pick the Blackhawks sent San Jose had originally belonged to the Sharks. At the 2012 Draft, the Hawks and Sharks swapped 4th round picks, so the Sharks could move up and the Hawks could pick up an additional 7th round selection. That later pick, obtained from San Jose, originally belonged to Tampa Bay which the Sharks obtained in a trade involving center Dominic Moore. Chicago used the additional 2012 7th round pick (191st overall) to select goaltender Brandon Whitney of the Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL), the same team Phillip Danault played for at the time.
Handzus turned 36 last month. This will be his second stint with the Blackhawks organization. He is now the second-oldest Blackhawk behind Jamal Mayers, who is 38.
Michal Handzus previously spent the 2006-07 season with the Blackhawks, appearing in only 8 games in October of 2006 before knee surgery ended his season. The few fans that were around then remember Handzus fondly since, centering the Hawks top line with Martin Havlat on his right wing, Handzus notched 3 goals and 5 assists in those 8 games to start the ’06-07 campaign.
Handzus was acquired on Monday because he is still good on face-offs and, at 6-5 and 220 pounds, he’s added size the Blackhawks could surely need. The reality though is Handzus is 36, slower than he ever was before and not what Blackhawks fans remember him as.
Aside from taking some key face-offs away from Marcus Kruger (44.9%, 177-217), Andrew Shaw (42.8%, 137-183) and Dave Bolland (45.1%, 199-242), its not clear how Handzus fits into the Hawks’ group of 12 forwards.
At the dot, Handzus is winning 55.6 percent (165-132) of the draws he’s taken this season.
He can play either wing or center. I’m sure the Hawks would like to take advantage of Handzus’ size in matching him up against some bigger, more physical centers who Kruger and Shaw struggle with at times. But there is still some uncertainty with this move. How much does Handzus have left in the tank to contribute to a contender and can keep up against the league’s best teams?
Chicago is currently 18th in the NHL on face-offs, winning 49.9 percent. But they’d be a whole lot farther down that list of 30 teams if it were not for Jonathan Toews, who ranks 2nd in the league behind Boston’s Patrice Bergeron in the category. Of players having taken more than 250 draws on the year, Toews (411-271) is winning 60.3% of his face-offs to Bergeron’s 61.3% (446-281).
Handzus was the Sharks second-best producer in shootouts as well, converting on 3 of 7 opportunities for a 42.9% conversion rate. Two of those shootout tallies gave San Jose wins. Not that this means too much to the Blackhawks given the team will have just 13 regular season games after tonight’s game with Nashville, but it does give coach Joel Quenneville another viable option when a game does have to be decided in the shootout.
Since the Sharks were set to play at home tonight in San Jose, and the trade was consummated Monday afternoon, Handzus will not make it to Chicago in time to suit up in tonight’s matchup with the Predators.
The Blackhawks originally acquired Handzus from the Philadelphia Flyers on August 4, 2006 in exchange for winger Kyle Calder. His contract expired with the Hawks at the end of the 2006-07 season. After healing from reconstructive knee surgery, Handzus and the Hawks opted to part ways when Handzus received a bigger offer from the Los Angeles Kings.
Durability hasn’t been an issue for Handzus since the knee surgery in 2006. The Bystrica, Slovakia native missed just 16 games over 5 seasons prior to this year since leaving the Windy City. This season Handzus was a scratch in 6 of San Jose’s 34 games before today’s trade.
Handzus will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. His $2.5M cap hit leaves the Blackhawks roughly $3M under the $70.2M upper limit as of today. However, the way available space is figured the Hawks could add considerably more in terms of annual contracts at the deadline should they be willing and able to pull off such moves. For a look at where the Hawks’ cap space stands, check out CapGeek.com.
If Handzus is to get his customary number 26 sweater number, that would force Jeremy Morin to change numbers again. Morin had worn 27 in his first two, brief stints with the Blackhawks. But Johnny Oduya took 27 upon his arrival last season from Winnipeg. Morin wore 26 on Sunday when he made his season debut and scored the Hawks first goal in a 7-1 win at Detroit.
BOLLIG SENT BACK TO ROCKFORD – AGAIN
To accommodate the Handzus acquisition, Stan Bowman needed to make a roster move today.
In doing so, the Blackhawks re-assigned left wing Brandon Bollig to the Rockford IceHogs.
Bollig has appeared in 17 of the Blackhawks 34 games this season. He’s been held without a point and is averaging 6 minutes 53 seconds of ice time per game. Bollig’s 47 penalty minutes is tops on the Hawks.
The Blackhawks enforcer was previously re-assigned to Rockford back on March 6th, but was quickly recalled to the Blackhawks the next day after Patrick Sharp suffered his upper body injury in the 3/6 game with Colorado at United Center.
Bollig has not played in a game with the IceHogs since January 5th when Rockford dropped a Saturday afternoon contest at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto. Bollig had one of Rockford’s two goals in a 5-2 loss to the Marlies.
Rockford next plays on Tuesday night when they host Milwaukee in a game that is a virtual must-win for the IceHogs to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Its tough forecasting what will happen next since anything can happen between now and the trade deadline, but the Blackhawks are currently at 23 players on the active NHL roster. This does not include Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa who both currently reside on the Hawks’ injured reserve list with “upper body” injuries.
Hossa and Sharp are due back any day now, so more Blackhawks roster deletions will be necessary to make room for those two once they’re cleared for game action.
BLACKHAWKS NOW AT MAX ROSTER LIST
With the addition of Michal Handzus to the Blackhawks roster and 50-man reserve list, the Blackhawks are now maxed out on contracts.
This means if Stan Bowman is to make another addition through trade(s) between now and Wednesday afternoon’s NHL trade deadline, he will be forced to move a player(s) currently under contract the other way.
On January 31st, the Blackhawks traded center Pete Leblanc to the Washington Capitals to free up a contract slot. This was after Stan Bowman picked up goaltender Henrik Karlsson for a seventh round pick (originally Ottawa’s, picked up in the 12/2/11 deal that sent Rob Klinkhammer to the Senators) as insurance for the remainder of the season at the goaltending position. As compensation for Leblanc, the Hershey Bears (Washington’s AHL affiliate) sent winger Mathieu Beaudoin to the Rockford IceHogs in a minor league transaction.
2013 DRAFT PICKS NOW SCARCE
With today’s trade, the Blackhawks are now down to just 5 picks in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft this June in New Jersey.
Stan Bowman sent his 2nd and 3rd round picks this coming summer to Winnipeg last year in the trade for defenseman Johnny Oduya.
He has now dealt away extra picks previously acquired from outside the organization away in bringing in Michal Handzus and goaltender Henrik Karlsson.
The Blackhawks now own a 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. All picks are their own.
Since the NHL Entry Draft was reduced to seven rounds in 2005, the Blackhawks have never wound up using fewer than seven picks. The Hawks made 10 selections in 2012 and 11 at the 2011 draft. The team made 8 picks in both the 2009 and 2012 drafts.
Its not inconceivable that the Hawks will trade a roster player between now and the trade deadline in return for a pick in this summer’s draft.