Blackhawks defeat the Coyotes and make a big trade

Blackhawks defeat the Coyotes and make a big trade

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

In a very entertaining affair the Blackhawks defeated Phoenix 5-4 in a shootout at the United Center on Thursday. It was a game which went back and forth as the Hawks jumped out to an early 2-0 advantage. The Coyotes always play well versus Chicago and have had their number for quite awhile. Last night they overcame an early deficit and it was the Blackhawks that got a third period goal to even the score.

Goaltender Mike Smith is probably playing the best hockey of any net minder in the NHL. The Coyotes give up a lot of shots on goal and this game was no exception. Smith faced 52 shots from Chicago and turned aside many good scoring chances. His counterpart Corey Crawford stopped 26 of 30 shots and it looks like he could use a rest. Crawford played in his ninth consecutive game and wasn't as sharp as he has been. He should get a night off Saturday as the Hawks face Nashville.

Yesterday's game in some ways marks the start of the real season for the Blackhawks. The easier part of their schedule is over and now things will turn more challenging. In the near term the Hawks will play three games in four nights. After facing Nashville they return home Sunday to play San Jose. Then they will leave town to play seven road tilts as the circus comes to the UC. Those seven games will take place over a 12 day span as the Hawks will head west.

As far as last night goes the big news was a trade with the Florida Panthers which will be discussed in Al's Shots. As far as the game, the Hawks battled and dominated a lot of the play. Smith had a top performance and Crawford would have probably stopped a couple of Coyote goals if he was at his best.

Phoenix is a well coached bunch that plays a sneaky, chippy game at times. They also are not the same type of club as in the past. They play at a faster pace but that seems to cost them in the shots against department. Smith is their best player and is making a strong bid to play on Team Canada in the upcoming Olympics.

Next the Hawks will play on Saturday as Nikolai Khabibulin should get a start in Nashville.

Al's Shots

My thinking was Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman wouldn't make a trade this early in the season unless something dropped out of the sky. After the game on Wednesday evening it was announced he acquired Kris Versteeg and minor league forward Phillippe Lefebrve. In exchange the Hawks sent forward Jimmy Hayes and defenseman Dylan Olsen who were playing in Rockford to the Florida Panthers.

The trade does seem like an opportunity Bowman could not pass on.

The key factor in this deal was the Hawks gave up two players in their system who I never believed would play in Chicago for any length of time. Hayes and Olsen are younger players who haven't progressed as much as others in the pipeline. Certainly on the Blackhawks depth chart both were considered expendable.

It doesn't matter if both Hayes and Olsen flourish in Florida. What matters is the Hawks acquired a player that should make an impact today, for others who would likely have no place in Chicago. Plus Bowman got a proven, versatile NHL player in Versteeg for half price.

Panthers GM Dale Tallon has a rough situation on his hands as they sit near the bottom of the NHL standings. Tallon paid the bad team premium to build a club and has players with bloated contracts on his roster. Versteeg was recently signed by Tallon to a four year $17.6 million contract. After the trade the Blackhawks will be responsible for only half of his salary which amounts to a $2.2 million cap hit through the 2015-2016 season.

Some implications were tossed around last night on Twitter that Tallon was happy to trade Versteeg and eat half his salary. Maybe so but he doesn't have much choice at this point. Actually Tallon is fortunate the CBA changed and he can take back some salary in trades otherwise he would have a more difficult time.

Tallon is most likely on his way to try to bottom out the roster again and stockpile draft picks and prospects to build a team for the future. Bowman on the other hand is in a position to take advantage of good opportunities that pop up at the misfortune of others.

Versteeg could be used on any line in Chicago and provides Quenneville with more depth and experience. All Versteeg has to do is come in and play as he did in the past. He won't be asked to lead the team in scoring or be burdened by a huge salary. This could be a very good opportunity for Versteeg to shine in a comfortable environment.

Blackhawk fans should delight in the fact Bowman was aggressive in making this deal. As I noted in today's article, in many ways the real season started with last night's contest. The Blackhawks will play a more difficult schedule from here on out and the addition of a proven player could make a big difference.

The Hawks made a couple of roster moves of significance on Thursday. Michal Handzus was placed on the injured reserve list and they sent winger Jeremy Morin back to Rockford.

It appears Morin is the odd man out with the acquisition of Versteeg and Handzus suffered a setback and will be on the shelf for awhile.

Morin could be a player who could be moved later as his time in Chicago may be done. There are only so many roster spots and a good GM trades young prospects before their value diminishes. Morin didn't have a bad audition here and there could be teams that are interested in his services.

I will be back on Sunday morning and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia

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