Blackhawks acquire Michal Handzus from Sharks for fourth-round draft pick
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org April 1, 2013 4:02PM
Updated: April 1, 2013 8:15PM
Michal Handzus was a healthy scratch his last six games in San Jose, so to think the 36-year-old, 14-year NHL veteran is going to come in and drastically change the Blackhawks’ makeup, their performance and their Stanley Cup chances is unreasonable.
But that’s fine with Hawks general manager Stan Bowman, who was quick to remind reporters Monday night that, with less than four weeks left in the season, his current team has lost just five regulation games. So as the 2 p.m. Wednesday trade deadline rapidly approaches, getting Handzus for a fourth-round pick in the upcoming draft might be as splashy as Bowman gets.
He made it clear Monday that he’s not looking to part with any current roster players.
“I think the group here has really kind of earned the right to see what we can do as a group,” said Bowman, who reassigned Brandon Bollig to Rockford to clear a roster spot for Handzus. “The strength of our team has been our consistency and our depth. And you don’t rule anything out but I think our focus is to keep this group together and try to add to it.”
Handzus, a 6-5, 215-pound center, fits several needs for the Hawks, giving them some size, some power-play and penalty-killing experience and some faceoff prowess. He’s also played for all three Hawks coaches, is friends with fellow Slovak Marian Hossa, and knows many of the current players from his one season with the Hawks in 2006-07. He’s also a four-time 20-goal scorer. But the last was in 2009-10, and he has just one goal and one assist — both against the Hawks on Feb. 5 — in 28 games this season.
Even he admitted he’s not the same player he was during that brief campaign, when he lasted eight games before blowing out his knee and signing with the Los Angeles Kings in the ensuing offseason. But he believes he still has plenty to offer, and the idea of joining the first-place Hawks was enticing enough to convince him to waive his no-trade clause.
Bowman said he’ll leave it to coach Joel Quenneville to decide where Handzus plays — he could possibly bump Andrew Shaw or Marcus Kruger to a wing, or bump Dave Bolland off the second line, or even play wing himself — but he thinks Handzus can provide a needed boost both now and in the playoffs, particularly against the “big centers in the West, guys that are hard to contain.”
Handzus, eager for another chance, agreed.
“I think I’m a different player than I was [then],” Handzus said. “A little bit older, so I’ve got to adjust my game. But I think I have a lot left in the tank.
There’s not a lot left in the trade market, however. A source with knowledge of Bowman’s negotiations said he’s looking for help — and size — on the blue line. Bowman demurred, saying only that he’s looking to make his team better, regardless of position.
But the options are limited. Among defensemen, Buffalo dealt Jordan Leopold to the Blues and Robyn Regehr to the Kings, Calgary sent Jay Bouwmeester to the Blues, and Lubomir Visnovsky — whom a source confirmed the Hawks were trying to acquire — signed an extension with the Islanders.
“There aren’t a lot of sellers really; that’s the bottom line,” Bowman said. “There’s not a lot of trades. There still isn’t a whole lot of separation — a few teams maybe that are looking at next year and have given up hope this year. But for the most part, there’s a lot of teams that still think if they get on that run in the last month here, they can get in. So they’re hesitant to start trading players away.”
So is Bowman, who appears set to dance with the ones who brought him.
“It’s our job to keep making those phone calls, and we’ve had a lot of meetings internally about guys,” Bowman said. “It has to make sense for us. We’ve had a good run with the guys we have so far. We don’t really want to change that mix — we’re looking to add to it.”