Are you happy with this trade?
Updated: December 16, 2013 6:37AM
Shortly after a glimpse of the future put the finishing touches on another victory on Thursday night, the Blackhawks welcomed a blast from the past back into the fold.
The Hawks reacquired versatile winger Kris Versteeg — a three-time 20-goal scorer and a key member of their 2010 Stanley Cup championship squad — and minor-leaguer Philippe Lefebvre from the Florida Panthers in exchange for prospects Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen. The Panthers will retain half of Versteeg’s $4.4 million salary, and Michal Handzus (upper-body) was put on injured reserve earlier in the day, which makes the trade possible.
It was a surprising blockbuster trade that gives an offense that already has been clicking at a high rate another weapon — one who can play just about anywhere, in any situation.
“We’re really excited,” said Hawks general manager Stan Bowman, who worked on the trade with his predecessor and current Panthers GM, Dale Tallon, for about a week. “Looking at our team this year, we’re off to a really good start. We’ve come out of the gates the way we wanted to, but we’re always trying to improve. And we felt adding one more versatile forward to our group — Kris, we obviously know him well from his years here, his ability to play a couple different spots for us.”
Versteeg, a Calder Trophy finalist as a rookie, scored 42 goals in two full seasons with the Hawks, including 20 during the 2009-10 championship season. Part of the post-Cup salary purge, he spent a season in Toronto and Philadelphia before he was traded to Florida, where he scored 23 goals in 2011-12 before missing all but 10 games last season with a knee injury. He has two goals and five assists in 18 games this season.
Versteeg actually was traded away in the deal that brought Viktor Stalberg to the Blackhawks. Now that he’s back, he very well might be taking Stalberg’s old spot at third-line right wing — a role the Hawks have had trouble filling.
Versteeg also could see some time on the penalty kill, another problem area. Bowman is confident that with Versteeg’s skill set and experience in coach Joel Quenneville’s system, he can step right in and make an impact.
“One of the things Joel has always preached, he likes forwards who can play a couple different ways,” Bowman said. “We can use him in a lot of different places. Having that depth is critical to go a long way in the playoffs.”