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Blackhawks in the market for a defenseman and a veteran center


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Updated: February 21, 2012 8:43AM

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman’s phone probably needs to be recharged three or four times a day.

With teams approaching the 50-game mark, trade talks are full-go. And Bowman is eager to enhance his 62-point team.

The Hawks have told teams what they’re seeking. A quality defenseman capable of playing on the second pairing is their top priority. The need for a veteran forward, preferably a center capable of being in the top six, is second.

With the Feb. 27 deadline looming, here are some things to consider as trade talks heat up:

Should-be sellers

Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray caused a stir Jan. 4 when he offered up most of his team, including Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan and Francois Beauchemin. Sources said the Hawks have yet to engage in serious talks with the Ducks. With Anaheim going 6-0-1 in its last seven games, things have cooled overall.

In the West, only the Ducks, Edmonton Oilers and Columbus Blue Jackets look like sellers. The Hawks have been linked to Oilers center Sam Gagner, a former teammate and friend of Patrick Kane’s. He’s in the last year of his deal, but it will take significant pieces to land him.

Some Eastern sellers include the Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes. The Sabres, who spent big this offseason, appear willing to part with notables such as Drew Stafford, Derek Roy and Brad Boyes. While the Hawks could use such players, their prices will be high. Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason and ex-Hawk Tuomo Ruutu should be at least worth a call.

Another team to watch is the Winnipeg Jets with GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, a former member of the Hawks’ brass, in control. They aren’t out of the playoff race yet, but they’ve been watching the Hawks, and Cheveldayoff is familiar with their prospects.

Big-time buyers

Notable GMs such as Dale Tallon (Florida Panthers), Brian Burke (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Paul Holmgren (Philadelphia Flyers) should give Bowman some competition in his search for a quality defenseman or forward. Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray and Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher also will be active.

Every day, teams gain more cap space to use by the trade deadline because they only have to pay the acquired player the remaining part of his salary. The Panthers, Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators already have more cap room than the Hawks.

Playing for keeps

In the past, Bowman hasn’t targeted players who are rentals. When Bowman acquired forward Michael Frolik and defenseman Chris Campoli last season, he envisioned having both of them this season. Frolik received a three-year deal, and negotiations ended with Campoli at arbitration. The Hawks also pursued defenseman Steve Montador the last two years. When Bowman finally got him, he gave him a four-year deal.

Why defense first?

The Hawks are thrilled with Nick Leddy, but he’s still a 20-year-old in key spots. They need insurance for the stretch run and playoffs. The Hawks’ goals-against average is still relatively high, and their penalty kill needs improvement because of the defense’s inconsistencies.

At his disposal

After successfully filling up his ranks via drafts, Bowman said he’s willing to part with picks, prospects and Rockford players to get what he wants, but he didn’t rule out trading a depth player on his roster if he thought his role could be filled by an emerging player.

The Hawks have a young core of players already locked in, and rookies Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw, Jimmy Hayes and Ben Smith are considered the team’s top prospects.

Untouchable prospects begin with defenseman Dylan Olsen, center Kevin Hayes and winger Brandon Saad, who made the Hawks out of training camp. Rockford forwards Brandon Pirri and Jeremy Morin and defensemen Shawn Lalonde and Brian Connelly should interest some teams.

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