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Blackhawks might have to part with talented rookies to swing deal

Blackhawks rookie winger Jimmy Hayes has five goals nine points 16 games. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Blackhawks rookie winger Jimmy Hayes has five goals and nine points in 16 games. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 24, 2012 9:09AM

There’s been a lot of rookies who have played hero for the Blackhawks this season.

Marcus Kruger, Jimmy Hayes, Andrew Shaw and even Dylan Olsen have had their moments in the limelight, offering glimpses of what the future might hold.

The Hawks have benefitted from it, and there’s no doubt other teams have noticed, too.

With the trade deadline Monday afternoon, general manager Stan Bowman still is searching for a top-four defenseman who can skate and move the puck well and a veteran forward, preferably a center. He always said that he’d be willing to part with picks and prospects. He also has shown a tendency to target players he doesn’t view as mere rentals.

That being said, the Hawks could be poised to make some serious noise before the deadline with the prospects and salary-cap room they have as teams drop their prices for certain players.

The big rumbling Wednesday was that Dallas Stars agitator Steve Ott could be had. Ott could fill the void left by the injured Daniel Carcillo. But a player such as Ott or Stars center Mike Ribeiro would demand a lot in return.

As a 6-6, 221-pound winger who can skate well and finish, Hayes figures to interest many teams. But a Hawks source said the team projects big things for him. The source said that Hayes is viewed as star material and the big-bodied forward the team has been lacking since the up-and-down days of Dustin Byfuglien.

Coach Joel Quenneville sang Hayes’ praises again Wednesday.

“He’s got some quickness for his size,” Quenneville said. “He’s got a big body and uses that to his advantage. ... Defensively, he’s aware of what we’re trying to do system-wise or team-wise. Jimmy is a big body that’s very useful for us and I think he can help us.”

Trading a top prospect may be something a team regrets in the long run, but pays off in the short term. The Stars traded Jarome Iginla to the Calgary Flames in 1995 and he’s had a Hall-of-Fame career. But the Stars also acquired a former Stanley Cup champion in Joe Nieuwendyk, who helped them win the Cup in 1999 and reach the finals in 2000.

Playoff-bound teams like the Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks have all upgraded their rosters.

The Hawks were thought to have had interest in defensemen Kyle Quincey and Nicklas Grossman, but both have already been traded: Quincey to the Red Wings and Grossman to the Flyers.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are said to be willing to part with some of their blue-liners, notably Cody Franson or Luke Schenn, but the price is high because the Leafs are still in the playoff hunt. Incidentally, Hayes was acquired from the Leafs in 2010.

In other words, it might be time for Bowman, who has spent the past two seasons re-stocking the Hawks’ system with quality prospects, to part with some of them.

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