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Blackhawks can’t close the deals

The Blackhawks traded enforcer John Scott Rangers for fifth-round draft pick this year. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

The Blackhawks traded enforcer John Scott to the Rangers for a fifth-round draft pick this year. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 29, 2012 8:17AM



The Nashville Predators are ­going for it. The Blackhawks are still reeling.

As the NHL trade deadline came and went Monday, the Hawks struggled to close deals as other teams, including those in front of them in the standings, made all sorts of moves.

Just when it appeared that general manager Stan Bowman might do something significant to revive his underachieving team, he opted to stay the course and add the veteran defenseman he’s been looking to add for weeks.

Will it be enough?

“I think so,” Bowman said.

The Hawks acquired 30-year-old Johnny Oduya from the Winnipeg Jets for second- and third-round picks in the 2013 draft and sent enforcer John Scott to the New York Rangers for a fifth-round pick in 2012.

If Bowman were bolder before the deadline, it would be easier to believe him when he says he thinks his team can win the Stanley Cup. But it’s tough when your best player is ailing and your team has gone 4-9-1 since the break.

“You have to show faith in your group,” Bowman said. “These guys have done an awful lot over the last few seasons.”

What else would he say?

Bowman had ample salary-cap space from trading Brian Campbell in the summer and picks and prospects to use, but all he could get was one player. He tried to fill other holes, including at center, but he couldn’t reach any other agreements.

“It did happen that prices were to the level where deals didn’t get made,” Bowman said.

But he also said he was willing to part with first-round picks.

“We were open to anything,” he said. “It wasn’t a matter of being afraid to put certain packages together.”

The good news is the Hawks’ stars are capable of playing better. A healthy Jonathan Toews and Niklas Hjalmarsson also will go a long way.

The bad news is that other teams — notably the Predators, San Jose Sharks, Detroit Red Wings and Vancouver Canucks — have added depth and made moves that signal they’re all in for a run.

The Predators, who are one spot ahead of the Hawks in the standings, made the biggest stir. More than a week after adding veteran defenseman Hal Gill, the Predators brought in winger Andrei Kostitsyn from the Montreal Canadiens and center Paul Gaustad from the Buffalo Sabres on Monday. Gaustad cost them a first-round pick.

“You have to focus on yourself,” Bowman said. “[But] you can look at previous deadlines. The teams that made the most moves often stumble the most. Some of the teams that don’t make any trades are the ones that do very well.”

The Hawks hope that’s the case, just as they hope Toews will return soon and their top players will get going.

“Clearly, we’re not happy with these [losing] streaks,” Bowman said.

Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, the Hawks’ former assistant GM, said Bowman was “very aggressive” when pursuing Oduya.

He had to be.

The market for blue-liners (or lack thereof) dried up fast, Steve Montador and Hjalmarsson are injured and the Hawks already were depending on youngsters Nick Leddy and Dylan Olsen too much. It didn’t sound as though Oduya was the Hawks’ first choice, but Bowman had to do something.

“We do rank players,” Bowman said. “When guys fall off the list, you scratch them off the list and just keep going. We were definitely looking for a defenseman, but it wasn’t an environment where a lot of trades were made.”

While Bowman spoke of needing to alleviate the pressure on Olsen and Leddy, he went on to say that rookie forwards Andrew Shaw (recalled Monday) and Jimmy Hayes bring “energy and excitement.”

Translation: The Hawks still will be counting on inexperienced players for their final 18 games and probably the postseason.

Didn’t that happen last year, too?



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