Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba

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Zawaski's Hawks Notes: Top-4 D-Man Is A Priority

The Blackhawks may need to find blue line help on the trade market.

Jay Zawaski
June 06, 2019 - 5:14 pm
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(670 The Score) Happy June, Blackhawks fans. While we had grown accustomed to long playoff runs and June being a time for meaningful hockey, here we are breaking down assistant coaching hires, looking ahead to the draft and wondering what help might be coming via trade or free agency this summer. 

With that in mind, I have a few items to share after speaking to a couple of sources over the last few days.

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If you missed it, the Blackhawks hired longtime NHL head coach Marc Crawford as an assistant earlier this week. Some speculated that the hire may have indicated an organizational lack of confidence in head coach Jeremy Colliton. In reality, it’s quite the opposite. Colliton has the full faith of the organization and full faith in himself. He was the one who ultimately made the decision to hire Crawford and has the confidence in himself to hire a proven, potential replacement whom other inexperienced coaches may be hesitant to have around. Colliton believes in himself and his system so much that he’s not concerned about having Crawford over his shoulder.

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As the draft and free agency near, the Hawks' main offseason priority will be to add a top-four defenseman, sources said. The list of unrestricted free-agent defensemen is uninspiring beyond the Sharks' Erik Karlsson -- whom I’m told the Hawks likely won’t pursue due to his contract demands -- and the Jets' Tyler Myers.

The Canucks' Alex Edler is 33, as is the Stars' Marc Methot. Would either of those two sign a short-term deal to play in Chicago? Maybe, but the best avenue to acquire a defenseman may be on the trade market.

What about the Jets' Jacob Trouba? He’s looking to be dealt and would be an ideal fit in Chicago. He’s a restricted free agent, so the Hawks would have to trade for his rights, then sign him. Would the Jets be willing to trade within the division? I’m sure they wouldn’t be thrilled, but if the Hawks can sweeten the pot enough, perhaps the Jets would be willing to make the move.

Now, put a pin in this Trouba conversation for a second as we move to the draft ...

Because the Hawks landed the No. 3 pick in the draft with some lottery luck, many (myself included) have identified defenseman Bowen Byram of the Vancouver Giants of the WHL as a great fit. He projects as a franchise-changing, No. 1-type defenseman who may be able to make the jump to the NHL as soon as next season. If they do decide to draft Byram, would the Hawks be more willing to deal one of their other defensive prospects like Adam Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin or even Henri Jokiharju? 

Now, stay with me...

Could a package of forward Brandon Saad, one of those defensive prospects and a second-round pick be enough to pry Trouba away from the Jets? Maybe, but that’s assuming the Hawks take Byram. While Byram is certainly on the Hawks' radar, they may be leaning toward drafting a center instead, I'm told. Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley has an affinity for American-born players, a source said. If you read the tea leaves, they would point directly at Chicago native Alex Turcotte as the pick for the Hawks. 

Turcotte has drawn comparisons to Jonathan Toews and put up big numbers for the USHL’s U.S. national under-18 team, scoring 28 points in 21 games. He has dealt with recurring hip injury issues but has bounced back well. 

The coming weeks will help shape the Blackhawks' future for the next five to seven years. General manager Stan Bowman has to get this offseason right, as the window is closing quickly on this group.

Bowman needs to draft, sign and trade for players who can help now. The clock is ticking. 

Jay Zawaski is the executive producer of the Bernstein & McKnight Show on 670 middays from 9 a.m. to noon and a columnist for 670 The Score. He's also the co-host of the Madhouse Chicago Hockey Podcast, which is available on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify or your preferred podcast app. Follow him on Twitter @JayZawaski670.​​​