By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) The Chicago Blackhawks got themselves in the mix for prized free agents Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils and Ryan Suter of the Nashville Predators with big-time free-agent offers.
However, the Blackhawks were late-comers to the party and were longshots to beat out the Minnesota Wild, Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings for the duo. Ultimately, both players decided to sign with Minnesota and that means the Blackhawks must move on to Plan B.
Stan Bowman can try to convince himself that he had a good team because the Blackhawks finished with 101 points even though it endured nine-game losing streak. That’s not the kind of thinking that will help the team get better.
The Blackhawks, of course, finished in sixth place. Their season ended when they were beaten by the Phoenix Coyotes in six games. Before beating the Hawks, the Coyotes had never won a playoff series.
The Blackhawks are a competitive team as presently constituted but they are not a great team. Bowman has to move on to his next phase, which should include another scorer and a goaltender. You may realize that neither Parise nor Suter is a goaltender and that Bowman may be content to go with Corey Crawford and Ray Emery in net.
That’s fine if he wants the Blackhawks to remain a decent team, one that may win a first-round playoff series and one that may not. But if he wants to make a run at another championship he must come up with a much better situation in the net.
It might be a bit easier to find a scorer. Rick Nash of Columbus and Bobby Ryan of Anaheim are both on the trading block. Both can be game-changing scorers. It may be better to work a deal with Anaheim general manager Bob Murray than it is Columbus general manager Scott Howson.
Not that either one will be easy, but Howson has been trying to hold up Glen Sather of the New York Rangers since the trade deadline. The Rangers want Nash because he can fill up the net and that team lacks consistent offense outside of Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. Those two teams are still talking and the Rangers have been there from the beginning. Even if the Blackhawks can come up with a package for Nash, Howson might feel compelled to give Sather a chance to better the deal.
A deal for Nash may cost as much as two regular players and a high-end prospect. Ryan won’t cost that much and he would give the Hawks a consistent scorer. Ryan has had four straight seasons of 30 goals or more but he feels he has been taken for granted by the Ducks.
That’s because Ryan is the sensitive type and when word got back to him that the team had mentioned his name in trade talks, he felt insulted.
The 25-year-old Ryan is young and immature. He doesn’t understand how the business of pro sports works and that just because a team mentions your name, it doesn’t mean that you will be traded.
If Murray decides that Ryan’s anger is going to fester this season, it will give the Blackhawks more of an opportunity to make a trade. A front-line player not named Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith or Patrick Sharp and a draft pick might get it done.
That means Ryan might be available for a certain player who scored a Stanley Cup winning goal — Patrick Kane.
Adding Ryan would give this team much more depth but it would not help the goaltending situation. One of the answers to that situation is not Roberto Luongo.
You don’t trade for a goaltender who fails in the clutch. Luongo had his opportunity to win a Stanley Cup with the Vancouver Canucks and got embarrassed by the Boston Bruins. Luongo got blown out in all the road games and couldn’t hold the fort in Game 7 at home. Luongo is good enough to get your heart broken.
The goalie the Hawks need to check out is Dan Ellis of the Anaheim Ducks. Ellis has struggled with the Lightning and the Ducks, but he used to be the No. 1 goalie in Nashville before Pekka Rinne became a star. Ellis has been shunted to the background, but he could come back to form with a new assignment.
He has a quick glove hand and good size. He had a league-best .924 save percentage in 2007-08. Injuries cost him much of last season, but he’s a free agent who could turn it around in a new uniform.
Bring him in, Stan.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.