By Steve Silverman
(CBS) Now that the streak is over, it’s time for the Chicago Blackhawks to get on with the business of winning another Stanley Cup.
Their 24-game record streak was a sensational achievement that helped undo much of the damage done by the four-month lockout the NHL endured under the leadership of Gary Bettman.
Bettman should send a couple of bottles of his favorite champagne to Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville for doing the league such an enormous favor. Regular-season NHL games usually don’t garner national publicity. When the Blackhawks played over the last two-plus weeks of the strike, every game was national news.
But now the team’s business becomes finding a way to win the Stanley Cup. It’s not enough for Bowman to look at his team and determine what it will take for the Blackhawks to bring home their second Stanley Cup in four seasons.
We’re not talking about long-term commitments. We’re talking about rental players who can help take a very good team like the Blackhawks and put them over the top.
In each of the last two years, the Stanley Cup champion was active prior to the trade deadline. In 2011, the Boston Bruins added three players – Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly and Tomas Kaberle – to help them with their stretch run. While Kaberle was a slug, Peverley and Kelly were vital contributors during the team’s Stanley Cup run.
The Los Angeles Kings traded a solid defenseman in Jack Johnson for a scorer in Jeff Carter. That turned out to be the key move for a team that suddenly found its offense and dominated in the playoffs.
The immediate need for the Blackhawks may be a forward who can put the puck in the net following the separated shoulder suffered by Patrick Sharp. The Blackhawks added defenseman Johnny Oduya prior to last year’s deadline and bringing in another d-man may also be the direction that Bowman wants to go.
Goaltending may have been an issue last year, but the combination of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery may be the best in the league. No need in that area.
Here’s a look at five key players who are likely to be available prior to the April 3 trade deadline that the Blackhawks may have an interest in. All will be free agents in the offseseason.
Remember, the sharply reduced $64.3 million salary cap doesn’t come into play until 2013-14.
Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks – Perry will be a free agent at the end of the season and while the Ducks are the second-best team in the Western Conference this season and they have a big, powerful team, the Ducks don’t want to watch Perry walk away in the summer and get nothing for him. Anaheim just signed Ryan Getzlaf to an eight-year, $66 million deal and they may not have the cash to do anything with Perry. GM Bob Murray would probably rather send him to an Eastern Conference team, but it’s worth pursuing. Perry has 9 goals, 24 points and is an eye-opening plus-24.
Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames – Iginla has long been the face of his franchise, but the Flames are going nowhere once again and the 35-year-old Iginla will be free to leave at the end of the season. Iginla is a future Hall of Famer who has scored 523 goals in his career and has scored 30 or more goals in his last 11 seasons. While he may have slowed down a tad this year, Iginla is impossible to move when he anchors himself in the slot and he can score important goals.
David Clarkson, New Jersey Devils –The Devils have been slumping following a hot start and if Lou Lamoriello believes his team is going to fall short, he’d much rather get something in return than lose Clarkson – he has 10 goals and 18 points – than watch him walk away for nothing. Clarkson was a key cog in New Jersey’s run to the Stanley Cup Finals last year.
Mark Streit, New York Islanders – The Islanders have shown some life this season, but a playoff spot is still a longshot. Streit is a solid, puck-moving defenseman who does not make many mistakes. Can a team ever have enough dependable defensemen? Make the Islanders an offer and they won’t refuse because Streit will walk away during free agency in the offseason.
Ryane Clowe, San Jose Sharks – The Sharks started the season as if they would compete with the Blackhawks this year since they won their first seven games. Since then, they have been awful. It may be time to break up the Sharks and Clowe may be the first to go since he will be available to the highest bidder during the summer. Clowe has size, strength and can be a factor down low as he screens opposing goalies. Blackhawks fans know it as the Dustin Byfuglien role.
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.