By Chris Emma-
CHICAGO (CBS) — Amid reports and speculation of rifts in the Blackhawks’ locker room, Chicago general manager Stan Bowman added to a team competing for Stanley Cup contention.READ MORE: Local Businesses Hope For Similar Outcome Of Shoppers For Small Business Saturday
The Blackhawks added three veterans to their core before Monday’s deadline, acquiring defenseman Kimmo Timonen and centers Antoine Vermette and Andrew Desjardins, while giving up Ben Smith, Klas Dahlbeck, a first- and second-round pick in 2015, a conditional fourth-round pick in 2016 and a conditional seventh-round pick in 2017.
Bowman, who worked more aggressively than ever before a trade deadline, opted to fight for a championship this year while giving up potential pieces for the Blackhawks’ future.
“Right now, we’re trying to improve our team,” Bowman said. “We think we have a good chance to be even better than we’ve been.”
As speculation swirled about the Blackhawks’ chemistry, Bowman denied the idea that he was ever strapped when negotiating deals.
“Being in the business, I think other teams know that’s a lot of nonsense,” Bowman said. “That never came up at all. None of that’s true.
“I’ve never had a more unified group since I’ve been here.”
Patrick Sharp, Chicago’s struggling forward, has been at the center of stories about concerns of his personal life. Blackhawks players offered a strong denial for the second straight day, with defenseman Duncan Keith calling it “BS” when shooting it down.
As the deadline approached, Sharp was never part of trade discussions, according to Bowman.
“He’s a big part of the fabric of the team,” Bowman said.
Chicago currently holds a 37-21-5 record, with its 79 points placing it fourth in the Western Conference, third in the Central Division and six points behind the St. Louis Blues.READ MORE: Man Robbed And Shot In Austin
The Nashville Predators are the team to beat in the Western Conference, leading the way with 89 points. The Predators, Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues — each ahead of the Blackhawks in the standings — made moves to improve before the deadline.
In an attempt to stay in the hunt for a third championship in six years, the Blackhawks solved problems on the blue line with Timonen. After a six-month recovery from blood clots in his right leg and lungs, the four-time NHL All-Star will make his season debut on Monday when Chicago hosts the Carolina Hurricanes.
The additions of Vermette and Desjardins give Chicago quality depth at center, something which was a priority for Bowman. The Blackhawks now have the two newcomers joining a group with Jonathan Toews, Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw and Teuvo Teravainen.
“The center-ice position is very important for us,” Bowman said. “You can never have too many of them.”
Vermette is certainly the prize of the Blackhawks’ deadline moves. Bowman had been working with the Arizona Coyotes for two months to get a deal in place. By finishing that work Saturday, the bidding war with reported competitors like Boston and St. Louis didn’t get out of control. More importantly, Chicago added a scoring punch to fill the void of Patrick Kane, out for an estimated 12 weeks after surgery to repair a broken clavicle.
Hours before the deadline and not long after morning skate, Smith unlaced the skates, took off his Blackhawks sweater and prepared to fly to San Jose, where he’s expected to play against the Montreal Canadians late Monday night.
The move cleared up $750,000 in cap space while adding a reliable center to the mix in Desjardins.
“Desjardins brings an element that we like,” Bowman said. “He’s a fesity player, in-your-face kind of guy.”
With the deadline done and six weeks until the playoffs begin, Bowman believes the Blackhawks are in position for the prize for which he was named.
“Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup,” Bowman said.
The Blackhawks got better in their push for another championship, betting on the present in giving up future assets.MORE NEWS: PAWS Dog Of The Week: Ariel
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.