Would Eager return make sense?

Ben Eager could add some toughness to the Hawks if he's acquired from the Thrashers. Dave Sandford/NHLI/Getty Images

The NHL trading deadline isn't until Feb. 28, but already teams are getting their ducks -- or scouts -- in a row. And with teams moving into high gear, so will the rumors. It's called the world of the Internet.

Separating fact from fiction is always difficult, and when it comes to a tight-lipped organization like the Chicago Blackhawks it's even harder. Did anyone hear Kim Johnsson's name before the Hawks picked him up last season? For that matter, did anyone hear his name after they picked him up?

There is little doubt Stan Bowman would like a defenseman. If he could get Nicklas Lidstrom, he would, but he'll probably have to settle for a low tier pick-up like Nick Boynton was a year ago. Just for insurance.

I mentioned in my weekly chat on Wednesday that the Hawks might be looking at former Chicago forward Ben Eager. He may have fallen out of favor in Atlanta after getting suspended for four games for punching Colby Armstrong of the Maple Leafs. Whatever the reason, he's available. According to the sources, there are three other teams interested in Eager besides the Hawks.

Why Eager?

He comes cheap and provides a gritty, forechecking presence they haven't had since turning over their roster in the offseason. He also played some important shifts with the Hawks' top line last postseason on the way to their Cup win. The Hawks' current fourth line has speed but little grit.

Multiple Atlanta scouts were on hand for the Hawks' win over Colorado on Wednesday night, further fueling Eager speculation. But it's unknown if they were there to watch, say, Jack Skille, other Hawks, or players on the Avalanche.

I mention Skille because that would seem a logical trade. Their salaries are within about $300,000 of each other and both provide something for the other team. Viktor Stalberg could also be getting a look, but he probably has more upside than Skille so the Hawks might balk at a one for one. Then again, maybe the Thrashers have multiple scouts watching Rockford to get a gage on those prospects.

Eager is just one of many names to emerge in the coming weeks. There are no guarantees. Maybe the Thrashers don't like what they are getting back and he stays in Atlanta. I'm told they have at least one other player on the market as well.