Countdown to the deadline: Hawks

The Chicago Blackhawks could really use someone like defenseman Nick Leddy right now.

Leddy was dealt to the New York Islanders just before the season because the Blackhawks were over the salary cap. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman basically opted to sign a second-line center (Brad Richards) in the summer over keeping an experienced defenseman.

Richards has been effective at times and has been beneficial to Patrick Kane. But the Blackhawks knew there was a defensive risk by trading Leddy, and that's been proven true. Coach Joel Quenneville has even separated his staple pairings of Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook and Johnny Oduya-Niklas Hjalmarsson to search for an answer. He's found mixed results. Michal Rozsival and David Rundblad have been the other defensemen in the lineup most often, but both have been inconsistent.

The Blackhawks are hopeful rookie defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, the season's surprise out of training camp, can return to his early form when he gets back from injury sometime in the next month and a half.

If the Blackhawks had the money, Bowman would undoubtedly be a buyer and attempt to acquire an experienced defenseman with an expiring contract. The problem is the Blackhawks are still right up against the cap and would have to move a current NHL piece to add another. For that reason, Bowman recently said he doesn't envision making major moves at the trade deadline.

Status: Buyer with no salary-cap room.

Available: Edmonton Oilers defenseman Jeff Petry and Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson are among the defensemen who have been mentioned to be available. Both would require the Blackhawks to clear cap space. ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun also recently reported the Blackhawks could be interested in Ottawa Senators forward Chris Neil, who would fill a bottom-six role. Neil has another season remaining on his contract, so he might not completely fit into the Blackhawks' big-picture plans.

Finances: The Blackhawks have to not only think about this season's salary cap, but their future. Signing Kane and Jonathan Toews to long-term deals this past offseason meant having a smaller budget for years to come. Bowman will likely have to trade someone significant if he wants to re-sign restricted free agents Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger in the offseason and put together a full roster next season. The Blackhawks have about $65 million already committed to 15 players for next season, an issue Bowman is expected to begin addressing with a trade or two in the offseason.

Scouting the general manager: Bowman has added a few pieces through trade in the past few seasons, but he hasn't made any major splashes or given up much. Bowman acquired Kris Versteeg, David Rundblad and Peter Regin for prospects and draft picks last season. Two seasons ago, he acquired Michal Handzus for a draft pick. In the 2012-13 season, he got Oduya for draft picks.