CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said Monday he was still open to making a trade before Wednesday’s deadline, but he was also confident his current team could make a playoff run if no additional moves were made.
The Blackhawks lead the Western Conference with a 26-5-3 record and 55 points.
“I believe in our group,” Bowman said before Monday’s game against the Nashville Predators. “I really do. …I like the mixture we have here. It’s our job to find players if we think we can through a trade, but we like the group we have.”
Bowman said there have been trade discussions, but there hasn’t been a lot of movement because the conferences’ playoff races are so tight. Six teams not currently in the playoffs are within four points of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, and there are five teams within three points of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“A lot of talking; I’ve had a lot of phone calls,” Bowman said. “We talked a few weeks ago, and we mentioned there wasn’t a lot of separation in standings. There’s not a lot of sellers. That’s the bottom line. There’s not a lot of trades.
“There’s still not a whole lot of separation. A few teams maybe who are looking at next year and have given up hope on this year. For the most part, there’s a lot of teams that still think that if they get on that run the last month they can get in, so they’re hesitant to start trading players away. We haven’t seen a lot of moves.”
Bowman said the Blackhawks would continue to stay active on the phone, but there wasn’t anything specific they were looking to add.
“It’s our job to keep making those phone calls,” Bowman said. “We’ve had a lot of meetings internally about guys. It has to make sense for us. We’ve had a good run with the guys we’ve had so far. We don’t want to really change that mix. We want to add it.
“I wouldn’t characterize one thing. I think we’re trying to get better. If we can find a player who can help us, whatever position it is, I’m not going to rule anything out. But we’re not really targeting one thing at this point. We’ve had a lot of discussions about different positions. We’ll see where it goes.”
Bowman said he would prefer not to trade away any players from the current roster.
“I think the group here has really earned the right to see what we can do as a group,” Bowman said. “The strength of our team has been our consistency and depth. You don’t rule anything out, but I think our focus is to keep to this group together and add to it.”
Bowman thought the Blackhawks could also continue to look to move up players within the organization. Jimmy Hayes and Jeremy Morin were called up from the AHL recently, and Bowman said Rockford IceHogs forward Brandon Pirri was another option they had. Pirri leads the IceHogs with 56 points, which includes 19 goals and 37 assists.
“I’ve been talking a lot about these young players, but Jeremy comes in and is able to contribute first game (against Detroit on Sunday,)” Bowman said. “He’s had a great season in Rockford, Jimmy Hayes as well. Brandon Pirri is another player we believe in and think can add to our mix if we have some injuries.
“We have guys within our system that we can add if we don’t add players from the outside. I think that’s important. You want these young players to get an opportunity to show what they can do as well. They have a lot of energy. They have a lot of excitement about contributing at the NHL level. That’s a positive, too.”
The Blackhawks are expected to return forwards Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp to their lineup in the near future. Hossa missed his sixth consecutive game with an upper-body injury on Monday, and Sharp missed his 11th consecutive game with an upper-body injury. They have combined for 18 goals and 23 assists this season.
“I think some people say those would be two nice trade deadline additions to have Hossa and Sharp come back,” Bowman said. “That’s one way to look at it. Sharpie has been out for about a month now. We’ve played well without him, but we certainly played really well with him, too.
“You add both those guys to the lineup it gives us a very dangerous look offensively. And they do more than just score goals. They play on penalty kill and power play. They play in all situations for us. We know they’re going to be back soon, so that’s nice as well. Adding Handzus to that with those two players, it’ll give our team a little bounce.”