It’s easy to forget how sad of a franchise the Chicago Blackhawks used to be. Today, they’re the gold standard of how to succeed in the salary cap NHL, as they’ve been able to content for the Stanley Cup year after year, despite having to unload star players every year to make cap room.
However, before 2010, the Blackhawks went 49 years without winning a Stanley Cup. There were times when the Chicago market had soured on the team, due to the controversial practices of late owner Bill Wirtz. Wirtz earned the nickname “Dollar” Bill due to his frugality and stubborness. Wirtz would black out home games on TV if the arena wasn’t sold out, alienating many Hawks fans. He also had many star players traded once he felt their price tag had gone too high, not allowing the ‘Hawks to reap the benefits of acquiring stars.
If you could believe it, the Blackhawks were once named the worst franchise in sports by ESPN back in 2004.
No other franchise in sports has turned things around quite like the Blackhawks in the past decade, but there’s still plenty of regretful history with this team. Here, we will look at the 15 worst trades in Blackhawks history. This will probably make fans appreciate how well oiled a machine the Hawks are today.
15. Rental Deal Backfires
In a surprise twist, we’ll begin this list with a trade that happened a year ago near the trade deadline. As usual, the Blackhawks wanted to load up for another run at the Stanley Cup, looking for their fourth Cup in seven seasons. Searching some depth up front, the Hawks traded 23-year-old center Phillip Danault and a 2nd round pick to the Montreal Canadiens for veterans Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann. Weise was in the middle of a career year and a pending UFA, so the Hawks figured Weise would give them his best hockey before he hit the free agent market. In Fleischmann, they knew they were getting an experienced player who wouldn’t be intimidated by the playoffs.
Well, as it turned out, Weise failed to score a goal with the Blackhawks and soon became a healthy scratch. He scored one goal in four playoff games. Fleischmann did his part as a rotational forward, but made little impact as well. Neither re-signed in Chicago.
Meanwhile, Danault has emerged in Montreal as a full-time NHL player and has even gotten top line minutes this season, as the Habs have been decimated by injury.
14. Ladd Re-Acquisition Fails
We go to another rental move last season by Chiacgo that didn’t pay off. While no one expected Andrew Ladd to remain in Chicago beyond the 2015-16 season when he was acquired at the deadline, he was expected to help the Hawks make a long playoff run. Ladd was acquired along with Matt Fraser and Jay Harrison from Winnipeg for Marko Dano, a 1st round pick and a conditional third rounder. The Hawks had Ladd in their dominant 2010 lineup, so this trade was made in hopes Ladd would provide more playoff magic back in Chicago. Ladd would record 12 points in 19 regular season games, then two points in Chicago’s opening round loss to St. Louis.
As expected, Ladd left the team in free agency, so Chicago essentially had nothing to show for this trade, while giving up some valuable pieces in Dano and a first rounder.
13. Bryan McCabe To Toronto
Bryan McCabe had his faults as a player, but in his prime, he was one of the league’s better offensive defencemen and was very useful on the power play. He moved around quite a bit in his career, and played in Chicago for one season (1999-00). He recorded just 29 points in 72 games, so the Blackhawks felt he was expendable, sending him to Toronto for Alexander Karpovtsev and a fourth round draft pick. In case you’re wondering why you never heard of Karpovtsev, it’s because he didn’t amount to much in his NHL career.
In Toronto, McCabe formed a good duo with Tomas Kaberle and his career-season came in 2005-06 when he recorded 68 points. All things considred, he carved out a good career for himself, but the Hawks gave him up for essentially nothing.
12. Rights To Marco Sturm To San Jose
While Marco Sturm is remembered mostly for being part of the trade that sent Joe Thronton to San Jose, he was a useful player that managed to play 938 games in the NHL. When you compare that to the rest of his draft class (1996) that’s exceptional. The ’96 class is one of the worst in NHL history, but Sturm proved to be among the draft’s best. The Hawks had a chance to draft Sturm that year, but traded the rights to the 21st overall pick to the San Jose Sharks, who took Sturm.
In return, the Hawks received two second round picks (Remi Royer and Geoff Peters) who played a total of 18 NHL games between them. Chicago didn’t know it, but 1996 was not the draft year to acquire more picks. They should have just stuck with Sturm.
11. Saad Day For Chicago
Now, this entry isn’t to fault the Blackhawks for trading Brandon Saad. They really didn’t have a choice, as they had just signed Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to monstrous extensions and they had to find some salary cap space. The only gripe you could make is that perhaps they should have unloaded some of the team’s other contracts sooner. Perhaps they could have tried to move Marian Hossa instead and retain a young star like Saad.
All things considered, the Hawks got a decent return. They sent Saad, Alex Broadhurst and Michael Paliotta to Columbus, landing Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Corey Tropp, Jeremy Morin and a fourth round pick. Saad has paid dividends for Columbus and will play out his prime with the Blue Jackets.
Again, it’s just unfair to the Hawks that the salary cap world has forced them to trade stars away.