Getting my fantasy GM on
Forgive me if this post reads like a bad "trade proposal" HF post.
Martin Havlat to Chicago for Mark Bell & a prospect.
Word out of the Windy City is that the Hawks are shopping Bell. Fine with me. There have been rumors of a trade of this sort, off and on, for a while, and I'm throwing my sizeable influence (as long as we're pretending, might as well lie too) behind it.
Chicago is where I want Havlat to end up, mostly because they're destined to suck for many years to come just based on who's in charge and I'd like to see Mach 9 have to deal with that for a while. Hey, I'm a bitter fan, what can I say. Unfortunately, our history of dealing with this team isn't so good. John Muckler is the one GM who Dale Tallon probably laughs at in private. But they have a plethora of good young players (because they've been awful for so long, see) and have a fanbase itching for a move of some signifiance having seen their beloved Hawks sit on the sidelines this offseason.
As for Mark Bell, as a player, I love the guy. Having watched Bell since he was a 16-year-old with the 67's, I know what he's capable of. He's got good size and uses it often, has good offensive upside, and can play well in his own zone. I understand the Hawks and some fans of the team are down on him because of his inconsistent play/effort. I rarely see Hawks games so I'll take their word for it. However, unlike Tyler Arnason, I don't believe that's his character, unless he's undergone major changes since leaving Ottawa at 19.
Speaking of Arnason, truth be told, it was Bell who I wanted if we were dealing with the Hawks at last year's deadline, not the pudgy baby we inherited instead. Alas, it wasn't meant to be, but we can correct that now.
Muckler will have a hard time selling Sens fans on any Havlat trade because, as often as he's let us down in the playoffs, we know just how talented Marty is. We've seen that talent develop from it's initial rawness as a rookie to the player he is today, which is a guy ready to break through as a significant player in the NHL.
Unfortunately, he wants a long-term deal, and we're not in a position to give him one. Before all this nastiness with Havlat and his agent Allan Walsh became public, I thought we could get around it by signing him to a small one year deal and then working something out in the season, but that doesn't appear to be an option.
Besides, do we really want a guy who has, through his paid representative, publicly said he wants to be a free agent in that locker room? Seems to me like a recipe for disaster.
Fans in this market covet Havlat very dearly, because like Wade Redden, Chris Phillips, Mike Fisher, etc., he's one of ours. So the day the trade is announced, I imagine there will be great discontent.
If we're getting Mark Bell in the deal, suddenly, Muckler's PR spin becomes a whole lot easier. Most hockey fans in this city know what Bell can do, because we saw it with our own eyes.
Bell's only a year older than Havlat and should come at a, comparatively speaking, cheap price. He's an RFA as well but only earned $1.064 million last season. Surely we could get him to a multi-year deal at, around, $2 million, maybe even less.
Bringing him in means we can move/dump Bryan Smolinski with little fear of how we'll be situated, as with Bell in the mix, down the middle we'd be pretty solid. Jason Spezza occupying the first line, Bell on the second, Mike Fisher as maybe the best third line center in the NHL (gotta keep him fresh for those dynamic PKs), and Chris Kelly on the fourth unit, where he belongs and shines brightest.
Along the wing, I'd go with the Big Line, with Peter Schaefer and Patrick Eaves on the second with Bell. Schaefer, assuming we can get him signed, is coming off his best season and Eaves is ready to break out. If he was able to score 20 goals in 58 games last season, it's not unreasonable to suggest 30 might be in the picture for a full season of work. Eaves has that knack for being in the right place at the right time (usually in front of the net) and after a while, you stop chalking it up to luck and start realizing it's a character of a natural scorer.
Fisher and Neil love playing together, and did so very well last season. By throwing Vermette on the line, you give them a talent-first player to work with. Vermette's skillset would mix well with their work ethic and toughness, I believe, and he'd have to start elevating that part of his game.
The fourth line remains up in the air besides Kelly and Brian McGratton, who I hope is ready to add more to his game than just fighting. He'll never be a top six forward but there were times last season when Gratts displayed other dimensions of his game. All we really need out of him is getting to the point where he's not a liability on the ice. The extra spot can be occupied by a prospect in the system (not Alexei Kaigodorov, who needs a full year in North America and the NHL isn't the place for it) or a cheaply signed free agent. There are plenty of those still available. Who really isn't revelant to this discussion right now, so long as they don't cost more than, say, $650K.
A simple Bell for Havlat swap wouldn't be fair, even with our position of being bent over and cheeks spread due to Havlat's very public stance of wanting to test the market, so we'd want a prospect as well. I trust the folks at Hockey's Future to know what they're talking about, which is more than I, but it would have to be one of their top 20 kids. A defenceman would be ideal but so longer as they're well regarded, I'm alright with it (getting fellow 67's alumnist Bryan Bickell would be awesome, but beggers can't be chosers). The real prize is Bell.
It might be possible I have my blinders on. It's been six years since Bell played as a 67 and become a fan favorite on one of the better junior teams in Canada. He could've plummeted as a player since then and I'm unaware of it. Blackhawk fans, all six of you left, feel free to tell me I'm being horribly irrational.
But I doubt it. And even if he's been circling the drain in Chicago, he can be repaired. The tools are there for him to be what this team has longered for for far too long, as genuine #2 center. I know, this sounds very familar. We heard it in the spring with Arnason. But as I said, unless Bell's character has gone to shit, I don't believe we'd have those same problems.
Besides, truth be told, coming from Chicago and that environment to Ottawa in mid-season like that was going to be difficult for anyone. It didn't help that Arnason had no work ethic or conditioning, but maybe if that trade had been made in the summer, when he hadn't spent the previous six months in a situation as bad as the Hawks,
Get Bell out of Chicago and that circus and onto a team with, comparatively speaking, a sparkling record of recent achievements. A team, who fail as they might in the playoffs, at least has an attitude of trying to win. The culture shock on Bell might last a couple days, but he'd won before (Mem Cup in this city seven years ago), so I have to think he wants to again.
Seems too good, too comfortable for us, to happen, right?
Having said all this, watch the trade not happen. Muckler'll find a way to fuck it up.
But hey, can't blame a guy for wishing.