Its rare that defending Stanley Cup champions can proclaim having one of the deepest collections of prospects in the National Hockey League. The usual trend is: a) teams develop good prospects into NHL players b) those young stars provide quality production and overall team depth on cheap contracts c) that produces a champion. During the stretch drive, teams tend to deal prospects and high picks for that one extra player to put them over the top. Consequentially, that leaves their prospect pool bare. However, the Chicago Blackhawks took a different approach in assembling their team.
At the 2009-10 trading deadline, Chicago stood pat for the most part, their biggest move being the acquisition of Hannu Toivoven and Danny Richmond for Joe Fallon. Yet due to their much publicized cap bind, the Blackhawks had to trade defenseman Cam Barker, though it ultimately didnt end up as a loss considering how much Niklas Hjalmarsson improved upon the underachieving Barker. Fortunately, the trade allowed Chicago to obtain Kim Johnsson as well as Minnesotas first round pick in the 2009 Entry Draft, Nick Leddy. It was both this kind of dealing, combined with retaining their first round picks in every draft for the last few seasons that allowed Chicago to start building their prospect depth. They did deal their first round pick in 2010, but received an even higher first round pick on draft day by way of the Dustin Byfuglien trade with Atlanta.
This offseason, to fix some of their cap woes, Chicago obtained then-prospect Victor Stalberg along with Chris DiDomenico and Philippe Paradis from Toronto for Kris Versteeg and impending college free agent Billy Sweatt. Similarly, for Andrew Ladd, the Blackhawks acquired Atlantas second round pick in 2011 along with Ivan Vishnevskiyoriginally Dallas first rounder from 2006. In the Byfuglien tradethe most significant of the summer for the HawksChicago received Jeremy Morin, Kevin Hayes (the 24th overall pick in 2010), Justin Holl (the 54th overall pick) and other minor players, all without giving up young equity. The Hawks also received Jimmy Hayes from Toronto for a second round pick.
The loss of Versteeg, Barker and Byfuglien can be deemed significant and those kinds of players certainly dont grow on trees. Dustin has come out flying for the Thrashers with massive scoring numbersfor a defensemancombined with one of Atlantas better ES Corsis, along with a fairly high QUALCOMP (he does have a near 55% ES offensive zone starts, though). However, its with all these little dealsdone while maintaining the core players on their teamthat Chicago has established themselves well for the future with an extremely deep farm system.