Blackhawks acquire veteran center Michal Handzus for draft pick
BY MARK LAZERUS email@example.com April 1, 2013 11:25PM
Pekka Rinne, Michal Handzus
Updated: May 3, 2013 6:39AM
Michal Handzus was a healthy scratch in each of his last six games for the San Jose Sharks, so to think the 36-year-old, 14-year veteran is going to come in and drastically change the Blackhawks’ makeup, performance and Stanley Cup chances is unreasonable.
But that’s fine with Hawks general manager Stan Bowman, who reminded reporters Monday that his team has lost only five games in regulation with less than four weeks left in the regular season. So as the trade deadline of 2 p.m. Wednesday rapidly approaches, getting Handzus for a fourth-round pick in the upcoming draft might be as splashy as Bowman gets.
He made it clear he’s not looking to part with any players on the current roster.
‘‘I think the group here has really kind of earned the right to see what we can do as a group,’’ said Bowman, who reassigned winger Brandon Bollig to Rockford to clear a roster spot for Handzus. ‘‘The strength of our team has been our consistency and our depth. And you don’t rule anything out, but I think our focus is to keep this group together and try to add to it.’’
Handzus, a 6-5, 215-pound center, fills several needs for the Hawks, giving them some size, some power-play and penalty-killing experience and some faceoff prowess. He also has played for all three Hawks coaches, is friends with fellow Slovak Marian Hossa and knows many of the players from his previous season with the Hawks in 2006-07. He’s also a four-time 20-goal scorer, but the last time he did that was in 2009-10, and he has only one goal and one assist — both against the Hawks on Feb. 5 — in 28 games this season.
Even he admitted he’s not the same player he was during his brief first stint with the Hawks, when he lasted eight games before blowing out his knee and signing with the Los Angeles Kings the next offseason. But he thinks he still has plenty to offer, and the idea of joining the first-place Hawks was enticing enough to persuade him to waive his no-trade clause.
Bowman said he’ll leave it to coach Joel Quenneville to decide where Handzus plays — he might bump Andrew Shaw or Marcus Kruger to a wing, might bump Dave Bolland off the second line or might play wing himself — but he thinks Handzus can provide a needed boost now and in the playoffs, particularly against the ‘‘big centers in the West, guys that are hard to contain.’’
‘‘I think I’m a different player than I was [then],’’ he said. ‘‘A little bit older, so I’ve got to adjust my game. But I think I have a lot left in the tank.’’
There’s not a lot left on the trade market, though. A source with knowledge of Bowman’s negotiations said he’s looking for help — and size — on the blue line. Bowman demurred, though, saying only that he’s looking to make his team better,
regardless of position.
But the options are limited. Among defensemen, the Buffalo Sabres dealt Jordan Leopold to the St. Louis Blues and Robyn Regehr to the Los Angeles Kings, the Calgary Flames sent Jay Bouwmeester to the Blues and Lubomir Visnovsky — whom a source confirmed the Hawks were trying to get — signed an extension with the New York Islanders.
‘‘There aren’t a lot of sellers, really; that’s the bottom line,’’ Bowman said. ‘‘There’s not a lot of trades. There still isn’t a whole lot of separation, a few teams maybe that are looking at next year and have given up hope this year. But, for the most part, there’s a lot of teams that still think if they get on that run in the last month here, they can get in. So they’re hesitant to start trading players away.’’
So is Bowman, who seems set to dance with the players who brought him.
‘‘It’s our job to keep making those phone calls, and we’ve had a lot of meetings internally about guys,’’ Bowman said. ‘‘It has to make sense for us. We’ve had a good run with the guys we have so far. We don’t really want to change that mix. We’re looking to add to it.’’