The Chicago Blackhawks wanted to bring some depth back into their lineup. They did it by trading for a very familiar face.
Kris Versteeg is with the Blackhawks once again, as he was acquired from the Florida Panthers in exchange for forward Jimmy Hayes and defenseman Dylan Olsen. Forward Philippe Lefebvre was also dealt to Chicago in the deal; he will report directly to the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL.
Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman announced the trade following the Blackhawks’ 5-4 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night. Bowman said that Florida will retain half of Versteeg’s salary, which is $4.6 million this season and $4.7 million each of the following two seasons. The Blackhawks also put forward Michal Handzus (upper body) and defenseman Mike Kostka (lower body) on long-term injured reserve.
The Blackhawks get someone they’re quite familiar with in Versteeg, who can do a little bit of everything. Bowman is happy with how the Blackhawks have started this season, but wanted to bolster forward depth a little. Versteeg provides several options and should help special teams – the Blackhawks’ penalty kill has been iffy this season. He had two goals and five assists in 18 games with the Panthers this season.
“Looking at our team, we thought about adding one more versatile forward to our group,” Bowman said. “He’s certainly capable of playing on the top line; he’s been doing that last few years for Florida. We have a lot of depth at forward and we can use him a couple different places. We can use him special teams as well; it’s a role he had before. He’s got a great skill level to compliment our players.”
Versteeg will practice with the Blackhawks on Friday. A knee injury (torn ACL) cost Versteeg all but 10 games in the 2012-13 season. The Panthers cleared him to play in late September and he made his preseason debut soon after that. He was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career in early November as he’s tried to regain his form from that injury.
As far as Versteeg’s health, though, Bowman said the forward is “recovered, ready to go.”
The Blackhawks’ depth in Rockford, especially with some who have been emerging, allowed them to part with two of their youth in Hayes and Olsen. Hayes started the season up here before being sent back to Rockford.
Versteeg is back. The Blackhawks hope he can bring some more depth and help out on special teams. He certainly won’t take long to get familiar with his teammates.
“One of the things (coach Joel Quenneville) has always preached is having forwards play a couple different ways,” Bowman said. “It’s up to coaches where to slot him in but we can use him a lot of different places. Depth is critical to go a long way it the playoffs. We wanted some depth and we’ve been looking at players who can fit that role. But Kris we zeroed in on as one we’d try to get back, for all the reasons I’ve said so far. He’s a good fit for our team.”