Perhaps it was because I became jaded after the Hawks previous waiver claim (Radek Smolenak) or maybe it was because I spent most of the weekend contemplating whether to stick my fingers into electrical sockets because of the ‘Great Huet Debate’, but I barely flinched on Saturday afternoon when word broke about the Hawks picking up Anaheim center Andrew Ebbett off a waiver claim.
It wasn’t until early Monday morning when I finally realized what the Hawks got their hands on.
Anytime you can pick up a guy who has legitimate top-6 forward experience on a playoff team for the bargain basement price of $475,000, that’s a good deal. Ebbett brings just that.
Last year, Ebbett was called up at Christmas time. Like most small players, he is a solid skater with good speed and has the ability to be a decent playmaker.
He eventually took over for Brendan Morrison as Anaheim’s second line center and finished the year with 8 goals and 24 assists in 48 games. Ebbett built the reputation as being a pretty streaky scorer. At the end of the year with Anaheim battling for a playoff spot, he had 10 points in Anaheim’s last 12 games.
Then in the playoffs, he, kind of, sort of, disappeared. He suited up in all 13 games but only registered a goal and 2 assists.
So what happened since then?
Well, for one, Ebbett’s size won’t do him any favors with any talent evaluators in the NHL. Standing at a mere 5’9″ and 182 lbs, Patrick Kane won’t be the only one in the Blackhawks locker room now sitting on telephone books.
Anaheim also had a logjam at center with youngster Petteri Nokelainen and Erik Christensen pushing for more playing time. It wasn’t until they called up 22-year old defenseman Brendan Mikkelson to fill in for the injured James Wisniewski, though, that someone on the roster had to go. Ebbett was the guy.
So with his arrival, Jack Skille’s daily commute to Rockford is officially over. Skille will remain in Rockford and Ebbett will assume his spot on the fourth line wing. I’m sure Colin Fraser was seen somewhere today praising his teammates’ salaries because if it weren’t for the Hawks’ precarious cap situation, Skille would be the one staying and Fraser would be getting acclimated to Rockford.
Whether it’s the best spot for Ebbett remains to be seen. The Hawks will be asking him to play a position he’s never played at, save for a couple preseason games this fall. Playing next to Fraser, the Hawks will most likely have the smallest 4th line in the league, regardless of who the other winger is.
Not to mention, his skill set may not be conducive to that of a 4th line player. Small, shifty, playmaking centers don’t often double as grinding, hard-checking wingers.
Either way, his presence immediately gives the Hawks an actual insurance plan in case Dave Bolland’s back troubles keep recurring. While it was nice to talk about Tomas Kopecky’s ability to play center on any line, there’s nothing to indicate he can actually do it and John Madden is far more valuable when he’s a checking center than when he’s asked to try and carry the load as a number two center.
Getting Ebbett’s versatility at the price tag of a mere $475,000 is an absolute no-brainer for a cap-strapped team like the Hawks.
A lot of times, the unheralded moves a general manager makes turn out to be the best ones. This just might turn into one of those.