Chicago

Should James Van Riemsdyk be the Blackhawks Top Target in Free Agency?

With free agency under two weeks away Chicago Blackhawks fans are wondering what they might be able to do with the increased cap space they find themselves with this season. Many are clamoring from players like John Tavares and John Carlson, two elite players that would definitely make an impact in the Chicago lineup but one major deficit the ‘Hawks faced last season was their power play.

The ‘Hawks lacked the type of player that could finish on the power play and score on rebounds created by Patrick Kane or Alex DeBrincat. At times Artem Anisimov seemed to fill that role on the ‘Hawks power play where he netted 11 of his 20 goals on the power play but injuries and inconsistency hampered his season and went through some major scoring slumps.

Enter a player in free agency who would immediately solidify the ‘Hawks power play and give star Patrick Kane another weapon at his disposal, James Van Riemsdyk. Van Riemsdyk, JVR for short, has been a consistent scorer since he entered the league back in 2009 and in his last 6 seasons with Toronto scored 144 goals, 45 of which came on the power play. He is the type of player who just has an instinct for putting the puck in the net from multiple areas on the ice. JVR is definitely an offensive first type player and in Toronto was constantly criticized for giving up goals while he was on the ice surface something the ‘Hawks at times already struggle with.

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Some might also question why sign a wing when the ‘Hawks seem to be deepest at that position with names like DeBrincat, Kane, Saad, Sikura and Hinostroza competing for top six minutes already. However JVR is a different type of forward from that group in that he is a big forward who values himself as a pure goal scorer and would thrive around players like those mentioned above, especially if he were given an opportunity to play with Patrick Kane.

The will be tons of interest in JVR come July 1st as he fits a role in most teams top power play unit and would slot in almost every teams top six forwards. We also have a good idea of his market value given the contract the San Jose Sharks just gave Evander Kane which clocked in at seven years worth $49 million. This is a good barometer for the kind of contract Van Riemsdyk could expect, with him still being in his prime years and putting up his highest goal total, 36, in his career.

There is no doubt JVR will be looking to cash out in his first time as an unrestricted free agent but for the Blackhawks if they can get him at a reasonable term near or maybe a little below the cost of Evander Kane they would be foolish not to pursue him. He would fill a major hole in Chicago’s offense and would bring another weapon to an already dangerous forward group.

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Flames Should Look No Further than Blackhawks for Coveted First Round Pick

In Elliotte Friedman’s recent 31 Thoughts column he mentioned that the Calgary Flames are looking to jump back into the first round. The Flames dealt their first round pick in 2018 to the New York Islanders for defenseman Travis Hamonic, and although the trade looked like one that would propel the Flames back into the playoffs, Calgary is still fighting for the second wild card spot with 7 games remaining in the season. The Flames also do not have a pick until the 4th round in the 2018 NHL entry draft, so it seems like if they miss the playoffs they might be willing to move some pieces in order to get into the first couple rounds.

Enter the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that has had a drastic fall from grace this season and were sellers at the trade deadline for the first time since the 2009/2010 season. The ‘Hawks sold off several pieces, including Ryan Hartman and Michal Kempny, and collected a first round pick from the Predators and a third round pick from the Capitals; both of which are in the 2018 draft. The ‘Hawks are in an odd situation this off-season, they don’t seem to be a team that is going to go complete tear down, but seem to be a team that needs a serious retooling and an injection of more youth into their lineup.

The ‘Hawks’ biggest issue has been on the back end this season with an aging top pairing and inconsistent play. The ‘Hawks would love to get their hands on one of the Flames D-men, but that would seem to be a non-starter unless if it was for a top 5 pick for the ‘Hawks to have any chance at. The more likely scenario I could see working for both teams would be the ‘Hawks using the Predators pick to give center Sam Bennett a shot to prove his 4th overall pick status. Bennett has been a bit of a disappointment for the Flames, the 21 year old has played 3 full seasons at the NHL level and has only crack 30 points once, which was his rookie season where he netted 18 goals and 18 assists.

You would wonder why would the ‘Hawks want to take on a player that has just not lived up to his draft stock? Well it could be the cliché that Bennett is in need of a change of scenery, or what I think is that maybe he just isn’t that type of player. Maybe his actual potential is that of a solid two way 3rd line center that gets you 30 points offensively and plays a solid enough two way game.

Looking at Bennett’s Hero Charts it would appear that the role of a 3rd line center seems to fit the trend of his play over the last several seasons.

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The question then becomes is Bennett worth a 1st round pick? Albeit a late first round pick to the Blackhawks, who have some more drastic needs such as defense as well as making sure that their prospect pipeline is being refueled with talent. Another question would be, is Bennett is a true center? Calgary has bumped him from wing to center all season and it begs the question if Bennett can handle the load as a center at the dot and defensively.

Finally, do the Flames think they could get something better for Bennett? Yes, Bennett has struggled to live up to his billing but he is still a 21-year-old who has three years of NHL experience, not something that is exactly easy to come across in the league. Multiple teams in the NHL have multiple picks in the first round this season, just look at a team like the New York Rangers who have 3 first round picks and are looking to rebuild their team with young talent. Bennett would seem to be a good fit there, as he comes at a reasonable cap hit; young and has all that NHL experience already.

The ‘Hawks and Flames both appear to have interesting off-seasons ahead of them if the season shakes out the way it is currently headed. Will the ‘Hawks move one of their 1st rounders to assist in the retooling? Will the Flames look to use Sam Bennett as a bargaining chip to restock their system? What I will say is that this might be one of the most active NHL off-seasons in quite some time, especially for the spiraling ‘Hawks.

Chicago Blackhawks Trade Deadline Recap

Coming into the 2017-2018 NHL trade deadline the Chicago Blackhawks found them in a situation they haven’t found themselves in over a decade, sellers at the trade deadline. The problem being the ‘Hawks didn’t seem to have a ton of assets to move at the deadline, aside from some depth forwards such as Tommy Wingels, Lance Bouma and Patrick Sharp. One name that popped up as we neared the trade deadline was forward Ryan Hartman, who had noticeably struggled a year removed from a 19 goal season. The ask according to hockey insiders for Hartman was a first round pick plus which seemed like a high price for someone who seems to be a bottom six forward.

Enter the Nashville Predator, who according to ‘Hawks general manager, blew the ‘Hawks away with a deal for Hartman and a 5th round pick for Nashville’s 1st round pick, a 4th round pick and forward prospect Victor Ejdsell. With the acquisition of Hartman the Predators look to be loading up for another Stanley Cup final run and paid a heavy price for it and only time will tell if the known commodity of Hartman out weights the unknowns of draft picks or the undrafted free agent Ejdsell.

Victor Ejdsell

Victor Ejdsell is a big body forward the Blackhawks hope can contribute in the NHL soon.

According to reports the ‘Hawks attempted to sign Ejdsell last season after his MVP season in the Swedish Elite’s second league and has continued to play extremely well in the SHL with HV71 putting up 30 points in 44 games. In post deadline press conference Bowman eluded that Ejdsell could possibly be in North America next season but need to get him into camp before they make that determination.

The Blackhawks weren’t done as they made a deal right at the 3pm ET deadline in which they sent energy forward Tommy Wingels to the Boston Bruins for a conditional 5th round pick, the condition being if the Bruins make it out of the first round of the playoffs or Wingels resigns with the Bruins the ‘Hawks would then receive a 4th round pick instead. This is a deal that is pretty cut and dry, Wingels has been a great player for the ‘Hawks and has filled a ton of roles for them, however he is a UFA at the end of the season and although it sounds like there is a good chance the ‘Hawks bring him back why not gain an asset for the future?

The final piece of news on the Blackhawks front today was the recalling of forward Matthew Highmore for their AHL affiliate the Rockford Ice Hogs. Highmore has had a great first pro season leading the Ice Hogs in goal scoring with 21 goals and 35 total points. Highmore free agent signed in the offseason as an overager from the QMJHL where he played for the Saint John’s Sea Dogs and an extremely productive season in which he led the Sea Dogs to the Memorial Cup.

Matthew Highmore

Matthew Highmore looks to translate his AHL success to the NHL

As the season continues to play out and the ‘Hawks continue to fade from the playoff picture don’t be surprised to see players return from the AHL such as John Hayden and Gustav Forsling but also see some new faces such as Anthony Louis and even highly touted prospect Dylan Sikura who is currently finishing his season at Northeastern.

Although the ‘Hawks are poised to miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-2008 season, the future is not as bleak as many might paint it to be. The ‘Hawks will have cap room for the first time in years, a focus on developing team speed to catch up with the rest of the NHL and hopefully better luck with a healthy netminder. Even though playoff hockey is not in this teams future getting a chance to evaluate their future talent will keep watch Blackhawks hockey for the rest of the season.

Blackhawks Recall Carl Dahlstrom, Place Jan Rutta on Injured Reserve

After another disappointing home loss the Chicago Blackhawks announced today that defenseman Jan Rutta has been placed on injured reserve and have recalled defenseman Carl Dahlstrom. We won’t spend too much time on the Rutta injury but it seems as though he has been battling to stay in the lineup as of late whether because of inconsistent play or he is still feeling the ill effects of a hit he took in the Florida Panthers game back on December 13th. Since that game Rutta has struggled to stay in the line up and hopefully the placement on the IR allows him to get healthy and hopefully get back to the form he showed at the beginning of the season.

As for the Dahlstrom portion of this roster move it is an interesting one, as many would have suspected that Gustav Forsling would get the first call up from the Ice Hogs. However Forsling has struggled since his demotion to Rockford only netting two points and a -3 in 6 games with the Ice Hogs. Enter Dahlstrom who has taken a major step forward this season in an increased role with the Ice Hogs posting three goals and 20 assists in 47 games.

Dahlstrom was a second round pick of the Blackhawks back in 2013 and if finally getting his first crack in the NHL roster after making the jump full-time to the AHL last season. The ‘Hawks brass have been positive about Dahlstrom in the past but this recall comes as a bit of a surprise and makes many wonder if he will get a chance to crack the defensive rotation.

Every defenseman in the Blackhawks current defensive rotation, besides Duncan Keith, have seen at least one game in the press box so it isn’t like Dahlstrom is coming into an impossible task. If the ‘Hawks want to see what they might have in Dahlstrom don’t be surprise if he gets his shot Saturday against Minnesota or what I think is more likely a chance against the Coyotes to show what he’s got.

In a season that has been full of disappointment and an unlikely playoff berth its good to see players like Dahlstrom get the chance to show what they’ve got and make a case to play a bigger role in the ‘Hawks 2018/2019 season.

Should Blackhawks Look for a Boost from the Maple Leafs Bench?

To say this season has been a disappointment for the Blackhawks and their friends would be a massive under statement. The Hawks currently sit seven points out of a playoff spot and are not trending in the right direction to jump four teams to make it into the playoffs. The Blackhawks do have 29 games remaining and are projected to have about a 13% chance of making the playoffs. So heading into the trade deadline many are wondering what the Blackhawks strategy will be, they don’t have a ton of valuable assets aside from some depth defensemen and some gritty forwards and they don’t seem like a team looking to rent a player for the playoff run, see Anthony Duclair deal. So the thought is the ‘Hawks might be quite at the deadline for the first time in a while and honestly that was my thought until hearing about the “request” Josh Leivo made this week to be traded out of Toronto.

Leivo has walked back his comments in recent days with the Toronto media stating, “I just want to play hockey. I do want to play for the Maple Leafs, that’s why I signed for another year but at the same time, I just want to play.” Nevertheless this has unquestionably shaken Leivo’s future with the Leafs which seemed to be in question any way with players like Kasperi Kapanen being recalled from the AHL and leapfrogging him in the lineup. Leivo’s frustration are warranty in that he just at the beginning of the season signed an extension with the Leafs, thinking he was going to be an NHL regular but hasn’t drawn into the lineup since December 31st and has only gotten into 12 games this season.

Now the question comes, why would the ‘Hawks want a guy that has been in the press box for most of the season. The simple answer is the ‘Hawks need to get younger, faster and have an eye on the future and honestly Leivo checks many of those boxes. Although Leivo only has three points to his name this season and 21 in 53 career games, the third round pick from 2011 looked as though this year might be his break through after registering 10 points in 13 games last season with the Leafs. This season however after a weak camp and less then stellar play in his limited playing time Leivo appears to be a good buy low candidate and could be the type of player to inject some needed fire into the ‘Hawks lineup.

Leivo is also not a rental considering he is signed for the rest of this season as well as next season for a reasonable $925,000 cap and would also be a RFA after the 2018/2019 season. He is also a relatively young player, turns 25 in May, and after the turbulent season that he has had in the Canadian capital one would think he would be driven to prove the Leafs management they were wrong about him. Although I think it is a bit of a long shot that the ‘Hawks will go after Leivo if they are looking for an injection of life into their sputtering lineup Leivo could be a inexpensive and effective addition.

Jan Rutta Becoming the Blackhawks Second Best Defenseman?

During the offseason many in hockey media knew the Blackhawks needed to improve on their defensive quality and depth but many were shocked when defensive stalwart Niklas Hjalmarsson was dealt to the Arizona Coyotes for 24 year old defenseman Connor Murphy. While many fans were upset with the deal in that it immediately made the Blackhawks defense worse and although Murphy is still young and on a cheaper deal the trade did not resonate with fans. Those outside of general Blackhawks fandom did however seem to see the allure of the trade in that Murphy had a long term deal with less money than Hjalmarsson and could be someone who could sit on your second or even first pairing for the next ten years. He was no Hjalmarsson but there was some positive thought that this could be a good deal for the ‘Hawks in the long run.

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Connor Murphy, has had some early struggles in his Blackhawks career

The Blackhawks then addressed their depleted depth on the blue line by signing Jordan Oesterle to a relatively cheap deal and bringing in veteran defenseman Cody Franson on a PTO, eventually getting a full deal after the start of the season. These three, Franson, Oesterle and Franson were seen as all nice pieces  that would truly help with the ‘Hawks defensive depth and if players like Michal Kempny and Gustav Forsling could take steps forward the ‘Hawks could have a pretty solid defense that was young and potentially mature into a strong defense. What if I were to tell you the Blackhawks had already signed their standout defenseman back on June 7th in Jan Rutta.

Rutta, 26, had been playing in the highest Czech league the past two seasons with Piráti Chomutov but in those two seasons had put up impressive numbers with 53 points in 90 games with Chomutov. Although not a huge name Rutta had been coveted by multiple teams in the offseason because of the offensive skills that he did bring to the table but also was seen as a bit of a project considering he had not played on the North American ice surface.

Coming into training camp many thought Rutta could possibly make the Blackhawks in a reserve role as he adapted his game to the new ice surface and the Joel Quenneville system but even could have slip down into the AHL to get some more consistent playing time. However out of the gates Rutta seemed to be a stand out, drawing the attention of Quenneville who often commended his efforts during practices and preseason games. With Rutta standing out and Blackhawks prospects like Luc Snuggerud (injuried during preseason) and Ville Pokka faltering during training camp it was Rutta who found a home in Chicago.

Rutta and Forsling

Jan Rutta (right) and Gustav Forsling (left) have built a solid second defensive pair for the Blackhawks. 

Early in his Blackhawks career Rutta has found immediate success and unlike all the other defensemen brought in during the offseason has not seen a single night in the press box. In Rutta’s first 9 games he is currently sitting third among Blackhawks defensemen with 19:16 in ice time, tied for second in points with 5 points and second on the team in plus-minus with a +5 rating. All signs point to Rutta continuing to grow as a player for the ‘Hawks and with him already appearing to have Joel Quenneville’s trust he will continue to get the chance to grow in the Blackhawks lineup.

The question now is has Jan Rutta become the second best defenseman in the Blackhawks lineup, clearly behind the perennial Norris candidate Duncan Keith, and honestly it might be too early to tell but thus far he has been.

Brent Seabrook has regressed as many of us expected he would, looking slow on defensive assignments he is not the same player that the Blackhawks had when they hoisted three Stanley Cups. Looking down the rest of the lineup its difficult to see any other defenseman who is a more complete player than Rutta. Its fair to question if Rutta can keep up this strong start throughout the rest of the season but at this current pace Jan Rutta at least is proving to be a major part of the Blackhawks future blueline.

Blackhawks Sign Five to Open Free Agency

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Patrick Sharp Returns to the Hawks with eye on a 4th Stanley Cup (Photo by David Kindler)

As I posted yesterday in the Blackhawks free agency primer I noted that the Blackhawks would likely have a quiet opening to free agency come July 1st and in all honesty it was. The ‘Hawks would go on to make five signings, headlined by the return of forward Patrick Sharp but would also include forward Tommy Wingels, forward Lance Bouma, defenseman Jordan Oesterle, and goaltender Jean-Francois Berube.

We will start with the return of Sharp who at age 35 is in the twilight of his career but offers the ‘Hawks with a low risk, high reward option as his cap hit will only be $800,000 and will give coach Joel Quenneville with a forward that if healthy could play in the ‘Hawks top nine forwards. Health has been an issue for Sharp who has battled through some concussion issues as well as coming off of hip surgery that kept him out of the Dallas Stars line up for the final month of the season. As stated before in previous articles if Sharp can recapture that magic from just a season ago he could be a good value for the ‘Hawks.

The other more significant signing for the ‘Hawks was that of Evanston, IL native Tommy Wingels on a one year deal, terms of the deal were not disclosed. Although we do not have the cap number of Wingels you would have to imagine it does not exceed $1 million after two sub-par seasons with the Sharks and Senators. Wingels is another good value for the ‘Hawks and figures to be in the mix for the ‘Hawks bottom six and although did struggle the last two was has scored 15 goals twice in his 7 year NHL career. Analytics place Wingels as a solid fourth line wing that has the versatility to slide over to the center position which GM Stan Bowman values. The flexibility and low price tag make this a solid  addition to the ‘Hawks forward crop.

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Oesterle hoping to help stablize Hawks defensive depth (Photo by Connormah)

The ‘Hawks then went on to add a depth defenseman in Jordan Oesterle who has played in 25 career NHL games over three NHL seasons totaling 5 assists and a plus-minus rating of -4. Oesterle, depending on his performance in camp, figures to be either a top pairing defenseman for Rockford or a 7th/depth defenseman for the the ‘Hawks. Announced the same time as the Oesterle signing was the signing for net-minder Jean-Francois Berube, 25, who has spent two seasons in the New York Islanders system in which he has spend 21 games with the NHL club and posted a 6-4-3 record and 3.11 save percentage. Berube and newly signed Anton Forsberg figure to compete for the ‘Hawks back up goaltender position and as Bowman stated during his noon teleconference it is necessary to have three NHL quality goaltenders in the system.

The final sign of the day, thus far, is that of forward Lance Bouma who his entire career, six season, with the Calgary Flames. Bouma is another one of those depth bottom six players that the ‘Hawks have added on July 1st and this was a signing that confused many a ‘Hawk fan in that this team is already flush with bottom six forwards and how does this addition make the ‘Hawks better today. Bouma who plays a physical style of hockey has never had a propensity to put up points did have one season in which he put up a surprising 34 points for Calgary. He would however plummet to 7 points in each of the next two seasons. Again Bouma figures to be a fourth line player  or depth forward on this ‘Hawks team and if he can recapture what happened in that 2014-2015 season he could be another one of those high risk high reward signings.

It is difficult to judge a team on July 1st still three months away from hitting the ice on opening night but from what the ‘Hawks have done today they are very much the same team leading into it. A team that looks like it could have difficulties scoring and very inexperienced on the blue line, however it has been reported by 670 The Score’s Jay Zawaski that the ‘Hawks are still likely to sign a depth veteran defenseman. If the ‘Hawks are able to get some quality veteran help on the back end this is could be a solid free agency period for the ‘Hawks but as this team sits currently 2017-2018 might be a step back for the Blackhawks.

Chicago Blackhawks Free Agency Primer

Tommy_Wingels_2016July 1st is a holiday for the hockey community in which NHL fans get to watch as their team make moves to steer the course of their franchise into the coming year. For Blackhawks fans however July 1st many times is a waiting game to see what pieces will be moved to get them underneath the salary cap and this year like many of the past will be no different with maybe a few wrinkles. According to Cap Friendly the ‘Hawks currently sit over the cap by $2,995,628 but the team is a bit of a rough draft with the Cap Friendly listing them with 14 forwards, 6 defensemen and 3 goaltenders.  With maneuvering the roster to a size of 22 player (13 forwards, 7 defensemen and 2 goaltenders) the ‘Hawks more realistically sit at a with a cap overage of $2,590,628 meaning moves will need to be made to field a roster this fall.

The most anticipated move to occur after July 1st would be the constant rumored trade of center Marcus Kruger to the Vegas Golden Knights for a pick. If this is too be believed this move helps get the ‘Hawks under the cap by almost $500,000, not enough to sign a player and just enough to help them scrape by with a minimum roster size. Although there is a lot of discussion of the ‘Hawks placing Marian Hossa on LTIR in order to increase their spending budget and to field a competitive line up but the NHL has yet to give their ruling on Hossa’s potential use of LTIR. In theory the ‘Hawks may have a little bit to spend on July 1st but it is unlikely they will not be in on the big free agents of the summer so let’s take a look at some of the players the ‘Hawks may look at to strengthen the depth of their lineup.

Forwards

Sam Gagner C/LW

Coming off of a bounce season with the Blue Jackets in which he scored 50 points, 18 of which came on the power play. Gagner could fill a spot on the Blackhawks power play and give them another option at center or on the left wing. Price could be an issue as he figures to cash in on a strong season but if the price is right Gagner would be a solid add.

Tommy Wingels LW/RW

An Evanston, IL native who is coming off of two down season with the San Jose Sharks and Ottawa Senators however Wingels has scored 15 goals twice in his career and could be a solid value to fill out the bottom six forwards.

Patrick Sharp LW

As of writing this 670 The Score’s Jay Zawaski is reporting that the Blackhawks will likely be signing Sharp come July 1st and will take a contract under $1 million. This could prove to be a good depth signing for the ‘Hawks but as in past season bringing in player past their primes on these incentive heavy contracts. Signing Sharp will provide the ‘Hawks with some good depth scoring and another option to help a struggling power play.

Karl Alzner D

The most unlikely of the ‘Hawks targets as reports have Alzner asking for $5 million plus per season at around 5 to 6 years. Reports have linked Alzner to the ‘Hawks but some major roster moves would have to occur for him to find his way to Chicago. Alzner would project to be a second pairing defenseman with the ‘Hawks but still come with his question and such a thin free agent market Alzner likely prices himself out of Chicago.

Brian Campbell D

Campbell is an interesting case, he didn’t have a terrible year back with the ‘Hawks putting up 17 points points in 80 games. Campbell clearly is not the same player that he was as he nears 40 years old. Campbell could also be a good value signing for the ‘Hawks as he would provide some security for the ‘Hawks who are now extremely young on defense with the departure of Niklas Hjalmarsson.

We are only a few short hours away from start of free agency and this is just a taste of some of the names linked to the ‘Hawks. Soon we will have a clearer picture of what the ‘Hawks will look like as the offseason gets into full swing.

Blackhawks Reshape Roster During Busy Draft Weekend

As we neared the 2017 NHL Entry Draft the Chicago Blackhawks appeared poised to rebuild their farm system and potentially make some moves to alleviate some pressure that the salary cap was putting on their team. Many believed that there was a deal in place with the Vegas Golden Knights in which center, Marcus Kruger, would be moved for a draft pick of one of their surplus defensemen; acquired from the expansion draft. However this deal was believed to be put on hold, according to Scott Powers of The Athletic, because of a roster bonus due to Kruger on July 1st. With this detail being brought up after the expansion draft, it appeared as though the draft might be a quiet one for the Blackhawks. However Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman had different plans.

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Niklas Hjalmarsson will be greatly missed on the Chicago blueline (Nicole & Laura Flickr 2013)

In a surprising move the Blackhawks traded 3 time Stanley Cup champion defenseman, Niklas Hjalmarsson, to the Arizona Coyotes for 24 year old defenseman, Connor Murphy, and 22 year old forward, Laurent Dauphin. After first hearing about the move it was initiallythought to be a salary cap dump on the Blackhawks part, but looking at the cap numbers of Murphy and Dauphin the cap savings were minimal. In fact, if both players did make the roster it would actually have the ‘Hawks take on more salary than they were sending out on Hjalmarsson. This move, similar to the one that we will go over in a moment, appears to have an eye on the future; Murphy 6 years younger than Hjalmarsson, signed to a deal will longer term than Hjalmarsson, and at a lower cap hit. Although not the same player as Hjalmarsson, GM Stan Bowman sees Murphy as a player entering his prime and as someone who he is hoping is ready to take that next step in his career. Dauphin who many viewed as a bit of a throw-in with this deal appears to possibly have a shot at making the club in the fall in a bottom six capacity.

We had thought that the day could not get any crazier until Elliot Friedman of HNIC tweeted that it appeared as though the Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets had a deal in place that would send Artemi Panarin to the Jackets for former Blackhawk forward Brandon Saad. This was a deal that caught the entire hockey world by storm as no one was expecting it and it was seen as a bit of a reaction to the departure of Marian Hossa, as well as the uncertainty of being able to afford Panarin at the end of his bridge deal. The loss of Panarin will certainly hurt the Blackhawks top offensive line that included Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, but this move finally gives Jonathan Toews the left wing that they have been looking for since the departure of Saad. This move appears to evenly distribute the power on the top two lines with a likely top line of Saad, Toews and Richard Panik and a projected secondary line of Nick Schmaltz, Anisimov and Kane. The response of this trade was quite divisive in that reaction on Twitter from ‘Hawks fans was resoundingly positive where national reaction was a bit more hesitant on the trade from the Blackhawks’ prospective

 

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Brandon Saad is back after two years with the Blue Jackets (Lisa Gansky)

The hesitance comes from the Blackhawks giving up a top ten scorer for a player, who has an offensive touch to his game, but not the dynamic offensive player that Panarin is. Aside from the main components from this deal the ‘Hawks also sent forward Tyler Motte, plus a 6th round pick for goaltender Anton Forsberg and a 2018 5th round pick. Motte came into the 2016 season with a lot a fanfare after an impressive junior season at the University of Michigan, but injuries and lack of professional experience were his downfall. If he can stay healthy and take a season or two to gain experience in the AHL it could turn into a nice complementary piece for Columbus. For the ‘Hawks this trade also fills a need for goal-tending depth, and with the addition of Forsberg the ‘Hawks feel like they have found their back up net minder for the upcoming season.

Now that the draft has passed and free agent frenzy is upon us, it appears as though the ‘Hawks are trying to reshape their roster for the future as well as icing a team that is harder to play against with speed and strength. Are the Blackhawks a better team now that they were at the end of the season? I would say they are more balanced up front but lack experience on the back end which is a bit concerning. With the moves made you would imagine there are more moves that Stan Bowman envisions to get this team back to the Stanley Cup finals and not the first round exit team that we have seen the last two seasons.