Konroyd's post-season awards

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Konroyd's post-season awards

I'm not one for award shows, so I'll keep this one brief. I'm handing outthree major awards for the Blackhawks and there was a stiff competition for each. Here arethe awards and the breakdown.MVP: Patrick SharpThis one looked like a lock for Jonathan Toews, until he went down on February 20th with concussion-like symptoms. So with almost a quarter of the season missed, I've got to give it to a guy who would have given Johnny a run for MVP even if the captain had been healthy all year. Patrick Sharp had a slow start to this season, by his standards, scoring onlyfive goals in his first 18 games. Once he shook the rust off, he was razor sharp, scoring 28 times in the next 57 games. Even an ugly wrist injury that kept him out forthree weeks didn't slow him down. Honorable mention to Marian Hossa who does what he always does, play among the elite.Best Defenceman: Brent SeabrookIt's hard to upstage a former Norris Trophy winning defenceman, but Seabrook did it this year. Duncan Keith came on strong the last half of the season, but from beginning to end, Brent Seabrook was a beast. Top 10 in the league in hits, top 12 in blocked shots, and top 20 in time on ice. His 21 was second best on the team. He also tied his career high withnine goals. Hard to believe he's only 26 years of age.Best Rookie: Andrew ShawThe Blackhawks saweight different rookies make it into the lineup this year and they were all very good and should have long careers with the this team. But none had more of an impact than Andrew Shaw. Taken in the 5th round in the 2011 draft, he scored in his very first NHL game, then addedfour more over his nextseven games. It's not just the numbers, it's the passion, the grit, the surprising skill and elusiveness when he has the puck that really makes you watch him.If you wantto see some old school hockey, take a picture of Andrew Shaw. And it just goes to show you, it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.

Saad Day: Blackhawks deal Artemi Panarin for familiar face

Saad Day: Blackhawks deal Artemi Panarin for familiar face

When the Blackhawks found Artemi Panarin, they found a talent who was NHL ready from the start, who found instant chemistry with Patrick Kane and earned a Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. It was also a tremendous panacea for a team that couldn’t pull off a deal to keep Brandon Saad, who was the power forward that fit in beautifully in the Blackhawks’ top six.

On Friday, the Blackhawks brought Saad back and dealt Panarin to do it.   

Saad returns to the Blackhawks, who also acquire goaltender Anton Forsberg, in exchange for Panarin and Tyler Motte. The Blackhawks also get the Blue Jackets’ fifth-round pick in the 2018 NHL draft and the Columbus gets Chicago’s sixth-round pick from this weekend’s draft. Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the deal. The Blackhawks inherit Saad’s deal, which has four years remaining at a $6 million cap hit. Panarin was about to enter his current deal, which is two years with a $6 million cap hit. This is key for the immediate future; when Panarin’s latest deal is up, if he keeps up at his current pace, he’ll likely sign for a lot more.

[MORE: Blackhawks deal Hjalmarsson to Arizona]

The Blackhawks have missed Saad terribly since his departure. The team has struggled to find consistent line mates with Jonathan Toews, especially at that left-wing position. They did fairly well with Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik flanking Toews this season but it wasn’t as strong as the Saad-Toews combination. So it looks like the Blackhawks’ top line will be solidified again.

Now, what about the second line? As good as Toews and Saad’s chemistry was, Panarin’s and Kane’s was dynamite. The two had their respective skill, which they flashed often, and their ability to read each other was evident from the start. The Blackhawks’ second line was as consistent and steady the past two seasons as the top line was during Saad’s time here.

So, there are changes. The Blackhawks will absolutely miss what Panarin brings. But as far as bringing back a former Blackhawks player who could help in the present, getting the 24-year-old Saad back will be very beneficial. 

Blackhawks pull off stunner, trade Niklas Hjalmarsson to Coyotes

Blackhawks pull off stunner, trade Niklas Hjalmarsson to Coyotes

Niklas Hjalmarsson has been part of the Blackhawks’ renaissance since the rebuild began in the mid-2000s, a longtime steady presence on the blue line who has had some clutch moments in the Blackhawks’ three Stanley Cup runs. But on Friday, the player with one of the Blackhawks’ best contracts was sent packing.

Hjalmarsson was traded to the Arizona Coyotes for defenseman Connor Murphy and center Laurent Dauphin on Friday morning. With Hjalmarsson, the Blackhawks give up a tremendous defenseman with a winning pedigree.

“Niklas’ contributions to the three Stanley Cup championship teams are well known but his dependability as a teammate, selfless attitude and the way he represented the Chicago Blackhawks on and off the ice are what made him such a beloved member of the organization,” said Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said in a statement. “He made his debut in Chicago in 2008 and quietly established himself as one of the toughest competitors in franchise history. We wish he and his family continued success.”

The 30-year-old defenseman has two years remaining on his current contract, which carries a $4.1 million cap hit. The 24-year-old Murphy has five years remaining on his current contract ($3.85 million cap hit). Dauphin is in the final year of his current entry-level contract ($745,000). According to CapFriendly, if Dauphin plays for the Rockford IceHogs this season, the Blackhawks can save $250,000 in cap space.

But this isn’t about money as much as the Blackhawks needing to get younger on defense. Murphy has played all four of his NHL seasons with the Coyotes. Last season he had two goals and 15 assists in 77 games.

Still, giving up Hjalmarsson is a tough one. Hjalmarsson has been a strong, steady presence for the Blackhawks. He once again led the team in blocked shots (181). Plenty of bumps, bruises and pain come with that job description but despite that, Hjalmarsson hasn’t missed much time. Since the 2012-13 season Hjalmarsson has missed just 12 games, and just four of those have been due to injury (suspected back injury last season).

The Blackhawks’ defense looked older and slower in their brief postseason run against the Nashville Predators, and they certainly have to start moving toward the future. But with Hjalmarsson playing at the level he has the past few seasons, his absence will hurt.