What to make of Blackhawks blockbuster deals

What to make of Blackhawks blockbuster deals

Before the clock struck noon on a day Chicago was hosting its first ever NHL Draft, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman sent shockwaves throughout the city and hockey world by completing a pair of blockbuster trades within an hour of each other.

The first was dealing three-time Stanley Cup-winning defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to Arizona, and the second involving Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad in a swap of talented wingers with Columbus.

This comes two days after the Blackhawks announced Marian Hossa will miss the 2017-18 campaign with a progressive skin disorder. That's three core players gone in the blink of an eye.

Who's ready for a new era in Chicago?

Rather than maximizing a championship window that was viewed as closing quickly, Bowman has elected to take a long-term approach and it might not be the worst idea.

There's no doubt the loss of Hjalmarsson, who remains one of the most underrated blue liners in the league, and Panarin, who finished in the top-10 in scoring among forwards in both of his first two NHL seasons, will sting.

But there's a good chance the Blackhawks wouldn't have been able to reward them with the pay raises they deserve after their contracts expire following the 2018-19 season, and that certainly played a huge role in the decision to head in a new direction.

In reacquiring Saad, the Blackhawks finally give Jonathan Toews that reliable left-winger they've desperately lacked since Saad was shipped out of town in 2015, providing balance throughout the top-six. Saad is also locked up for the next four years at a $6 million cap hit that will look better as time goes by.

For the last two years, the Blackhawks were known as a one-line scoring team thanks to the chemistry developed between Patrick Kane and Panarin.

The second-half emergence of Nick Schmaltz and familiarity Kane has developed with center Artem Anisimov has allowed Panarin to become expendable in their quest to solve their top-line woes. And that's not a bad consolation line, especially when you consider top prospect Alex DeBrincat could also be in the cards as early as this season.

On the back end, the Blackhawks receive a 24-year-old defenseman in Connor Murphy, who's also signed for the next four years at a $3.85 million cap hit, and carries a right-handed shot, something they've needed more of in the organization. While there will certainly be growing pains under Joel Quenneville, Murphy's ceiling is fairly high and gives the Blackhawks some speed coming out of their own zone.

In making both of these deals, the Blackhawks got younger in their attempt to keep up with a league that relies more on speed, addressing a few areas that Nashville exposed during their first-round sweep of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs.

And while they may have sacrificed two key players in the short-term, the Blackhawks executed a plan that should keep the perceived championship window open longer than expected.

Blackhawks release lists of protected and unprotected players ahead of NHL's expansion draft

Blackhawks release lists of protected and unprotected players ahead of NHL's expansion draft

The list of Blackhawks protected from the expansion draft was revealed Sunday morning, and it comes as no surprise that there weren’t really any surprises on it.

The Blackhawks went the 7-3-1 route with their protected players:

Jonathan Toews
Patrick Kane
Marian Hossa
Artem Anisimov
Richard Panik
Ryan Hartman
Tomas Jurco
Brent Seabrook
Duncan Keith
Niklas Hjalmarsson
Corey Crawford

When it came to protected players, much of the Blackhawks’ situation was easy to figure out due to their contract situations. Any player with a current/continuing no-movement clause was exempt, and eight of the Blackhawks’ 11 protected players have one (Toews, Kane, Hossa, Anisimov, Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson and Crawford).

Hartman is coming off a great rookie season during which he recorded 19 goals and 12 assists, and considering that work the Blackhawks were going to do what was necessary to protect him. They also wanted to protect Panik, whose new two-year deal ($2.8 million cap hit per season) kicks in this fall. Panik set career highs in goals (22), assists (22) and points (44) last season.

As for Jurco, when the Blackhawks acquired him in February, general manager Stan Bowman said, “We’ll be patient with him, but we really think there’s a good fit there, looking at his skills and the style of hockey we play.” Jurco was in and out of the lineup as the regular season ended and did not play in the Blackhawks’ four playoff games.

Artemi Panarin, by the way, was exempt from expansion draft exposure. The same goes for Nick Schmaltz.

Those Blackhawks exposed to the expansion draft include forwards Marcus Kruger, Jordin Tootoo, defensemen Trevor van Riemsdyk and Michal Rozsival and goaltender Jeff Glass.

Frank Seravalli of TSN reported weeks ago that it’s possible the Vegas Golden Knights end up with both Kruger and van Riemsdyk.

Blackhawks announce 2017 preseason schedule, which includes Columbus and Boston

Blackhawks announce 2017 preseason schedule, which includes Columbus and Boston

Columbus and Boston are new additions to the Blackhawks' preseason schedule, which the team announced on Thursday morning.

They'll also make their first trip to the new Little Caesar's Arena in Detroit when they face the Red Wings on Sept. 28. The Blackhawks host Detroit in Sept. 21.

The Blackhawks will open their preseason schedule in Columbus on Sept. 19, hosting the Blue Jackets on Sept. 23. They'll travel to Boston on Sept. 25 and then host the Bruins on Sept. 30.