From Comcast SportsNetPORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Paul Allen insists he's not going to sell the Portland Trail Blazers, but says this season is the most disappointing he's had in 24 years as the team's owner.The billionaire co-founder of Microsoft posted an open letter to fans on the Blazers' team website on Tuesday evening. In it, he reiterated what he's said all season long, that the team is not for sale."I'm working hard to get this team back on track," he wrote. "No offers have been made to buy the team and none have been solicited."The Blazers wrapped up the lockout-shortened season 28-38 and out of the playoffs. Portland is operating with an interim general manager and is looking for a head coach -- but the team has also collected up to four picks in the upcoming NBA draft and has freed up considerable cap space for free agency.Allen said he will be financially sensible with the moves the team makes."One thing we are not going to do is to spend money like there is no tomorrow, and calls to do so just don't make sense," Allen said. "I've tried that path before -- it doesn't work and is not sustainable. We will follow a judicious and sustainable path going forward."When the Blazers opened training camp in December, they were hit with bad news. All-Star guard Brandon Roy announced his retirement because of ongoing issues with his knees, former No. 1 draft pick Greg Oden had suffered another setback with his knees, and forward LaMarcus Aldridge needed a procedure to treat a heart condition.Portland answered by signing free agent Jamal Crawford and making some other moves before Aldridge returned and the team got off to a fast start. But soon losses started to mount, and at the trade deadline the Blazers dismissed respected head coach Nate McMillan. The Blazers also traded starters Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace, and waived Oden after five disappointing seasons."These things happen in sports. Injuries are part of the game. Sometimes you have bad luck. But as the 2011-2012 season played out, I was asking myself the same question I know a lot of you were asking: What happened to a season that had such promise?" Allen wrote. "There are no easy answers for that."Allen confirmed he has interviewed one candidate for the general manager's position personally. President Larry Miller said recently that acting GM Chad Buchanan would be considered."We're moving forward thoughtfully because we must ensure we have the right fit," Allen said. "Ideally, we'd like to have someone in place before the draft and before we decide on a permanent coach, but finding the right executive may take time."
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.
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.
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.