Tonight, the Blackhawks play the role as host for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. The fireworks have already started.
#Blackhawks acquire defensemen Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) June 23, 2017
By trading 30-year-old stay-at-home defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson who was on an incredibly team-friendly contract at $4.1 million per year, it signaled the general manager Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks were going to undergo some changes in identity.
By acquiring Connor Murphy from Arizona in the deal, the Blackhawks got younger, slightly cheaper, and a little more nasty on the blueline. Hjalmarsson was rock solid in seven full seasons and change for Chicago, but after two consecutive first-round exits in the postseason, Chicago was bound to retool the roster even though he played an integral role in three Cups.
I had said on our most recent episode of Go With The Flow that it was unlikely that the Hawks would deal Hammer considering his valuable contract and value to the club, so this was surprising, but the hockey world knew a shakeup in the Windy City of some sort was coming, but perhaps not him.
Minutes later, the second bombshell hit.
So full deal: Panarin, Motte and 6th Rd pick this year to Columbus for Saad, Forsberg and 5th Rd pick 2018
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 23, 2017
With Marian Hossa gone due to allergies for next season and possibly beyond, the Blackhawks relinquished one top-six forward. Bowman answered the bell minutes later by making a savvy hockey trade, bringing back old friend Brandon Saad back from Columbus. Saad won two Cups in 2013 and 2015 with Chicago playing a major role on the penalty kill and on the top line with Hossa and captain Jonathan Toews.
Saad is owed $6 million the next four seasons, while Artemi Panarin has two years left at the same price. A couple years from now, the former Caldery Trophy winner is going to command as much as $9 million on the open market in unrestricted free agency. The Blackhawks got Saad, 24, a two-way forward who is younger, cheaper, and extended longer than Panarin. Panarin underperformed in the postseason the past two seasons in first-round exits, so Chicago seems to be excited to bring back a key piece to two championships.
News then came that the Hawks could be looking to also replace the difference in offense the Blackhawks lose in the Panarin-for-Saad swap.
TJ Oshie being strongly considered to replace Panarin and play with Kane. May have to take less money. #Blackhawks will sell chance to win
— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) June 23, 2017
Oshie is poised for one more big contract and notched 33 goals last season. He’s not going to be cheap. With rumors Marcus Kruger could be on the move and Hossa’s contract being placed on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) – freeing his entire salary cap hit ($5.275 million) – a slight discount for a chance to earn his first championship could entice the former Olympic hero to join a juggernaut of a forward group that could have home-grown, budding talent Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman on the third line.