The Chicago Blackhawks, who are being choked by the $75 million salary cap, have spent the past week changing the direction of their franchise after being swept in the first round by the Nashville Predators. With star forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews both owning $10.5 million salaries, the Hawks were forced to get creative and they did.
Earlier this week, the Blackhawks announced that Marian Hossa would miss the entire 2017-2018 season with a progressive skin disorder, saving the team $5.275 million.
On Friday before the NHL Draft began in the Hawks hometown, they made two massive transactions. First, the Hawks sent defenseman Nicklas Hjalmarsson ($4.1 million cap hit) to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for defenseman Connor Murphy and forward Laurent Dauphin.
The Hawks then sent Russian winger Artemi Panarin ($6M) and Tyler Motte to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for former Blackhawk Brandon Saad ($6M). The Blackhawks also acquired minor-league goaltender Anton Forsberg in the deal.
According to Blackhawks media, Chicago has not been the same without the 24-year-old Saad in the lineup.
Jonathan Toews hasn't been the same without Brandon Saad. Patrick Kane can still be highly productive without Artemi Panarin.
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) June 23, 2017
Kane had two seasons with Panarin and they lit up the reg season.
Toews had three seasons w/Saad & won the Cup twice.#Blackhawks
— Brian Hedger (@BrianHedger) June 23, 2017
The Blackhawks lost two major players, Hjalmarsson and Panarin, in the blockbuster deals. Hjalmarsson was a first-pairing defender, skating with Duncan Keith to end the season. He has been a big piece of the Blackhawks blue line since 2008.
“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,” Chicago Blackhawks Senior Vice President and 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.”
Meanwhile, Panarin, affectionately nicknamed The Bread Man, has been nearly a point-per-game player since coming over from the KHL in 2015. Playing with Patrick Kane on the second line, Panerin has tallied 151 points in 162 career NHL games, winning the Calder Memorial Trophy during his rookie season.
“Artemi Panarin was the best rookie in the NHL two years ago, a second team All-Star this past season and is one of the most dynamic offensive players in the NHL,” said Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen. “There is a cost to adding a player like Artemi, as well as a very good NHL prospect in Tyler Motte, but we believe this is a very good move for our team. We wish Brandon and Anton well and thank them for their contributions to our organization.”
Motte, a 22-year-old forward, split his 2016-2017 rookie season between the Hawks and their AHL affiliate the Rockford IceHogs. He finished the season with 7 points (4 goals, 3 assists) and was Chicago’s 121st pick in the 2013 draft. Forsberg, a 24-year-old goaltender, was Columbus’ 188th overall pick in the 2011 draft. In his 10 games with the Blue Jackets, Forsberg went 1-8-0 with a 4.02 goals-against average and .879 save percentage. Through his 126 AHL games, he posted a 73-35-10 record with a 2.22 goals-against average, .923 save percentage, and nine shutouts.
One other big trade was announced after the pair of Blackhawk deals. The New York Rangers sent Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to Arizona for Anthony DeAngelo and a 2017 first-round pick.
— NHL (@NHL) June 23, 2017
Photos: Jonathan Daniel