Breaking down the Blackhawks’ good, but painful trades

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CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 06: Ryan Johansen #19 of the Columbus Blue Jackets moves between Brandon Saad #20 (L) and Niklas Hjalmarsson #4 of the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on March 6, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Blue Jackets 6-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

by Scott King

Stan Bowman said there would be change following the Blackhawks’ very early exit in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, but no one thought there would be this much change.

Wednesday morning forward Marian Hossa and the Hawks announced Hossa and his 5.275 million dollar cap hit would miss the 2017-2018 season due to a “progressive skin disorder.”

Friday morning, mere hours before the Hawks and Chicago hosted its first ever NHL Draft, the team traded three-time Stanley Cup champion (2010, 2013, 2015) and fearless shot-blocking defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes for defenseman Connor Murphy and forward Laurent Dauphin.

Hjalmarsson spent the first ten years of his NHL career with the Hawks. The 30-year-old Swede scored 23 goals and grabbed 120 assists in 623 games with Chicago.

Murphy spent the last four seasons with the Coyotes. The 24-year-old blueliner tallied 13 goals and 36 assists in 258 career games. Dauphin has played in 32  NHL games over the last two seasons with Arizona. The 22-year-old Ohio native scored three goals and tallied one assist in that time.

Former Hawk and current Comcast SportsNet analyst Jamal Mayers knows you can’t replace Hjalmarsson, who Mayers won a Cup with in 2013, but thinks the Hawks won the trade.

“I played a long time, I played 15 years and there’s very few guys I would measure up to his toughness and his big game mentality and what he brought to the table,” Mayers said.

“It’s going to be very difficult, near impossible to replace a guy like that. But I do like Murphy and what he brings to the table. He’s a right-handed shot, he has similar attributes in that he kills penalties and he’s a defender first, makes a good first pass…  And he’s ten years younger. Father time catches up with everyone. I think it’s a smart hockey move if you take the emotion out of it.”

Soon after the splash of the Hjalmarsson trade subsided, Chicago traded superstar forward, and Patrick Kane linemate, Artemi Panarin to the Columbus Blue Jackets for forward Brandon Saad. Chicago also got goaltender Anton Forsberg and a fifth-round draft pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, but also gave up forward Tyler Motte and the Hawks’ sixth round (170th overall) in 2017.

Saad won two Stanley Cups with the Hawks (2013, 2015) before being traded following the 2014-2015 season.

“I like to see the glass as half full,” said Mayers of the Hawks losing Panarin. “At the end of the day, although it put Kane in an unbelievable position to win the Hart trophy, Panarin won rookie of the year, this team is about winning the silver trophy, the Stanley Cup. If Saad gives them a better opportunity to do that, that’s what they’re about. If that means that Kane doesn’t have as much success individually, I think he’d rather win the Stanley Cup as well.”

In examining today’s trades, it appears the Hawks want to be younger, especially on defense, and they want to get their captain, Jonathan Toews, going again. As Mayers was eluding to, Murphy is almost six years Hjalmarsson’s junior.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, who just became the first team to win back-to-back championships in the salary cap era, have a young and impressive defense.

Toews and Saad had spectacular chemistry when the two were on the Hawks top line together prior to Saad’s departure.

“It’s very exciting,” Saad said of being reunited with Toews on a conference call Friday. “He’s someone I actually talked to shortly after it happened.

“He’s a guy I’ve always kept in touch with, he’s been a great friend and to be reunited hopefully… You never know, but getting that chance to play back with him, he’s an incredible player and his resume speaks for itself.”

In the past, Patrick Kane has proven he can play, and even win a Stanley Cup, with just about anybody. The balance in the Hawks’ top six improved with the Saad and Panarin trade.”

Time will tell if Murphy or Dauphin can contribute enough to take away the pain of losing Hjalmarsson. Right now, it seems to have hit Hawks fans everywhere like a slapshot to the knee.

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