Marian Hossa announced Wednesday morning that he won’t be returning to the NHL for the 2017-2018 season due to a progressive skin condition that prevents him for playing. Many are quick to point out how “convenient” this seems to be for the Blackhawks and for Hossa. The Blackhawks are in cap hell; they were around $2.75 million over the cap when this announcement occurred. Also, Hossa’s contract drops down to $1 million after it’s been $7.9 million for seven years and down to $4 the past year. You can be cynical and think it’s all too convenient or that it’s a complete farce (which if it is, then why pick a skin condition? The NHL investigates and verifies these things so why not have it be a concussion, something that can be hard to test?) but it’s very likely Hossa thought that it was worth putting up with the pain and discomfort for $7.9 or $4 million a year. With his salary dropping this coming year, maybe he thinks his body and health isn’t worth the price. This explains why, even though he’s had the skin condition for a while, he’s choosing now to put his hockey career on hold indefinitely.
Trevor Van Riemsdyk
Trevor Van Riemsdyk was exposed and picked by the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday night during the expansion draft. This was not shocking and to be expected for fans and management, but what shocked many was Vegas flipping him along with a 2018 seventh-round pick to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for 2017’s 62nd overall pick. As many pointed out on social media, why didn’t the Blackhawks try to offer Carolina this deal? Why lose him for nothing to Vegas? The answer most obvious answer is that Carolina didn’t want to risk leaving him exposed for the draft as well.
Niklas Hjalmarsson was traded to the Arizona Coyotes for defensemen Connor Murphy and forward Laurent Dauphin. With the cap constraint and the many no movement clauses on the team, Marcus Kruger and Niklas Hjalmarsson (both have modified no trade clauses) seemed like the likely candidates for a trade. It’s been rumored for a while that Kruger will be traded. It’s all a matter of when, where, and for who. Hjalmarsson’s trade came as a bit of a surprise. He’s to make $4 million for two more years. It’s a huge loss for a team that’s already thin on quality defensemen. He puts a lot of wear and tear on his body, with blocking 181 shots in 73 games (sixth most in the league) this past year and playing routinely playing in such a risky manner, it could be very possible that his hockey career won’t last long. He was a vital part of the Blackhawks and would have been for the short-term, but in the long-term it could be very likely that, not only will his next contract demand a significant pay raise, but his time could also be cut short due to injuries.
Artemi Panarin was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets along with forward Tyler Motte and a 2017 sixth-round pick for forward Brandon Saad, goalie Anton Forsberg, and a 2018 fifth-round pick. Trading Panarin for Saad works well for the Blackhawks long-term. They are both due to make $6 million this upcoming year; Panarin will make $6 million for two years while Saad will make the same for four. If Panarin remained a Blackhawk, it’s highly likely that the team would not have been able to afford to resign him in two years. If the Blackhawks wait and try to trade him closer to the end of his contract, the return on the trade will not be as attractive as this one.
The trade also works in terms of skill set. While Panarin is a scoring forward, Saad is capable of playing a two-way game. He’s also a great special teams player, something Panarin lacks. This can be essential to the Blackhawks who spent the past season trying to crawl up from a below-50% penalty kill. With a seemingly weakened D-corp, Saad’s skill set will be necessary.
Another aspect to the trade is familiarity. It’s been pointed out that while Patrick Kane can play with just about anyone and have a successful season, Jonathan Toews does not have the same luxury. His best seasons to date were with Brandon Saad on his wing. During the two years Saad was gone, Toews’ numbers dropped, partly due to his constantly rotating linemates. The Blackhawks spent two years looking for a LW to complement Toews and essentially replace Saad. Who knew the answer would be so simple?
For many years, it seemed like Blackhawks GM, Stan Bowman, looked at things short-term, always in the “win now” mindset. These recent trades finally seem to show that it’s possible to think “win now” and also “win later.”