Nobody wanted Tomas Fleischmann. Nobody wanted a 31-year-old winger coming off an eight-goal season, a guy who was traded late in the season and was just a bit player in the Anaheim Ducks’ postseason run, a guy who made $4.5 million a year in his last contract.
So despite being a two-time 20-goal scorer, Fleischmann resorted to signing a professional tryout contract with the Montreal Canadiens in summer, usually the last resort for aging veterans clinging to their fading NHL careers.
Well, Fleischmann should have no such problems this summer.
“I think he’s opened a lot of eyes at how skilled he is,” Patrick Kane said. “You can see the skill. Very patient with the puck. He can make plays that not a lot of guys can make in this league, and he’s confident with it, too. Pretty good pickup.”
Yeah, pretty good. While Andrew Ladd was the Hawks’ big trade-deadline splash, and Dale Weise was the bigger name in the deal that brought him and Fleischmann to Chicago, Fleischmann has been the most impressive Blackhawks newcomer. He has three goals and an assist in nine games with the Hawks, and has developed instant chemistry with center Teuvo Teravainen.
And it’s not just that Fleischmann is scoring. It’s how he’s scoring.
In Boston, he took a deft pass from Teravainen and snapped a shot past Tuukka Rask. In Dallas, he skated through three Stars and turned Jason Spezza inside out before sniping a shot on the far side. And in Winnipeg on Friday night, he faked a shot, got Ondrej Pavelec to bite, and made a slick move around him for a goal.
It’s the kind of skill that made him a 27-goal scorer with the Florida Panthers in 2011-12, when he was skating on a line with Kris Versteeg. And it’s the kind of skill that thrives in the Hawks system.
“It does open up my game a little bit,” Fleischmann said. “I really like [playing with Teravainen]. He’s a pretty smart centerman, so he can make a nice play in the middle and in tight areas, too. It’s fun giving-and-going with him. It’s what I like, and it’s working so far.”
Fleischmann has made himself useful in other ways, too, joining the Hawks’ penalty-kill rotation, and faring well in the team’s third-line role — a hybrid of scoring line and checking line. Now with his former Montreal linemate Dale Weise on his line, the Hawks have a third line that’s effective at both ends of the ice.
“I like him a lot,” Joel Quenneville said of Fleischmann. “He’s very useful — penalty killing, thinks the game well. He has really good patience and play recognition. He’s got some nice finish, like we saw [Friday]. He’s done a lot of good things.”
Fleischmann’s addition has Teravainen playing his best hockey of the season, too. Freed up from an ill-fitting role on the wing of a defensive-minded line, Teravainen is back at center with a pair of offensive-minded linemates. Since the trade, Teravainen has a goal and five assists. He’s having more fun, too.
“Yeah, it’s been nice,” Teravainen said. “I get the puck a lot, and I’m happy when I get the puck and can make plays and get my game going. It’s been working pretty good. It’s been more fun lately.”
It’s been a nomadic career for Fleischmann, who is on his sixth team in less than six years. He doesn’t know where he’ll be next season, but he knows he likes it in Chicago, and he knows Chicago likes him.
“There was no transition, really, nothing special about this change,” he said. “I felt comfortable here the first practice. The guys and coaches made me feel at home, you know? It was a pretty warm welcome, and that makes me feel better in the game, too. I’m just playing my hockey and trying to read the game. And that’s easy.”