Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook aren’t just the Blackhawks’ alternate captains. They’re apparently the alternate general managers, too. The signing of veteran enforcer Jordin Tootoo this summer was initiated by the Hawks’ defensemen, who recruited him and turned GM Stan Bowman onto him.
Keith, Seabrook and Tootoo all live in Kelowna, British Columbia, and the Hawks were in Tootoo’s ear at the gym, on the golf course, and on the lake.
“First and foremost he’s a good teammate,” Keith said. “He’s a good guy to have in the locker room, and the energy that he brings — I know playing against him, I don’t like going back for pucks when he’s on the ice. You always have to be aware when he’s on the ice because he’s going to finish every hit. I think it was a great addition to have him [and add] some physicality. I know the fans in Chicago like seeing big hits at the United Center and I know he’s going to bring that intensity.”
While he fought nine times last season and 86 times in his career, Tootoo also scored 10 goals two years ago with the New Jersey Devils. He had four goals and five assists in 66 games last season.
“I know what my foundation is, and that’s being a physical presence out there,” Tootoo said. “I can skate and I’ve been doing this a lot of years. I know what my role is. At the same time, I can play the game. I think in this day and age, in order to stay in the league, you’ve got to adjust to whatever you can do. But my foundation is being physical and hard on pucks and doing all the dirty work.”
Tootoo thinks he can help fill the void left by Andrew Shaw, who was traded to Montreal at the draft last month.
“Every team needs a little spark plug,” Tootoo said. “I’ve been around the game a lot of years now, and I just want to add that little piece. And hopefully we can bring the Cup back here.”
Reigning rookie of the year Artemi Panarin became eligible for a contract extension as of July 1. But with a year left on his current deal, there’s been no rush to extend him. Bowman said he wouldn’t discuss any dialogue he’s had with Panarin’s agent, Tom Lynn, in the press.
“When we have something to announce,” Bowman said, “you’ll be the first to know.”
Friday was the final day of prospects camp, with the upper-tier prospects playing a spirited scrimmage at Johnny’s IceHouse West. Team White beat Team Red 6-4, with Vinnie Hinostroza scoring twice, and Tanner Kero and Tyler Motte among the other goal-scorers.
Bowman suggested that the Hawks were unlikely to sign any more veterans in free agency, meaning a handful of prospects will get significant time in the NHL right away.
“I’m very comfortable with that,” said Joel Quenneville, who singled out Hinostroza as having a particularly good camp. “To me, it doesn’t matter how old they are. … We know everyone’s growth is different. We can’t forecast the number of players [who will make the team], but some of these guys can take that next step where they become established players. I still think there’s going to be a lot of competition. It’ll sort itself out.”