Stan Bowman promised change in the wake of a first-round sweep at the hands of the Nashville Predators, and change came in a big way on Friday, as the Blackhawks dealt Artemi Panarin to Columbus to bring Brandon Saad back to Chicago, and shipped three-time Stanley Cup champion Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes for a pair of younger players.
Two days after announcing that Marian Hossa will not play next year, and perhaps ever again, the Hawks dramatically reshaped their roster, getting younger and gaining some long-term cost certainty. For Hjalmarsson, the Hawks received defenseman Connor Murphy and forward Laurent Dauphin. Tyler Motte and a sixth-round pick this year are also headed to Columbus, while the Hawks will get goalie prospect Anton Forsberg and a fifth-rounder next year.
The Hawks have been trying to fill the void left on Jonathan Toews’ line by the trade Brandon Saad to Columbus two years ago, and his return instantly solves that problem. Saad has the same cap hit as Artemi Panarin ($6 million) but is younger and is signed through 2021. Panarin and Kane were dynamic together, with Kane winning the scoring title and the Hart Trophy in Panarin’s rookie year (in which Panarin won the Calder), but Saad’s absence loomed large the last two seasons. Saad scored 55 goals over the past two seasons with the Blue Jackets, Panarin had 61 with the Hawks. But Saad is a more complete player, a two-way standout who drew instant comparisons to Hossa as a rookie in 2013. And he’s signed long term, while Panarin surely will be seeking a massive contract in two years.
“We thank Artemi for the immediate impact he made on our lineup during his seamless transition to the NHL,” Bowman said in a release. “His rookie year will always rank among the best in franchise history and his exciting style of play provided many memorable moments for our fans during his two seasons as a member of the team. Tyler has a bright future in this league and we appreciate his contributions and hard work he put in. We wish them both success in Columbus.”
“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 GM 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.”
Overshadowed by the blockbuster deal that came minutes after it, the Hjalmarsson deal sees another member of the Hawks’ vaunted core leaving. Hjalmarsson was the Hawks’ best defensive defenseman, a shot-blocker with what Joel Quenneville always deemed a warrior’s mentality. Murphy’s cap hit of $3.85 million is comparable to Hjalmarsson’s $4.1 million, so the Hawks don’t save much money on the deal. But Murphy, a stay-at-home defenseman with little offensive upside, like Hjalmarsson, is younger and signed through 2021-22.
“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,” Hawks general manager Stan Bowman said in a release. “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.”
Hjalmarsson, 30, has played his entire 10-year career in Chicago and was a member of three Stanley Cup-champion teams (2010, 2013 and 2015). In 623 career games, he has scored 23 goals and added 120 assists. Last season, Hjalmarsson appeared in 73 games and scored 18 points (5 goals and 13 assists). He holds the franchise record for most playoff games played by a defenseman (128) and has two career goals and 26 assists in postseason play.
Murphy, 24, recently completed his fourth season in the NHL— all as a member of the Coyotes. Last season, he had two goals and a career-high 15 assists in 77 games.
Dauphin, 22, has played 32 career games in the NHL over the last two seasons with Arizona, scoring three goals and one assist. Last season, he split time between Arizona and the Tucson Roadrunners of the American Hockey League. With the Coyotes, he scored two goals and recorded an assist in 24 games and had 28 points (17 goals and 11 assists) in 38 games with the Roadrunners.