ESPN/ABC analyst Ray Ferraro identifies start of Blackhawks’ descent, what they must do next

Ferraro will call the Blackhawks-Flyers game Saturday on ABC with play-by-play voice Sean McDonough and reporter Emily Kaplan.

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Sean McDonough and Ray Ferraro will call the Blackhawks’ game Saturday in Philadelphia.

Scott Clarke/ESPN Images

Ray Ferraro can pinpoint where the Blackhawks’ recent dominance began to turn.

“It started when they got slaughtered in that series against Nashville,” said Ferraro, who was a TV analyst for Games 3 and 4 of that 2017 playoff series, which the Predators swept. “They looked slower, smaller, not as strong, they looked old, even though they might not have been. And there was a reaction that precipitated some of the player movement.”

With former general manager Stan Bowman in charge, one of those moves was trading Artemi Panarin to the Blue Jackets in a deal for retread Brandon Saad. Panarin, now with the Rangers, is in the top 15 in the NHL in points this season, and Saad is in St. Louis.

“That’s a swing and a miss,” Ferraro said.

Ferraro will get a look at some other misses Saturday, when he calls the Hawks-Flyers game on ABC with play-by-play voice Sean McDonough and reporter Emily Kaplan. The broadcast will be accompanied on ESPN+ by an “IceCast,” which will feature cameras above the ice behind the nets to show how plays develop. Viewers will hear the same commentators.

Ferraro, ESPN/ABC’s lead analyst, continued his dissection of the Hawks’ downfall, noting former defenseman Brent Seabrook’s albatross of a contract, which paled in comparison to his production. Ferraro also said the Hawks failed to transition out of a win-now mode to a build-now mode, and those efforts proved costly.

“You blow out all your prospects and all your draft picks trying to stay in that position,” he said. “They don’t have any prospects.”

That’s where Ferraro thinks new general manager Kyle Davidson must focus first as he rebuilds the team. Ferraro said it’s imperative that the Hawks recoup the first-round pick they traded to the Jackets in the deal for defenseman Seth Jones and repopulate their prospect pool.

They can aid that effort by moving key unrestricted free agents-to-be, such as goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, defenseman Calvin de Haan and forward Dominik Kubalik. Ferraro said he’d even look to move Jones, whose eight-year, $76 million deal starts next season.

“How are you going to rebuild with a $9.5 million contract?” Ferraro said. “You’ve gotta take a hard look at the big-money contracts.”

That includes those of stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, whose deals count $10.5 million toward the salary cap and expire after next season.

“As players get older, loyalty cannot manifest itself in big-money, long-term contracts,” Ferraro said. “So if Kane and Toews are looking for four-year deals or whatever, I can only give one of them that, and it would be Kane.

“But what do you think the trade bounty for Kane is? He’s a difference-makers still. Toews is not. So are you looking at a grade-A prospect, a first and a second[-round pick]? You’re looking at a huge haul. Does that alienate all your fans? I don’t know. They gotta make that determination.”

Remote patrol

  • Loyola’s quarterfinal game against Bradley in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament will air at 2:30 p.m. Friday on NBC Sports Chicago. If the Ramblers win, they’ll play at 2:30 Saturday on CBS Sports Network. The championship game is at 1 Sunday on CBS.
  • For the Bulls-76ers game Monday, NBC Sports Chicago will partner with NBC Sports Philadelphia for a “BetCast” alternative broadcast on NBCSCH Plus. Host Sara Perlman will be joined by 76ers analyst Jim Lynam, Bulls analyst Kendall Gill and PointsBet head oddsmaker Jay Croucher.
  • Blackhawks TV voice Pat Foley is George Ofman’s next guest on the podcast “Tell Me A Story I Don’t Know.” The first of the two-part interview drops Tuesday.

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