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Draft notebook: Blackhawks unload John Hayden’s contract in trade with Devils

In return, the Hawks received John Quenneville, the cousin of their former coach.

Hayden departs Chicago after getting only five points in 54 games last season.
AP

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Blackhawks and Devils swapped depth forwards in a minor draft-day trade Saturday.

The Hawks sent John Hayden to New Jersey for John Quenneville. The two are similar players.

Quenneville, 23, has five points in 33 career NHL games over three seasons, though he was very productive in the AHL last season (39 points in 37 appearances). He’s the cousin of beloved former Hawks coach Joel Quenneville.

Hayden, 24, broke through from taxi-squad shuffler to full-time NHL-er last season, playing 54 games with the Hawks, but had only five points. At 6-3 with a big frame, he struggled to fit into coach Jeremy Colliton’s system because of his slow skating.

“It’s one of those, I guess, change-of-scenery-type moves,” general manager Stan Bowman said. “Both players were probably looking for a better opportunity, and hopefully it will work out for both guys.”

The main benefit for the Hawks is the difference in the contracts.

Hayden has another year left on a one-way contract entering 2019-20; Quenneville is a restricted free agent after just finishing his entry-level deal.

The Hawks can leave Quenneville unqualified, letting him walk as an unrestricted free agent to free up another slot under the 50-contract limit, or sign him to a two-way deal and give him a shot in training camp, with Rockford a viable option.

Bowman said his current plan is to sign Quenneville. Either way, the flexibility could be quietly valuable as the Hawks continue with what is expected to be a very busy offseason.

Area prospects selected

In addition to Island Lake’s Alex Turcotte going fifth to the Kings and Wilmette’s Alex Vlasic landing in the Hawks’ lap at No. 43, several other players with local connections were chosen during the weekend.

Most are products of the Chicago Steel USHL program, which plays home games at Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva during the season.

Among Steel players, Robert Mastrosimone and Jackson LaCombe went in the second round to the Red Wings and Ducks, respectively; Nicholas Abruzzese was picked by the Maple Leafs in the fourth round; and Jake Schmaltz — brother of Nick — fell to the Bruins in the seventh round.

Chicago Steel product Robert Mastrosimone was picked in the second round by Detroit.
Getty Images

In the fifth round, the Ducks nabbed Trevor Janicke, who spent this past season in Bloomington, Illinois, with the USHL’s Central Illinois Flying Aces.

Technically hailing from Naperville, Owen Lindmark, who has a fascinating life story, was selected by the Panthers in the fifth round.

Salary cap finally set

After weeks of uncertainty surrounding the NHL’s salary cap for the 2019-20 season, a set number of $81.5 million was officially disclosed at the conclusion of the draft.

That number is significantly less than the $83 million once believed to be the likely cap.

The lack of a concrete number kept player trades at a minimum throughout the draft, but the announcement — combined with the unexpected strictness — likely will stimulate the trade market over the coming week.

According to CapFriendly, the Hawks have roughly $16.5 million in cap space to work with, the most the team has had entering an offseason in years. Still, Bowman seems hesitant to spend too liberally this summer.

“For next season, we’re in a better place than most teams,” he said. “After that, it’s hard to say because we don’t know what the cap will be a year from now, and we’ve got a couple of players that are going graduate to new contracts. . . . Not a lot of free agents take one-year contracts, so that’s the thing.”