Brandon Pirri was enjoying a golf outing Monday when his phone buzzed.
It turned out to be an important call: he’d been traded from the Golden Knights to the Blackhawks.
The trade was perfect for many reasons. It gave him another opportunity to earn an NHL job after his time in the Vegas organization fizzled. It allowed he and his pregnant wife to stay permanently in their offseason Chicago home. It reunited him with the team that drafted him in 2009 and employed him for the first four years of his pro career.
But the trade was also incredibly, almost unbelievably, fitting for one reason: his three golf partners Monday were Jeremy Morin, Adam Clendening and Terry Broadhurst.
“All three of those guys have done two stints with the Hawks organization,” Pirri said Tuesday. “It was kind of fitting I was with those guys when I got the call.”
Indeed, Morin spent six years in the Hawks’ system, including a weird stretch where he was traded to the Blue Jackets in December 2014 and reacquired in June 2015 (the latter being the Brandon Saad trade, who was also later reacquired in June 2017).
Clendening spent his first three seasons in the Hawks organization, was traded to the Canucks in January 2015 and then reacquired from the Coyotes in January 2018. Broadhurst played with the Rockford IceHogs from 2011 to 2014 and again in 2018-19.
Only in a Stan Bowman-led organization would such a crazy phenomenon ever occur.
The Hawks general manager’s affinity for retreads has become well known around the hockey world and a frequent joke among Hawks fans.
At this point, it’s pretty clearly correct, too: the list of two-time Hawks players during the last decade alone includes big names (Saad, Andrew Shaw, Patrick Sharp), role players (Marcus Kruger, Kris Versteeg) and depth pieces alike.
Just last week, defenseman Cody Franson — who made 60 appearances for the Hawks and IceHogs in 2017-18 — signed a new AHL contract with Rockford after two years in Russia. Bowman didn’t personally sign that contract, but the move exemplifies the custom he’s set for the organization.
It’s not necessarily a bad habit.
Firstly, the Hawks certainly had a pretty good culture of winning during many of these retreads’ first stints — a winning culture that produced three Stanley Cups.
As the franchise seeks to get back to that level of success, infusing the depth chart with players groomed by that old culture seems worth a try.
Secondly, the hope is that the retreads will be better players during their second time through.
At least that’s the hope with Pirri, who has grown from an AHL prospect who couldn’t break through in 2014 into a decent if unremarkable NHL depth forward in 2020.
“The last time around, I was a kid. This time, I have two kids,” Pirri said. “I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs, lots of teams, lots of good veterans and teammates along the way that have [helped me] pick and choose the type of player and person I want to be. I really think I’ve figured out what kind of player I am and how I can contribute in the NHL.”
And even if Pirri and the others aren’t better during round two — and there’s no denying that many, such as Shaw, Kruger and Johnny Oduya, did not prove to be — Bowman’s preference for turning to familiar commodities instead of unknowns makes sense.
It’s the players he traded prematurely (Teuvo Teravainen and Philip Danault notably) that create the biggest stains on his GM tenure, not the players he brought back a second time.
Plus, if nothing else, the Hawks’ retread habits always make for great stories on the golf course.