Maybe he didn’t shoot the puck enough. Maybe there wasn’t enough production to go with the speed and skill.
Nick Schmaltz’s time with the Blackhawks has ended. The team traded the 22-year-old forward — once considered a key building block for the future — to the Coyotes on Sunday, announcing the deal late in the evening. The Hawks received center Dylan Strome and winger Brendan Perlini.
Strome, 21, is a 6-3 center who was picked No. 3 overall in the 2015 NHL draft. He was coming off a scoring title in the Ontario Hockey League, though his transition to the NHL has been less than seamless. He has three goals and three assists this season, and seven goals and nine assists in 47 career games. Strome played with Hawks winger Alex DeBrincat in the OHL.
Perlini, 22, has scored twice and assisted on four goals this season. The No. 12 pick in 2014 — Schmaltz went 20th — he showed promise in Arizona, scoring 30 times in 131 games in his first two seasons.
Both players’ contracts have an annual average value of $863,333. Strome’s runs through the 2019-20 season and Perlini’s through 2018-19.
Schmaltz, 22, was off to a slow start on a Hawks team in transition. He had two goals and nine assists, but he was unable to lock down a steady spot in new coach Jeremy Colliton’s lineup. Colliton tried moving Schmaltz to Jonathan Toews’ top line, but since he has gone with Brandon Saad in a combination with Toews and Patrick Kane that has been productive.
Schmaltz played left wing on the No. 2 line in Saturday’s 5-4 overtime victory against the Panthers, his days as a Hawks center seemingly in the distant past.
A recurring theme this season was Schmaltz’s apparent reticence when it came to shooting the puck. He scored 29 times in 162 games with the Hawks, and the prevailing feeling was that the former number could’ve been higher.
“I should get more chances,” he said after being put on the top line with Toews and Kane. “I want to score goals, obviously. I’ll take the opportunities that are there.”
It didn’t work out, though, and now the Hawks — and general manager Stan Bowman, in particular — will find out if Schmaltz becomes another one who got away.
Meanwhile, Bowman’s penchant for dealing with the Coyotes gains another chapter. The 2017 offseason trade of Niklas Hjalmarsson, which brought defenseman Connor Murphy to Chicago, hasn’t looked great as Murphy has been shelved with a back injury and the Hawks have struggled to find six worthy defensemen. Hjalmarsson was a favorite of longtime coach Joel Quenneville, who was fired early this month.
The Hawks also sent Marian Hossa’s contract, plus promising winger Vinnie Hinostroza and defenseman Jordan Oesterle, to Arizona in the 2018 offseason trade that brought forward Marcus Kruger back to town.
NOTE: The Hawks reassigned forward Luke Johnson to Rockford. Johnson had one assist in 13 games with the Hawks. The team didn’t announce a corresponding roster move.