Teuvo Teravainen didn’t have dinner in Chicago with any old teammates Wednesday night. He hasn’t really exchanged too many texts with Blackhawks players recently. He didn’t even bother to walk past the home dressing room at the United Center to see his name etched into the wall as a 2015 Stanley Cup champion.
Heck, he’s got about as many former teammates on his current team, the Carolina Hurricanes, as he has left in Chicago.
“It’s kind of weird,” Teravainen said. “It’s such a different team they have right now. They lost a lot of their pieces.”
Teravainen is one of those pieces, and one of the most significant. The Hawks used him as a sweetener in order to get the Hurricanes to take Bryan Bickell’s $4 million cap hit off their books. In hindsight, it was an awful deal. The Hawks didn’t make it out of the first round that next year, so the cap savings didn’t help enough. Teravainen, meanwhile, has blossomed into Carolina’s top scorer, with 19 goals and 34 assists in 68 games. And he’s doing it on a perfectly manageable two-year contract with a $2.86 million cap hit. He’s also just 23.
Once (unfairly, perhaps) dubbed the Finnish Patrick Kane, Teravainen has gotten better every year. After posting 13 goals and 35 points for the Hawks in 2015-16, he had 15 goals and 42 points last season. It helps that he’s a top-six player for the Hurricanes; he was largely a depth scorer for the Hawks.
“It’s always been a process with me, and it takes a little time,” Teravainen said. “But this is another year, and I’m taking another step further. We’ll see how far it goes. . . . It’s a little different, of course. Here, you don’t have to play behind Kane and [Jonathan] Toews and those guys, so you get a little bit more of a chance to be out there and do your thing.”
Teravainen did his thing Thursday night, getting the primary assist on the game-winning goal in the Hurricanes’ 3-2 victory. His rising shot was deflected by Sebastian Aho past J-F Berube (37 saves) for a power-play goal early in the third period. Tomas Jurco and Patrick Sharp had the goals for the Hawks, who were outshot 40-22.
Teravainen is just one of many cap casualties over the years for the Hawks, who could build an All-Star team with the guys they’ve traded away. In fact, two other players who would have come in handy this season were also wearing Hurricanes jerseys — defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk and goaltender Scott Darling.
Darling played himself out of Chicago, certainly earning a chance to be a No. 1 goalie and make No. 1 goalie money. It hasn’t worked out very well so far.
After signing a four-year deal with a $4.15 million cap hit, Darling is last in the league among goalies with more than 15 starts with a dreadful .889 save percentage. He started against the Hawks but has lost the No. 1 job to Cam Ward, whom he was supposed to replace.
Darling said “it hasn’t been ideal,” but he made a modest 20 saves for a win he’s sure to savor. Teravainen remembers how good Darling was in the first round of the 2015 playoffs against the Nashville Predators, so he believes he’ll come around.
“He can be better,” Teravainen said. “But at the same time, when he finds that level, he’ll still be a really good goalie. It’s just confidence with him.”
The Hawks could use some confidence these days. They also could use a versatile two-way forward who can score 20 to 25 goals every year. But as Teravainen said, “It’s business.”
“He’s still a very young player,” Kane said. “He’s one of those guys that has a lot of potential to do some big things in this league. . . . It was kind of another cap casualty, but it’s good to see him doing well.”
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