First, the club traded Artemi Panarin – who won the Calder Trophy ahead of Connor McDavid – to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Brandon Saad. This move had salary in mind, as general manager Stan Bowman would’ve had to follow Panarin’s current $12 million bridge deal with something even better.
That is the cost of shelling out the bread for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, of course. Choices must be made.
Another choice was made when Chicago dealt defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin.
Was this what Bowman meant when he said changes were coming after the Blackhawks were swept out of the first round of the playoffs?
“This is a day of highs and lows,” Bowman said on Friday. “There’s some tougher conversations, but there’s also…we’re moving ahead, we’re excited about what we have coming in.”
While the Blackhawks took home the Central Division and finished the regular season with the most points in the Western Conference, the Nashville sweep hurt and Chicago bought just three goals in the entire series.
Bowman took to the off-season with aplomb, clearing house on head coach Joel Quenneville’s staff and replacing the minor league affiliate coach. And now he’s been taking his approach further.
It was enough to make Quenneville leave a coaches’ meeting and ditch the Friday draft at the United Center.
By Saturday, he seemed to have cooled off. “My motivation is I want to be better and I want to try to win. But I think Stan’s motivation is a longer-term look to it,” Quenneville said.
That certainly seems to be the case, as Bowman has salary issues to look at and wants to table a team that could return more than a few Cups to the Windy City.
But man, the shakeup is painful – especially when you factor in the news that Marian Hossa is set to miss the season.
“Everyone’s kind of shocked,” captain Toews said. “I could sit here and go on and on about Hammer and Hoss and just the character and personality they brought to our team. What they’ve proven in the hockey world. But what matters most is what they’ve proven to their teammates.”
While one could make the argument that Bowman’s moves have helped the cap situation, one could also make the argument that his approach has done more harm than good. Losing Panarin could have a ripple effect on players like Kane, who blossomed skating next to the Bread Man. And while Toews did well beside Saad down the line, how do you put a price tag on Hjalmarsson?
This is hockey and this is how the game works, but you have to wonder what’s going on in Chicago these days. Losing Hjalmarsson and Hossa in one swing is never going to be an easy pill to swallow, especially given the relatively low ROI.