Blackhawks

Blackhawks acquire Andrew Ladd from Winnipeg in blockbuster deal

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Blackhawks acquire Andrew Ladd from Winnipeg in blockbuster deal

General manager Stan Bowman had been talking with Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff for quite some time now. The topic, of course, was Andrew Ladd.

“I talked to Chevy maybe a month ago and mentioned, if he ever gets to the point where he decided maybe he’d move Andrew, that we were definitely a team that wanted to bring him back,” Bowman recalled.

That time became Thursday night.

The Blackhawks acquired Ladd from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for Marko Dano, a first-round selection in the 2016 NHL draft as well as a conditional pick in the 2018 draft. The Jets will also retain 36 percent of Ladd’s salary, according to several reports. The Blackhawks also acquire forward Matt Fraser and defenseman Jay Harrison, who will report to the Rockford IceHogs.

It’ll be a nice reunion for Ladd, who’s familiar with the Blackhawks remaining from that 2010 Cup run. The Blackhawks gave up a decent package to get Ladd, but they obviously know what they get with him: a proven winner who can play in every situation.

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“He brings so much to the table. Just his competitiveness and he’s a very versatile player,” Bowman said. “Obviously he knows how to win; he’s won twice before in Carolina and Chicago. The big thing for us is just the familiarity that he has, not only with our coaching staff but also our players. I think he’s maintained a friendship with a number of our players, and that’s important. He’s a guy you want to go to war with and he knows what it’s like to be here with our group, and we’re really excited.”

Ladd knew the writing was on the wall a few weeks ago when the Jets re-signed Dustin Byfuglien to a long-term deal. There was a chance of Ladd also getting a new deal but Ladd said recently that his representative and the Jets hadn’t talked about that possibility since Christmas.

So now, he gets another chance with a team he knows well.

“Knowing I was probably going to end up being traded, I think Chicago was on the top of my list of places I wanted to be,” Ladd said via conference call on Thursday. “Just the familiarity of the organization and guys already on the team, it just made it an easy transition for me regardless of who I get a chance to play with. You’re going to a team that can win the Cup, and that’s always an exciting prospect for anyone.”

The Blackhawks were looking for a left wing that could play on that top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa (who is currently out with a lower-body injury). Andrew Shaw has played there for a while now. But as coach Joel Quenneville said following Thursday’s 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators, “there’s a real nice spot on that left side with Jonny and Hoss, and looks like he’ll fit in perfectly there.”

Asked about possibly joining Toews and Hossa, Ladd said, “I think I could play a pretty simple style of hockey. I know their games pretty well and they’re obviously great two-way players,” Ladd said. “I should fit in well with that mold: play a solid two-way game, to be able to chip in physically, make some room for them and bring some offense to that table as well.”

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According to generalfanager.com, the Blackhawks will have $1.48 million of cap space on deadline day. The trade deadline is 2 p.m. on Monday. Will the Blackhawks make any more moves? Bowman said if there’s something else that helps the Blackhawks, he will look at the options. But with Ladd’s acquisition and Hossa and Marcus Kruger returning from injury on their respective timelines – another week or so for Hossa and the postseason for Kruger – Bowman would be fine leaving things alone, too.

“If it doesn’t change from where we are now, I really like the group we have. It’s a nice mixture,” Bowman said. “We’ve obviously had a good season to date, and when you add in someone like Andrew to the mix and hopefully down the road Marcus Kruger will be back those are two playoff-tested players you add. We’ll see where it goes from here, but I really like the look of our team right now.”

When Ladd gets here is unknown. Bowman said he wasn’t positive on Thursday if Ladd would be here for Sunday morning’s game against the Washington Capitals. Richard Panik, who the Blackhawks acquired Jan. 3, was held up by visa issues and didn’t join the team for more than a week. Whenever Ladd does get here, however, he shouldn’t need much time to adjust to a system and players with whom he’s very familiar.

“The fact that he’s been with our group, our coaches and our core players before and he understands what it takes to win. It made sense to try and give this group a boost. That’s the other part of it, just try to demonstrate that we have a lot of faith in the group we have here,” Bowman said. “We’re excited and we want to do everything we can to put the things in place to make a long run.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

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USA TODAY

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

Jean-Francois Berube got his first start of the season on Friday night, and it couldn't have gone any better.

The 26-year-old goaltender stopped 42 of 43 shots, a career-high for him in saves, in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Since Corey Crawford went down with a head injury last December, the Blackhawks have been searching for consistency in the crease. 

The pair of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass — who was assigned to Rockford on Feb. 15 and replaced with Berube — have had their ups and downs since then. With the Blackhawks out of the playoff picture, Berube had an opportunity showcase his skills, and he didn't disappoint.

"We were very happy with him," said coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought he did a great job. He was comfortable. I thought he was very patient in his net. Absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front of him was good. Closed some gaps and got … of the top of the paint. Rebound control was effective. Nice response from a long absence."

Berube's last — and only — appearance with the Blackhawks prior to Friday's game came on Dec. 6, relieving Forsberg in a game against the Washington Capitals. He recorded 12 saves of 14 shots. 

When Crawford got injured, Berube was the primary candidate to become the team's backup goaltender. The only problem? He was injured too, so the Blackhawks promoted Glass.

"I didn't want to sit and think about it," Berube said of his injury. "At the same time, it was great for Glasser. He was one of those guys that probably deserved it earlier in his career and he finally got his chance. Sometimes you need a guy to go down to have your chance. So I was mostly happy for him.

On Friday night, he got his chance.

"You always want to have a good impression for your first game," Berube said. "I know what I can do at this level, so it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play and showing people what I can do."

Celebrating his 22nd birthday, Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. Artem Anisimov scored an empty-netter.

"It's a lot more fun coming to the rink when you're winning, enjoying each other, playing well as a team," Schmaltz said of the Blackhawks' win, which have now won three of their last four games. "Hopefully we can keep that good energy and bring it to the rink every day, and build off of that.

"You never know where this team can go, a lot of great players, lots of guys that have had a lot of success. Hopefully we can continue to put together solid efforts."