Blackhawks

Recapping Day 1 of Blackhawks free agency

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Recapping Day 1 of Blackhawks free agency

We’re just about through Day 1 of free agency. Here’s how things broke down for the Blackhawks:

Center signed

General manager Stan Bowman said on Tuesday that he wanted to sign the team’s newest acquisition, center Artem Anisimov, to an extension as soon as possible. That came on Wednesday morning when the Blackhawks signed him to a five-year deal worth a reported $22.75 million. All those second-line center questions go away...for now.

Another Russian added

Viktor Tikhonov, grandson of the coach who led those tremendous Soviet teams in the 1970s and 1980s, signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks. Tikhonov spent the last several seasons playing in the KHL but wanted another opportunity in the NHL. Where he fits in the Blackhawks lineup is uncertain at the moment; he’ll be another forward vying for a job at training camp in September.

Au revoir, Mr. Richards

Brad Richards came to Chicago for $2 million last summer in search of another Stanley Cup. He got it. And while he initially kept options open to possibly return to Chicago (if the money was right), he signed a one-year deal for $3 million with the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday. Richards’ chances of coming back dimmed considerably when the Blackhawks acquired Anisimov. Still, Richards had a great postseason and proved he still has some hockey left in him.

You too, Mr. Vermette

We always knew Antoine Vermette was unlikely to sign with the Blackhawks again. He was going to get paid again, his heart belonged to Arizona and not surprisingly he signed a two-year deal with the Coyotes on Wednesday night. Still, his short stint here was a memorable one: after some frustrating healthy scratches, Vermette scored four postseason goals, three proving to be game winners. Vermette got to hoist his first Stanley Cup in Chicago. He’ll take that experience with him back to the desert. “This is very special whenever you have a chance to win the Cup. I’m truly happy to have [had] a chance to do that,” he said on Wednesday night. “This is an experience you want to be part of. It helps down the road. Hopefully I can bring some experience in and make a positive impact on this [Coyotes] team.”

What's left to do

Plenty. The Blackhawks didn’t do anything on the trade front on Monday but they’re still going to have to ship out a player or two. Marcus Kruger’s extension should get done – “We’re getting closer to completing something there,” Bowman said on Tuesday. But even without Kruger’s completed deal, the Blackhawks (including Jeremy Morin and Corey Tropp, also acquired in the Columbus deal) have $71 million devoted to 17 players.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Patrick Sharp is still the most likely to be moved, but where? Pittsburgh, once thought a strong option for a trade, is highly unlikely now after the Penguins acquired the very pricey Phil Kessel on Wednesday afternoon. A source said Boston has interest. The Bruins signed Matt Beleskey ($3.8 million cap hit) and acquired Jimmy Hayes (who needs to be re-signed) but they still have cap space; according to generalfanager.com, the Bruins are at approximately $62.4 million. Florida has its share of former Blackhawks. But on Wednesday the Panthers acquired Reilly Smith, as well as Marc Savard’s contract – Savard hasn’t played since February 2011 due to concussion issues – and may not have the cap space now to handle Sharp.

There is certainly still time to get trades done. Day 1 of free agency is usually a whirlwind of signings, and that was true again this year, although the typically insane money didn’t accompany most of those signings. There are still teams out there with needs and one way or another the Blackhawks will get something done.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: