Blackhawks

Blackhawks deal Marian Hossa's contract, Vinnie Hinostroza in seven-player deal with Coyotes

Blackhawks deal Marian Hossa's contract, Vinnie Hinostroza in seven-player deal with Coyotes

The Blackhawks have traded Marian Hossa’s contract to the Arizona Coyotes in a seven-player deal that includes Vinnie Hinostroza, Jordan Oesterle and a third-round pick in 2019. The deal helped the Blackhawks clear Hossa's $5.275 million cap hit for the next three years and benefits the Coyotes because Hossa's actual salary is only $1 million each year over that span.

In return the Blackhawks will receive forwards Marcus Kruger, MacKenzie Entwistle, Jordan Meletta and defenseman Andrew Campbell and a 2019 fifth-round pick.

"Yeah, obviously really excited," Kruger said of returning to Chicago. "Couldn’t be any more happy. Ready to go and just overall really excited to be back."

It’s not surprising the Blackhawks found a partner to take Hossa’s contract off their hands, given the salary cap floor increased by $3.4 million. But they paid a price they were likely hoping to avoid in attaching Hinostroza, who recently signed a two-year extension with the Blackhawks that carries a cap hit of $1.5 million.

Hinostroza established career highs in all three scoring categories last season with seven goals and 18 assists for 25 points in 50 games. He also had the second-highest points-per-60 minutes average at 5-on-5 for the Blackhawks at 1.98, a rate only Patrick Kane topped at 2.16.

In the grand scheme of things, removing Hossa’s contract from the books gives the Blackhawks flexibility in terms of roster movement going forward, and perhaps allows them to be more open-mind about a potential trade that benefits both the short-term and long-term after a quiet free agency.

The Blackhawks released this statement on Thursday thanking Hossa, who announced in May that he will no longer play hockey due to a skin disorder, for his services and the role he played in helping bring three Stanley Cups to Chicago:

Today is another example of the leadership Marian has displayed as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks organization. When we approached him to discuss the idea of him waiving his no move clause to allow us to make this move, it became clear this was a difficult thing for him to consider. After the success he has had in a Blackhawks jersey, the friends he has made throughout the organization and the fact his heart will always be in Chicago, the thought of disassociating in any way from the team he has come to love was not something he really wanted to give any thought to at all. But, as the consummate team player, he did what he has always done. He did what the team needed him to do in order to succeed.

Marian’s long-term contributions to the club will never be forgotten. His performance as a player was always appreciated, but, it is his special qualities as a teammate, a leader and a person, that will more than anything leave its mark on all of us who have come to love and respect the very humble way he goes about everything he does. He has shown us all the impact we can have on others if we conduct ourselves with character, integrity and utmost respect for all we come in contact with. We have had the pleasure of watching him hoist three Stanley Cups with our team and he will forever be connected to the Blackhawks. On behalf of the entire organization, we would like to thank Marian—a world-class player—for all he has done for the Chicago Blackhawks.

The notable part of the Blackhawks' return is Kruger, who comes back to Chicago after spending last season with Carolina and Arizona. Coyotes general manager John Chayka revealed in a conference call that Kruger played through the season with a sports hernia and underwent surgery in April, which maybe helps explain why he compiled only six points (one goal, five assists) in 48 games while logging a career-low 10:50 of ice time.

"I feel ready to go, so it’s not going to be any problem for training camp or next year," Kruger said. "What went wrong, I don’t know. I wasn’t playing enough, as a team, or me either. I’m really excited to show what I can do and how I can play and get better from it. It was a tough year last year, but going through that I learned a lot and just want to make sure I really prepare here and get better from it and be ready for next year."

As a team, the Blackhawks ranked 21st in faceoff win percentage (49.3) and 20th in penalty kill percentage (79.1), two areas Kruger played a large role in during his first stint in Chicago and will likely ask him to do the same in his second go-around.

"Similar," Kruger responded when asked what he expects his role to be. "Do whatever I get asked to do and play my game. And try to do whatever the coaches want me to do, do that 100 percent and give it my best. That’s all I can do. Obviously they know what kind of player I am. I think playing to my strengths and being a guy they can trust at both ends of the ice. I think it’s going to be exciting and yeah, we both know each other. It’s not going to be a problem."

Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

The London Knights set high expectations for themselves going into the 2018-19 OHL campaign. They always do. Their roster is usually loaded with top NHL prospects and this season was no different.

After finishing No. 1 in the Western Conference with 99 points, the Knights looked poised to go on a deep run. They got off to a roaring start in the playoffs by sweeping the Windsor Spitfires (4-0) and kicked off the second round by winning three straight against the Guelph Storm. But then, for the first time all season, the Knights lost four in a row to squander a 3-0 series lead and were eliminated just like that. It was a disappointing finish for a team with Memorial Cup aspirations.

One of the bright spots of the postseason was Blackhawks prospect Adam Boqvist. He was tied for first among all skaters with 10 goals through two rounds; no other defenseman had more than six. And he finished with 13 points in 11 games for a points-per-game average of 1.18.

To summarize his season: Boqvist scored one goal in his first 15 games. From that point on, he finished with 29 goals and 60 points in 50 games, including playoffs. He became an offensive driving force.

It's unclear what his future holds, but with Evan Bouchard expected to turn pro and secure a full-time roster spot on the Edmonton Oilers next season, returning to London would put Boqvist in a position where he could be the No. 1 defenseman in all situations.

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Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Front office

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AP

Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Front office

If we're evaluating Stan Bowman's moves as a whole, we have to go back to July 1 when the 2018-19 season really started.

On that day, the Blackhawks announced three signings: Chris Kunitz (one year, $1 million), Brandon Manning (two years, $2.25 million cap hit) and Cam Ward (one year, $3 million). Not exactly splashy additions after missing the playoffs for the first time in 10 years — although, to be fair, it wasn't a great market to throw money around.

Eleven days later, the Blackhawks traded Marian Hossa and his $5.275 million cap hit to the Arizona Coyotes in a seven-player deal that included top-nine winger Vinnie Hinostroza. Bowman acknowledged after the trade that he tried exploring every possible avenue before surrendering that the financial flexibility became more valuable.

But the trade might've put the team in a better position going into free agency had it been executed before July 1. Because of all that, Bowman's grade isn't looking great so far.

Then we get into the actual regular season.

The biggest move Bowman made was the coaching change on Nov. 6 in going from future Hall of Famer Joel Quenneville to Jeremy Colliton, which was a controversial decision in and of itself, especially the timing of it.

“There’s no perfect way to do things," Bowman admitted. "I think we made the best of it at the time. It’s one of those things where you’ve just gotta get through it. I think he’s gonna benefit from not only having a training camp next year but also we had this whole long stretch of a season. ... We’ve got a lot more things we want to get to, and I think we did a good job of — it’s a good start, but I’m sure Jeremy will tell you that we want to be way better next year and we’re gonna push our players to be better. We’re gonna try to do things differently. It’s not just taking this exact same program and we’ll start that. We want to do different things as well and enhance our team. I think there’s reason for hope there.”

Where did Bowman start to earn high marks? The roster tinkering, beginning in late November.

Perhaps recognizing that Nick Schmaltz wasn't progressing the way the team would have liked in a contract season, Bowman dealt him for a potential future second-line center in Dylan Strome and replenished the top-nine forward they lost in Hinostroza with Brendan Perlini, who showed flashes down the stretch. That's turned out to be a win-win for both sides.

The trade that was very clearly one-sided is the one Bowman pulled off with Peter Chiarelli, who was later relieved of his GM duties with the Edmonton Oilers.

Not only did Bowman acquire rugged winger Drake Caggiula, who became such a valuable part of the Blackhawks' second-half turnaround because he was a perfect complement for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the top line, but he unloaded the contract of Manning without having to retain salary or giving up an important piece of the roster. It essentially gave the Blackhawks an extra $2.25 million to work with this summer, which shouldn't go unnoticed when you look at how deep the 2019 free agent class is.

Bowman essentially undid the mistake he made and put the Blackhawks in an even better position going into this offseason by adding a useful player on top of it. So he certainly upped his overall grade.

Now it's time to spend the money he cleared in getting rid of the contracts of Hossa and Manning, and continue building around the current core.

"We're not going to bring the same group back," Bowman said. "That's clear. We don't do that really any year. There's changes to every team, even a team that ends up winning the Cup this year will have some different players. We're going to have some new players next year. What we're going to do is try to improve in the areas where our team needs some help and the way that looks isn't completely clear right now, but we have time over the next couple months to dive in and look at our team in greater detail and figure out how we're going to make that happen.

"There's obviously free agent signings, there's trades, there's growth from within. Those are the ways that your team improves from year to year and we're going to do that. So we're going to have some new players here next year for sure but we have a lot of players that are going to be back and I think a lot of the key guys who had good seasons they're coming back for sure, so we don't need across the board changes but we do need some new players."

Front office: B-

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