Blackhawks

Blackhawks trade Erik Gustafsson to Flames ahead of NHL deadline

Blackhawks trade Erik Gustafsson to Flames ahead of NHL deadline

The Blackhawks traded defenseman Erik Gustafsson to the Calgary Flames, the club announced Monday. In return, the Hawks acquired the earlier of Calgary's two third-round picks.

The puck-carrying defenseman had 26 points (six goals, 20 assists) with the Hawks this season after finishing last year with a career-high 60 points (17 goals, 43 assists). 

The 27-year-old blueliner carries a $1.2 million cap hit and will become an unrestricted free agent after this season. 

The Swede had 116 points (28 goals, 88 assists) in four seasons with the Blackhawks after being selected No. 93 overall in the 2012 NHL Draft. 

Gustafsson admitted his uncertain future was weighing on him in Chicago this season. 

"I don't know how I can't block it away," Gustafsson told NBC Sports Chicago earlier this month. "At the start of the year I was nervous going in, if I'm going to sign here or if I'm going to be traded or something like that. I think that just affected my game and I was thinking about that instead of thinking about my game on the ice."

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Jonathan Toews gives candid assessment of where Blackhawks are at

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USA Today

Jonathan Toews gives candid assessment of where Blackhawks are at

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews hadn't spoken with media since before the NHL pause went into effect on March 12 amid concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The center appeared on NBC's Today Show Thursday morning to give a special birthday message to a fan. He also donated $100,000 through his foundation to a COVID-19 response fund on Thursday.

Toews appeared on Friday's episode of the Dropping the Gloves podcast hosted by former Hawk John Scott.

He was asked a variety of questions by Scott during the interview that lasted the entire episode, spanning almost 30 minutes. 

At one point, Scott asked Toews to evaluate the Hawks' season with the mindset as if it had already concluded.

"It's tough because I think, number one: our older guys like Kaner and Duncs and Seabs and Crow and myself, I think you kind of get comfortable with your ways and how you do things over the years. So there's definitely been an adjustment for the veteran guys and the guys that are considered leaders as part of the core group in Chicago," Toews said on the podcast.

"I think you definitely have to grow and you have to adapt and part of that has just been kind of reassessing how we lead the team and what our daily approach has been like. Because it's this kind of separation between a lot of the young guys that come in that never played a playoff game before and have to learn a lot of the little things. 

"On the other hand, sometimes, as they say, 'You can't teach an old dog new tricks', so it's hard to get out of your comfort zone and be a little bit more aware of the things that you're doing, be a little bit more aware of the example that you're setting and how you interact with some of these younger guys. 

"So we've definitely had to take a look at ourselves in the mirror and think about all the little details of how we can do things better and how we can lead better. And I think that's a constant process to learn and get better in that sense. 

"But there's been times too where as a team we show a ton of potential and a ton of promise where we can easily go on a three, four, five game win streak and all of a sudden everyone's 'riding the roller coaster', as we say, nice and high and we're looking like a team that can contend in the playoffs, and all of a sudden after that we'll lose another two, three or four straight and the feeling is completely the opposite. So it was kind of a tough season because it was a lot of highs and lows in that sense. Definitely a lot of learning in there through all of this."

RELATED — How coronavirus is impacting John Scott's family and what's ahead for the NHL

The three-time Stanley cup champion with Chicago was also asked about how he's tempered expectations heading into the last couple seasons where the Blackhawks don't have the same caliber group as when they were making long playoff runs.

"You know what John, it's hard because I think in your mind you're constantly pitting whatever you're going through against the experience of winning a Stanley Cup and being on a team where things are clicking and every single guy wants the exact same thing and you don't really have to do . . . the word 'babysitting' sounds wrong, but you're not really worried about every single little detail. You can just do your own thing and go out there and compete every single night. 

"So you got that in the back of your mind and that's the expectation and then on the other hand, you have to be extremely patient because there's baby steps that this team needs to take towards getting back to that level. So at least for myself, I kind of catch myself between, not necessarily being too complacent, but also kind of tempering my expectations, but on the other side, being extremely competitive, saying, 'Why shouldn't we have those really high expectations of ourselves?' 

"And that's where the emotion really comes from sometimes when things don't go my way or our way. It's kind of this balancing act towards having patience knowing that we're working our way back towards getting to that level."

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NHL stars weigh in on how league could finish season if play resumes

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USA Today

NHL stars weigh in on how league could finish season if play resumes

Most players have been quiet since the NHL pause was announced on March 12 amid the spreading of the COVID-19 pandemic, but some of the league's brightest stars have begun to weigh in on the big issues and uncertainty surrounding the sport.

One such topic includes how to finish the season off if play resumes at some point. There were 189 regular season games remaining when it was paused. 

"I mean you try to get in as many games as you can I think, but I wouldn’t mind starting right at the playoffs," Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby told media members including Sportsnet on a video conference call organized by the NHL Thursday.

"For me, the more games we play it’s going to be better for our fans and it’s going to be better for the teams who are fighting for the playoffs, but I’d rather start the playoffs right away," Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said. "Sorry guys."

It's easy for Crosby and Ovechkin to talk about jumping right into the playoffs. The Capitals were in first place and the Penguins in third in the Metropolitan Division when the NHL paused. 

If things picked back up in a timely fashion and the playoffs began in a traditional sense (top eight teams in each conference get in), it would be tough luck for teams outside the first two Wild Card spots in each conference like the Blackhawks in the West.

"I think (the standings) look pretty good right now," Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid joked with outlets like ESPN during Friday's call. His team sat in second place in the Pacific Division at the time of the pause.

"But you want a fair season. And a fair season is a full season," he added. "If we can do that, I think that's something we'd obviously prefer."

McDavid doesn't believe there would be enough time for players to get their bodies ready to compete at the high level the usual postseason requires.

"I don't think we can just step into the playoffs and Game 1, it's Calgary coming to Edmonton, and guys are running around trying to kill each other that haven't played for two months," he said. "It'll end up the [AHL] Stockton Heat vs. the Bakersfield Condors if that's the case. We want to keep the guys healthy."

"You can't eliminate teams that are in on points percentage," Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano said Friday. "I think you go 12 and 12 (in each conference). More teams get in this year. Maybe a couple byes at the top, and play it out."

If there were to be enough time and 12 teams from each conference made the postseason as is after potentially resuming, the Hawks, who held the sixth Wild Card spot in the Western Conference, would be in luck.

Time will tell if the spreading of the coronavirus pandemic subsides enough to allow for a resolution in which the Stanley Cup is awarded to a team for the 2019-20 season, but there is a possibility the Hawks could end up being in the mix after failing to make the playoffs the last two years. 

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.