Blackhawks

Blackhawks getting 'a bonus' from defensemen chipping in offensively

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Blackhawks getting 'a bonus' from defensemen chipping in offensively

The Blackhawks defensemen’s main role is preventing others from scoring, and on this recent road trip they did a pretty good job of that.

Adding a few points on the other end, however, never hurts. And in the Blackhawks’ last three games, their defensemen did that.

You’re used to seeing Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith getting their share of points, especially considering their minutes and their roles on the power play. But other defensemen also chipped in during the Blackhawks’ three-game winning streak. Trevor van Riemsdyk had a goal and an assist in his past two games. Seabrook had an assist in each of his last two games, Michal Rozsival had his first goal of the season against Arizona and Niklas Hjalmarsson had two assists vs. the Dallas Stars.

“Guys that don't do a lot of scoring, whether they're up front or on the back end, it's kind of like a bonus,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think it's the reflection, too, of what we're talking about, just putting pucks at the net and things happen. Bad-angle shots or just, you know, clears out of our own end and beating them in races that develop into scoring chances and situations from that type of play.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The Blackhawks’ winning streak was a combination of several things: energy gained from the All-Star break, great goaltending from Corey Crawford and a strong puck-possession game. The Blackhawks took their share of shots with that puck possession – they had 42 and 40 shots, respectively, vs. Colorado and Arizona – and the defensemen were as much a part of that as the forwards.

“Obviously we’re trying to be involved in the offense, whether it’s jumping in the rush or being active when we have the puck in their end,” van Riemsdyk said. “It’s nice to get contributions from the D and not just have only the forwards put the puck in the net.”

Van Riemsdyk added that, from a defenseman’s perspective, it’s about reading each situation to see if you can/can’t get an opportunity for offense.

“You always want to be right on the back of the rush, whether you’re fully jumping in and going into the other end or reading from there and pulling off or whatever you do,” he said. “Any time we make those passes we want to be moving our feet and joining the rush, and as we jump in, diagnose it from there.”

[MORE: (No) change is good: Hawks’ second line a model of consistency]

Andrew Shaw said any points the defensemen can add are beneficial.

“They’re getting the puck up ice quick, getting shots on the net and it’s going to help our offensive game. We keep getting the pucks in, keep getting them deep they’re going to keep chipping in.”

The Blackhawks were lacking offense heading into the break. Again, a lot of that was a symptom of fatigue for a team that had played a non-stop schedule entering the All-Star weekend. Now they’re getting it back, and their defensemen have played as big a part in that as their forwards.

“I always say there's enough offense within our team, so we don't care where it comes from, but it’s nice to see,” Quenneville said. “And I'm sure those guys feels good about it.”

Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?

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USA TODAY

Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?

Here's an interesting development as we approach the NHL Draft: Artemi Panarin has informed the Blue Jackets that he's not ready to consider an extension "at this time" and because of that, Columbus is testing the market for the Russian winger, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen responded to the report shortly after in a statement released by the team:

"Artemi is an elite National Hockey League player. Our position has been that we want him to be a Blue Jacket for many years and that has not changed. He has a year left on his contract, so there is plenty of time to work towards that end. Should anything change moving forward, we will address it at that time and any decision we make will be in the best interest of our club.”

Ironically, Panarin was traded to Columbus on the afternoon of last year's draft as part of a blockbuster package that sent Brandon Saad back to Chicago. It shook up the hockey world, and has the potential to do so again.

Panarin is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2019, but is free to sign an extension with Columbus on July 1. Clearly, that doesn't seem to be in the cards right now and it's why the Blue Jackets have to put out feelers. They can't risk losing him for nothing.

On the flip side, Panarin has every right to test the open market. He has one year left on his contract that carries a $6 million cap hit. He's due for a hefty raise, will be 27 years old next summer — the prime of his hockey career — and will certainly be looking for a long-term deal after accepting a bridge contract with the Blackhawks.

Speaking of whom, should his former team explore bringing him back to Chicago now that he's on the market?

Every general manager should and will do their due diligence and call for an asking price, Stan Bowman included. Those conversations might start with Alex DeBrincat or Nick Schmaltz, and if that's the case, you say thanks but no thanks and move on. 

The Blackhawks have the Nos. 8 and 27 picks in this year's draft as possible ammunition, but the Blue Jackets are ready to take that next step. They were up 2-0 in their first-round series before losing four straight to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. It's unlikely they'd be looking to center a potential deal around draft picks. 

The only way you even consider it from the Blackhawks perspective is if Panarin is guaranteed to sign a long-term extension at a price you're comfortable with, but that's one of the main reasons why they traded him in the first place. 

To cap it all off, trading for Panarin wouldn't even address the Blackhawks' biggest need and that's a Top 4 defenseman. Those don't grow on trees. The Blackhawks will have the cap space to sign a player like James van Riemsdyk to patch up their top 6. You can't say the same for the free-agent blue line group.

So while it may certainly be fun for Blackhawks fans to come up with possible trade scenarios to get Panarin back in an Indianhead sweater, it just doesn't make great sense for a variety of reasons.

NHL Draft Profile: F Filip Zadina

NHL Draft Profile: F Filip Zadina

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Filip Zadina

Position: Forward
Height: 6-foot-0
Weight: 195 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"He's got the puck skills, is a good skater, and is a guy with some high-end offensive talent. He wants to get right in there and play where it's hard and where you get rewarded. When he gets that puck on his stick, he wants to bury it."

NHL player comparable: Marian Hossa

Fit for Blackhawks:

You know who the Blackhawks missed last year? Hossa. It's not mentioned enough when analyzing what went wrong in 2017-18. 

Well, Zadina is a player who's got the upside of Hossa and is one of a few prospects who could potentially crack the NHL lineup this upcoming season. The scouting report above is all you need to know about Zadina's style of play, and Blackhawks fans surely nodded through the whole thing because it's exactly what the team is looking for.

However, this is a case where the Blackhawks would have to trade up to snag him if they want him, because there's little chance he'll be on the board when the eighth pick rolls around. And it's probably unlikely they would do so, given what it may take to move up a few spots.