Blackhawks updates: Kane ready, Vermette sitting in Game 1


Blackhawks updates: Kane ready, Vermette sitting in Game 1

Patrick Kane has done the skating, taken the shots and absorbed a few hits. Now to see if there’s any rust or if he’s good to go from the start.

Kane is back and Antoine Vermette is definitely a healthy scratch when the Blackhawks face the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of their first-round series tonight at Bridgestone Arena.

The Blackhawks right wing, who missed the last seven weeks with a fractured left clavicle, said he’s not too worried about taking the punishment the Predators are likely to dole out. Coach Joel Quenneville said Kane will be fine. He also doubts Kane will be very rusty.

[Preview: Blackhawks begin playoff run on CSN]

“Watching him skate the last little while, he’s got a jump to his stride,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s excited about getting back for sure. Your top guys, you have to make sure over the course of a season you’re managing and taking away some minutes if you can. Him being fresh as a daisy over this stretch, I think that can help him. I don’t think it’ll take him too long to get up to speed.”

General manager Stan Bowman also figured Kane would get going quickly.

“I think he’ll get over that in a short amount of time,” Bowman said of potential rust. “In terms of taking a hit, he referenced it yesterday, he’s been dealing with people trying to hit him since he was eight years old. That’s nothing new. He’s pretty adept at rolling off pressure. A lot of it is just not putting yourself in position [to be hit]. He’s pretty smart that way. He’s always been a player targeted by other teams and he manages to get through it, so I think he’ll be fine.”

Predators center Mike Ribeiro talked about the task of trying to stop Kane.

“It’s a team concept on this side. That’s how you stop him, really, as a team,” he said. “When you play against the best in the world, you try to focus a little better against him and really take time and space.”

Michal Rozsival looks to be in tonight against the Predators. Kimmo Timonen, who missed the final three regular-season games with an upper-bodyinjury, is also expected to play.

And as expected from the last two days’ lines, Antoine Vermette is not playing tonight. Quenneville said the veteran understood when the two talked earlier today.

“It’s one of those situations, performance based, we made our decision based on the last part of the year. He was understanding of the situation,” Queneville said. “We know the depth’s going to be important as we go forward. At the same time, with his experience, I commend him for having the right attitude in a tough situation today. But our depth is something that can help pay dividends as you get deeper in the playoffs. We anticipate using him at any moment.”

[SHOP: Get the latest Blackhawks gear here]

Nevertheless it’s a surprise, not only because the center was acquired the stretch run, but also with the Blackhawks giving up a first-round pick and a defensive prospect for him. But Bowman also said not to take what happens in Game 1 as an edict for how the entire series/postseason will play out.

“We’re about to start Game 1 of hopefully a long playoff run. There’s a lot of focus, maybe too much focus, on Game 1 and the lineups,” Bowman said. “A lot of things change over the course of a playoff run, whether it’s certain players play or injuries or matchups or situations. It’s really too early to get too detailed on that. Antoine’s got a great approach, he’s excited to help whenever called upon and do his best.”

NHL Draft Profile: D Adam Boqvist

NHL Draft Profile: D Adam Boqvist

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

Adam Boqvist

Position: Defenseman
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 168 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"Boqvist is a finesse defenseman who is very skilled, possesses excellent vision and tons of talent. He is fun to watch and full of surprises on the ice. He often plays bigger than his size and skated in his first games with Sweden's Senior National Team in April."

NHL player comparable: Erik Karlsson

Fit for Blackhawks:

The Blackhawks would love to have Karlsson, who is probably being traded out of Ottawa this summer. Every team would love to have him. But that's not realistic for Chicago. So what if they drafted his potential mini me?

Boqvist is electric with the puck and has drawn comparisons to the Swedish defenseman as a best-case scenario.

There are two concerns, though. One is that he may need some time to develop at just 17 years old and his defense a work in progress. The second is that he's sustained head injuries over the course of his young career, which adds a little bit of risk to the equation.

If he can stay healthy and his development isn't rushed, there's major upside here. But are the Blackhawks willing to be patient? We're not so sure.

Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?


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.