Blackhawks

Core's dedication impresses newer Blackhawks

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Core's dedication impresses newer Blackhawks

Kimmo Timonen has seen plenty of good players and been on several good squads in his long NHL career.

As far as team resolve, however, nothing may beat the one the Blackhawks core has established and practiced the last few seasons.

“I’ve seen a lot of teams, a lot of hockey players, a lot of different systems. I’ve got to give a lot of credit to these guys,” Timonen said on Thursday. “I would say the top eight guys who have been here for six or seven years, these guys are so dedicated for this sport, hockey, just taking care of themselves.

“It surprised me. I’ve never seen that before. It is not a surprise these guys have won it couple times and been in Conference Finals every year.”

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That dedication and mental strength, coupled with the talent, have helped the Blackhawks play a lot of hockey the past few seasons. And it has them vying for another trophy as the team heads back to Tampa for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night.

For those who have been in the Blackhawks’ locker room for a while, the team’s ability to handle pressure and thrive in critical situations and on big stages isn’t a big surprise anymore. For those like Timonen, Trevor van Riemsdyk and others who haven’t been here long, it’s eye opening in a good way.

“Just seeing how a 24-hour commitment that everyone puts in, takes care of themselves, they're some of the most competitive, hard-working people I've ever met,” van Riemsdyk said. “You can see that on the ice; no matter what the situation, you feel confident we're going to work our way back, get those chances at the end to have a chance.”

Game 4 was a perfect example of that. The Blackhawks didn’t play very well on Wednesday night, managing just two shots on goal in the game’s first 20 minutes. Yet there they were leading 2-1 as time wound down in regulation, fighting off a Lightning attack that somehow didn’t result in a game-tying goal.

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Brad Richards talked earlier this postseason of the self-sufficient Blackhawks locker room. There are enough players from that core, including Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, who have been here and done this enough and keep calm. That thought process is evident on the ice, too, from when bounces don’t go the Blackhawks’ way to when they do.

“This team has a lot of experience,” Richards said at the time. “The more you do it, the more you stay with the process, stay with the structure, all this stuff. This team has been doing it for seven years. Your core group doesn't overreact. It's pretty even keel.”

Coach Joel Quenneville said it’s not really about talk with this group.

“These guys don't really say a whole lot,” he said. “I think they let the way they play and the way they carry themselves do a lot of their speaking for them.”

The Blackhawks have built a core that knows how to handle the ups and downs of the postseason and knows how to win. Some of the newer Blackhawks have been pleasantly surprised with just how resilient this group can be.

“I think there's an appreciation for the way, watching these guys from afar. Coming into a new team, you see the way they compete on a game-to-game basis,” Quenneville said. “They see how important winning is around here; probably very noticeable.”

 

Getting to know four newly-signed Blackhawks

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AP

Getting to know four newly-signed Blackhawks

The Blackhawks announced Monday that they have officially agreed to terms with forward Dominik Kahun, defensemen Lucas Carlsson and Darren Raddysh and goaltender Kevin Lankinen on entry-level contracts.

Kahun ($925,000 cap hit), Lankinen ($925,000) and Raddysh ($730,000) each signed two-year deals that run through the 2019-20 season while Carlsson's is a three-year deal that runs through the 2020-21 campaign and carries a cap hit of $792,500.

So who are these guys? Let's meet them:

Carlsson

Drafted in the fourth round (No. 110 overall) by the Blackhawks in 2016, Carlsson set a career-high with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 44 games this season with Brynäs IF of the Swedish Hockey League. He was tied for fourth among all blue liners with seven goals.

Carlsson, 20, doesn't have major upside, but he's a reliable, well-rounded defenseman and that's what drew the attention of Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley.

“When he’s on the ice, he makes things happen," Kelley told Scott Powers of The Athletic last summer. "I think what impressed the Sweden under-20 coach was Lucas’ ability to challenge in all three zones. He’s an active defensively. Offensively, he challenges. He keeps plays alive.”

Kahun

The 22-year-old forward spent the last four seasons with EHC München of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, Germany's top professional hockey league, where he established career highs in assists (29), points (41) and tied a personal best with 12 goals, leading Munchen to their third straight championship in 2018 after recording four goals and 10 assists in 17 playoff contests.

He raised eyebrows at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, where he compiled five points (two goals, three assists) in seven games and won 55.4 percent of his faceoffs (41 of 74), helping Germany capture a silver medal.

“He has made an enormous step this year, has become much more stable and mature," German national team coach Marco Sturm said after the Olympics. "I am sure that he would grab it in the NHL,” Sturm told the Hamburger Morgenpost.

Most recently, Kahun had a goal and two assists in seven games for Germany during the IIHF Men's World Championship. He's 5-foot-11, 176 pounds whose known to be a solid two-way player and can play center but may need some time to adjust to the smaller ice surface and NHL style of speed and physicality.

Lankinen 

Lankinen is 23 years old and coming off a season in which he was in the discussion for the Urpo Ylönen trophy, annually awarded to the top goaltender of the Finnish Elite League, after registering a league-best 1.33 goals against average and .946 save percentage in 15 games with HIFK.

He missed a large portion of the season because of an injury, but it didn't stop him from turning in a strong postseason, guiding his team to a bronze medal after posting a 1.99 GAA and .936 save percentage in 13 playoff games. The year before that, he led the league with seven shutouts in 42 games, backstopping his team to a silver medal.

This is a low-risk, medium-sized reward signing for the Blackhawks, who could use some more young goaltending depth in the pipeline, especially given how this season unfolded with the big club.

Raddysh

The Blackhawks signed Raddysh to a one-year AHL contract last June, and he turned it into an NHL one after a strong season with the Rockford IceHogs.

Raddysh, 22, accumulated 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 66 regular-season games with the IceHogs, and has appeared in each of the team's playoff games en route to the Western Conference Final.

Last season Raddysh was named the OHL's top defenseman after scoring 16 goals and 65 assists for 81 points in 62 games for the Erie Otters, where he was teammates with current Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat. He's the Otters' all-time leader in assists (143) and points (184) among defensemen.

Raddysh might be nothing more than a depth defenseman, but his development is worth monitoring because the offensive production is there and that's something the Blackhawks lacked this past season from their back end.

Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa: 'I will not play hockey anymore'

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AP

Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa: 'I will not play hockey anymore'

Days after putting his Gold Coast condo on the market, Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa revealed to a Slovakian newspaper that he is moving back to his hometown country and doesn't plan on returning to the NHL.

"I will not play hockey anymore," said Hossa, who missed the entire 2017-18 campaign due to a progressive skin disorder and the side effects of the medications involved to treat it. "I have a valid contract with Chicago for the next three years, but I have only one health and it does not allow me to return."

Because he has three years left on a deal that carries a $5.275 million cap hit, Hossa is not expected to sign his retirement papers until the contract is completed or else it would result in salary cap consequences.

The news is not surprising, but it officially allows the Blackhawks to move on without him in the fold roster-wise and toy around with some options this summer.

The first is stashing his contract on long-term injured reserve, as they did last season when they utilized the in-season preference.

The second, which Hossa wondered could happen, is finding a trade partner that would absorb the remainder of his contract, usually done by lower payroll teams aiming to reach the cap floor.

And it wouldn't be difficult trying to find a buyer, considering Hossa's actual salary is $1 million per year over the next three seasons. Hossa, of course, has a no movement clause but it's likely he would waive it given his status at this point.

The good news for Chicago is, the three-time Stanley Cup winner didn't rule out joining the Blackhawks organization in some capacity after his contract expires in 2020-21, whether it's in a front office role or as a team ambassador.

In 19 NHL seasons, Hossa accumulated 525 goals and 609 assists for 1,134 points in 1,309 regular-season games, and added 149 points (52 goals, 97 assists) in 205 postseason contests. He's one of 45 players in league history to net at least 500 goals in his career.