Blackhawks

Five Things from Blackhawks-Islanders: Ryan Hartman helps momentum shift

Five Things from Blackhawks-Islanders: Ryan Hartman helps momentum shift

NEW YORK – Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?

Seriously, every now and then you need a topsy-turvy game. Coach Joel Quenneville wasn’t to thrilled at the start of that one but he’ll take the end, as the Blackhawks got past a 2-0 deficit to beat the New York Islanders 5-4 on Thursday night.

That wraps up another New York trip. While we lament leaving this fabulous city, let’s look at Five Things to take away from the Blackhawks’ latest victory.

1. Defense optional. Six goals in the first period? What parallel universe is this? Scott Darling and the Blackhawks had allowed three goals in the last three games. They gave up that many in the first period on Thursday night. Granted, the Blackhawks were in as much of a receiving mood as a giving one through the first 20 minutes. But in light of the Blackhawks’ recent games, what they gave up was surprising.

2. The power play is potent again. You wonder if the Islanders winced when Josh Bailey headed to the penalty box with 1:32 remaining in the second period. The Blackhawks had two power-play goals on the night heading into that advantage. A little more than a minute later, they made it 3-for-3. Artemi Panarin had two of those goals with that patented rocket from the left circle.

3. Ryan Hartman’s momentum shifter. The Blackhawks were struggling and down 2-0 when Hartman landed a big open-ice hit on Casey Cizikas in the first period. Cizikas took exception to it and went after Hartman. The Blackhawks rookie let him, drawing a roughing penalty. Less than two minutes later the Blackhawks scored the first of their three power-play goals of the night. Quenneville pointed to that moment as a critical one, giving the Blackhawks much-needed momentum – or at least taking it away from the Islanders. Indeed, the shift was on after that.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

4. Second line finding its rhythm again? I asked Artem Anisimov that after he, Panarin and Patrick Kane connected on some beautiful passing that led to Anisimov’s power-play goal in the first period. Kane has struggled as of late but Anisimov now has 14 goals and Panarin has 13. Anisimov said the line is better, but still not where it needs to be. “In the power play, yeah, but we still need to do better at the 5-on-5 games,” he said.

5. Winning no matter what. The Blackhawks are winning the defensive-minded games. On Thursday they won the wide-open game. As Quenneville said, “we’ve been fortunate with a lot of games this year.” Sure. But despite all the concerns the Blackhawks had entering this season, the injuries they’ve faced, they’re atop the Western Conference. Most of the time it’s been goaltending. Thursday, it was an offensive outburst. Good teams just find ways.

2019 NHL free agent focus: Five potential targets for Blackhawks

2019 NHL free agent focus: Five potential targets for Blackhawks

Stan Bowman has had a busy last couple weeks. He pulled off a pair of trades, landing defensemen Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan from the Eastern Conference. He drafted center Kirby Dach with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft that could turn into a franchise-changing player. And now he’s in the middle of negotiations with pending restricted and unrestricted free agents.

With the defensemen group starting to take shape, it appears free agency will be used to fill out the forward group. That could come via trades, also, but it really depends on the market.

So let’s identify five potential UFA targets for the Blackhawks ahead of Monday, when players are officially able to sign contracts:

1. Ryan Dzingel, LW

When Dzingel was with the Ottawa Senators, he was playing top-six minutes and earning power-play time because the Senators weren’t very deep. After getting traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the deadline, he struggled to be a fit there, didn't play much on the power play and was healthy scratched for one game in the playoffs.

But he still has value, although it may not be in an area that the Blackhawks need (penalty kill).

Dzingel, a Wheaton native, set a career high in goals (26), assists (30) and points (56) in 78 games this past season with the Senators and Blue Jackets. He can play in the top-six but might be more effective as a middle-six winger on a good team.

According to Evolving Wild, Dzingel is projected to earn a contract of four years with a $4.25 million cap hit. 

2. Anders Lee, LW

It’s a little surprising that the New York Islanders and their captain haven’t made any progress on a long-term extension. At the same time, it’s pretty clear that Lou Lamoriello is looking to make a big splash this summer in his pursuit of Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin, and needs financial flexibility to negotiate.

Lee is a perfect complementary top-six left winger who would look great next to Jonathan Toews or opposite Patrick Kane. He’s got size at 6-foot-3, 231 pounds, is reliable, scored 40 goals in 2017-18 and has a strong work ethic. Those qualities check a lot of boxes the Blackhawks are looking for.

Where it gets tricky is what his contract may look like. He's projected to receive in the range of a seven-year deal that carries a $6.5 million cap hit. The dollar amount is doable, but the term could scare the Blackhawks away as they prepare to sign Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome to long-term extensions next summer.

3. Gustav Nyquist, LW

The Blackhawks have been interested in Nyquist's services in the past, so they'll certainly look into him as a possibility now that he hits the open market.

Nyquist has scored at least 20 goals in four of his past six seasons, with 28 being his career high. But he's not known to be a goal scorer. He's a pass-first, playmaking-type winger and makes players around him better because of it. Nyquist is a consistent 45-55-point player.

His next contract is projected to be in the six-year, $5.6 million range, which — like Lee — is a fair dollar amount but the term may not be something the Blackhawks are crazy about. Bowman appears to be focused on free-agent forwards who can be signed on shorter-term deals.

4. Joe Pavelski, C/RW

Perhaps the most intriguing player on the free-agent market for the Blackhawks is Pavelski, who’s served as the San Jose Sharks captain but may not fit into their plans going forward because of their cap crunch.

Yes, he will turn 35 in July. And yes, he has a ton of mileage on his body. But he’s showing no signs of slowing down. 

Pavelski is a five-time 30-goal scorer who’s coming off a 38-goal season, can play both center and wing, and is an absolute gamer, a leader on and off the ice who shows up when the lights are shining brightest. He’s also not afraid to go to the dirty areas and is widely considered to be one of the best at deflecting pucks, which comes in handy on the power play.

What makes him an attractive piece is that Pavelski could be a player that makes an immediate impact but wouldn't require a long-term deal. He's projected to earn a three-year contract with a cap hit of $7.4 million. If the Blackhawks can get him at two years, that would be ideal. But like Patrick Marleau a few years ago in Toronto, his camp is probably looking for that third year.

5. Corey Perry, LW

Days after he was bought out by the Ducks, Perry’s name surfaced as a possibility for the Blackhawks. And it makes sense because the Blackhawks aren't looking to hand out long-term contracts.

Perry is 34 years old, a former Hart Trophy winner and 50-goal scorer, and is still a productive player when healthy. But that's the biggest concern. He missed 51 games this season with a knee injury, returned ahead of schedule and never looked the same on the ice.

Per the CBA, Perry can sign a one-year, bonus-laden deal and it appears that's what he'll do. A one-year contract in the $2-3 million with bonuses would be a low risk, high reward move for the Blackhawks.

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: What will be Stan Bowman's next move?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: What will be Stan Bowman's next move?

Gabe Ramirez, Vinnie Duber, and Jay Cohen join Kap on the panel to discuss game two of Cubs vs. Braves and the battle of the Soxes.

Plus with the start of free agency coming up, what will be Stan Bowman's next move?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

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