Blackhawks

Jonathan Toews continues to lead by example for Blackhawks

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Jonathan Toews continues to lead by example for Blackhawks

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The question always arises at this time of year, especially as the playoffs continue: whose top players will perform as such?

Two postseasons ago, Jonathan Toews had his struggles in that department. He wasn’t scoring, and he was losing his cool to the point where defenseman Brent Seabrook had to give him a penalty-box pep talk in the second round against Detroit.

But more often than not, Toews is the one doing the calming as well as the leading. And throughout this series, especially in critical situations, Toews was also doing the scoring.

Toews led the best way possible on Saturday night, scoring the first two goals as the Blackhawks went on to beat the Anaheim Ducks 5-3 in Game 7 of the Western Conference final. It was a stellar game for Toews, who didn’t do too shabby in the series overall, either. Toews scored five goals in the Blackhawks’ last four games against the Ducks; the Blackhawks went 3-1 in those games, and his two goals late in Game 5 pushed the team to an overtime that didn’t seem plausible.

So with the postseason on the line, any surprise Toews was the catalyst on Saturday?

“No, not at all,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s an amazing person, an amazing hockey player. The bigger the stage, the setup, he seems to excel. He shows he’s a good a leader in any sport.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the Stanley Cup Final, Blackhawks fans!]

Ultimately, Toews is just trying to fulfill the captain’s job description.

“You want to consider yourself that type of player at the end of the day but it helps when you’re alongside guys with those same intangibles,” he said. “The guy I’m sitting with right here [Duncan Keith], [Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp,] you go down the list of guys who have been around for years and have the experience in the playoffs. We feed off each other.”

And in the opening minutes, the Blackhawks were feeding off Toews. He was there when Frederik Andersen gave up the rebound on Niklas Hjalmarsson’s shot, scoring to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead just 2:23 into the game. He scored a power-play goal later in the period for a 2-0 lead that set the Blackhawks on their way.

“It speaks volumes about the character in this room and the leadership starting with the captain; you get two goals right away,” said Kane. “It’s pretty remarkable how he shows up in these games and seems to come through time after time.”

Linemate Brandon Saad said Toews, “is our leader on and off the ice. For us to go out there and for him those goals early for us, it gives the whole team confidence.”

[MORE: Blackhawks start fast, top Ducks in Game 7 to advance to Stanley Cup Final]

Top players get questioned a lot this time of year. They’re expected to lead on the ice as well as off it. They’re expected to be there with the big goals at the critical times. Toews is used to massive expectations. In many postseasons, including this one, he’s met them.

“I hope so, maybe for at least one period,” Toews said about getting the right performance. “Across the group, we kind of want to own up to each other, be accountable. We have a great leadership group everyone responds to. Everyone wants to contribute. As an individual, that’s all you can ask for.”

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.