Blackhawks

Look back fast then move on: Five thoughts on the Blackhawks

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Look back fast then move on: Five thoughts on the Blackhawks

Ah, here we are, folks, in 2016. It’s a time to reflect on the past and make resolutions for the future (if you’re into that sort of thing).

For the Blackhawks, they finished 2015 with two victories. They were two interesting, entertaining victories, but they were victories nonetheless. They’ll enjoy a quick respite but, beginning Sunday, the Blackhawks start another busy month, in which they’ll play 14 games in 24 days.

So with this very brief respite upon us, let’s look at Five Thoughts on how the Blackhawks finished 2015 and what awaits them in 2016:

1. Jonathan Toews’ overtime goals. It’s just becoming something you expect: if the Blackhawks head to overtime, you can expect Toews to score the game winner. Toews did it again on Thursday, scoring his league-leading fourth overtime goal. He also set a single-season franchise record for overtime goals. Some may lament Toews not having more goals overall this season but ultimately, you need your captain to come through at clutchtimes. Scoring a bunch of overtime winners fits that description.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

2. Is that third line onto something? Andrew Desjardins, Phillip Danault and Teuvo Teravainen: it may not be an on-paper combination that screams “offense,” but that’s exactly what these three have created lately. Desjardins has three goals in his last two games. Teravainen has three assists in the same two games and Danault has two assists. The Blackhawks wanted to get their supplementary scoring going and these three have gotten that third line involved in the offense.

3. Giving up the goals. There’s always another side, isn’t there? The Blackhawks’ goaltending during most of December was stellar. Corey Crawford, who had three shutouts last month, was a big part of that. But he and Scott Darling gave up eight goals combined against the Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche. Darling told the Sun Times he was feeling alittle rusty – it was just his second start in December and third in a month. Perhaps Crawford was feeling the effects of a busy month. The Blackhawks’ goaltending, overall, has been good this season. There’s no reason to think it won’t return to being stingy soon.

[MORE: How good have the Blackhawks been on the power play on the road?]

4. The Blackhawks’ power play is good. Repeat that, folks, because it’s not something you’ve been able to say the last few years. That power play that was long futile despite the amount of talent is futile no more. It’s third overall in the NHL, converting 23.8 percent of its chances. Now it’s not as good at home (12th, 20 percent), where you could argue the Blackhawks fall into that wait-and-pass-a-lot habit more often. But it’s the league’s best on the road, recording four power-play goals in the past two games.

5. Looking back, then moving forward. The Central Division continues to be an entertaining one that, outside of Dallas, is allowing little breathing room. But the Blackhawks are keeping pace; they finished 2015 in third place with 48 points, two behind St. Louis and two ahead of Minnesota. The Stars lead with 59 points. The Blackhawks won’t head into January thinking, “we have to catch the Stars.” They’ve been here, done this before. It’s not about finishing first; it’s about getting into the playoffs and seeing what happens from there. Certainly, it’s not going to get easier. But the Blackhawks, who went through a lot of changes, two injuries – one current – and a myriad of line changes, are doing fine. 

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.