Blackhawks

In a pinch, Nick Schmaltz again does the job at second-line center

In a pinch, Nick Schmaltz again does the job at second-line center

MONTREAL – Nick Schmaltz didn't wait for the puck to settle down along the boards, instead immediately passing to the slot, where Artemi Panarin soon arrived, collected the puck and scored what proved to be the game-winning goal.

A guess Panarin would be there? Luck? Something else?

“Awareness. You know where your line mates are on the ice,” Schmaltz said. “They’re pretty predictable, always in the same areas, always find that open space. It makes my job pretty easy.”

And with Artem Anisimov now slated to miss a few weeks, second-line center will be Schmaltz’s job.

Anisimov, considered day-to-day not long after he sustained his left-leg injury against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night, will now miss 3-4 weeks, coach Joel Quenneville told the traveling media on Wednesday. Anisimov was seen late Wednesday morning at the airport in Montreal on Wednesday morning. Wearing a walking boot on his left leg, Anisimov was heading back to Chicago. But in Anisimov’s absence, the Blackhawks are more than confident that Schmaltz can handle the job.

“Very comfortable with him in the middle with those two guys,” Quenneville said following the Blackhawks’ 4-2 victory over Montreal. “It seems both times he stepped in with them in the middle of a game, it looks like he belongs there. So it’s been a good fit between the three of them. They’re dangerous off the rush, they see plays. Schmaltz in the faceoff circle, not taking draws while playing with Jonny [Toews] there, it’s something he can spend a little time doing. But we like him with the puck and with those guys.”

Schmaltz filled the second-line center spot rather seamlessly on March 1, when Anisimov hobbled off early in the Blackhawks’ victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Yes, the faceoffs would be an issue but as it stands, especially with Anisimov likely not missing much time, it’s still a solid option.

“Great job,” Kane said of Schmaltz’s work there on Tuesday. “I think when he gets that chance, it looks like he’s excited. He played the first time there so he’s excited about playing there. If we get him moving his feet in the middle, skating with a lot of speed he can back off a lot of D we have a chance to get some odd-man rushes. He brings that speed element to the line. We saw tonight we had three or four 2-on-1s and he made a couple great plays on a couple of goals as well. Good to see him skate like that in the middle and that’s probably what we’ll try to stress for him to bring the most.”

Regardless of his line mates, Schmaltz is often still too reluctant to shoot – he admits that. But passing to Kane or Panarin usually yields good results.

“Yeah, obviously they’re two great players who make it pretty easy to play. I just drive to the net and create space for them and try to give them the puck as much as I can. Maybe shoot more. I had a couple of chances and I probably should’ve shot a few of those,” Schmaltz said. “But I felt comfortable in there and easy to play with.”

Does Schmaltz fill that second-line center void the entire time Anisimov’s out? We shall see. We all know how line changes happen with this team. But as of now, Schmaltz has proven he can do the job there.

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.