Blackhawks

Why Kane-Panarin split might be necessary for Blackhawks

Why Kane-Panarin split might be necessary for Blackhawks

Patrick Kane was in a rare situation last season, playing with linemates Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov for practically the entire season. His chemistry with Panarin was especially noticeable.

Now Kane and Panarin might be separated because the Blackhawks need more than one line to work this season. Asked about that potential split on Saturday night, Kane’s answer was diplomatic.

“Last year, I think, is probably the one year that I really only played with a couple players, so I'm used to playing all over the place, playing with different guys,” Kane said. “We'll see what happens. I know they wanted to try something different for the game tonight and maybe throughout preseason, so I'll just play where they tell me to play, I guess.”

We don’t know what will happen if Kane and Panarin are split for a decent amount of time, but we certainly know what they can do when they’re together. We got a reminder of that on Saturday night when, put together again after a penalty kill, Kane hit Panarin with a perfect backhand pass. Panarin finished with a slick slap shot, snapping the Blackhawks’ preseason scoreless streak.

But here’s what we have to remember with all of this: If the split happens it’s not because coach Joel Quenneville wants to do it. It’s because right now, he has to do it. The Blackhawks’ depth at forward is thin, the thinnest it’s been in quite some time. Need a reminder of how depleted it is? Here are some of the forwards who were here last year who are now gone: Teuvo Teravainen, Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw, Marko Dano and Phillip Danault. You can also add Andrew Ladd, Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann — all acquired around the trade deadline — if you’d like.

Yeah.

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The second line’s chemistry last season was beyond impressive. It worked, almost automatically; and thanks in large part to that line’s production and Corey Crawford’s goaltending, the Blackhawks put together a nice regular season. But one line does not a team make. The team wasn’t even close to getting that usual four-line rotation going last season, and if you don’t have that, you’re not going far.

Most attempts at finding Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa a top-line left wing failed. Quenneville is trying to spread the wealth, trying to give Toews that left wing, trying to make the most of what little depth he has. Panarin, who did play a few times with Toews last season, understands it might be necessary.

“Obviously I’m ready to play with anyone. That’s my role,” Panarin said through translator Igor Alfimov. “I played with Kane more last season, that’s why — that’s my experience. But I’m ready to play with anyone.”

But for grins, let’s look at another option: Could Tyler Motte emerge as a potential top-line left wing? The 21-year-old, who scored two goals in Saturday’s game, has been the best forward prospect in training camp thus far. He’s smart, he’s poised and he’s strong on the penalty kill. Quenneville loved what he saw out of Motte, and a Motte-Toews-Hossa combination would be worth a look. (Yes, we know Hossa could end up on that third line with Marcus Kruger again, but at the start it seems best he join Toews).

And Quenneville knows even if Kane and Panarin aren’t linemates, they won’t be completely separated.

“Over the course of a season you know they’ll be together at times. But that’s something that’s going to get sorted out,” Quenneville said. “The chemistry among the two of them is special. They’ll always (have) some shifts together. Whether (or not) they will be permanently together is something we’ll evaluate.”

Kane and Panarin formed a productive duo. You know what you get when they’re together. Breaking them up isn’t the most welcome move, but right now it might be a necessary one.

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.