Anthony Duclair

Anthony Duclair regrets not making most of opportunity with Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Anthony Duclair regrets not making most of opportunity with Blackhawks

COLUMBUS — Anthony Duclair knew what kind of opportunity he had in front of him when he was traded to the Blackhawks in January. The first day he stepped into the locker room, he admitted he was a little "star-struck."

But the marriage didn't last very long. 

After recording only two goals and eight assists in 23 games, the Blackhawks chose to move on from the restricted free agent by not extending a qualifying offer. Duclair later latched on with the Columbus Blue Jackets on a one-year, $650,000 "prove-it" deal.

"I wasn't surprised," Duclair said before Saturday's game against his former team. "I knew that I didn't perform as well as I did when I was there. I think I was there for only 20 games and didn't live up to the standards. As soon as I didn't hear anything from my agent I sort of got the message. But it was time to move on."

Duclair made no excuses for what went wrong in Chicago and accepted responsibility for not taking advantage of his opportunity, even though a leg injury sidelined him for the final month that prevented him from giving the Blackhawks a larger sample size.

"I just didn't perform well," he said. "It's going to be one of my regrets, to get that opportunity in Chicago and not perform in the way I did. It was something I had to look in the mirror this summer and move on obviously, but at the same time whenever a team comes next I think I'm going to take that opportunity and run away with it."

It's obvious that Duclair's got the potential to be an effective offensive player in the NHL. But we've only seen that in flashes, which is a large reason why it didn't work out in Chicago and why, entering his fifth season in the league, he still finds himself trying to play for a long-term contract.

"Just being more consistent," Duclair said. "Thats comes up a lot and my agents talks to a couple GMs around the league and it's something I'm trying to work on. It's not something you can work on in the summer, it's more preparing mentally and physically and that's what I've been trying to do."

So far, so good in Columbus.

Duclair has two goals and two assists through six games and is averaging 15:22 of ice time playing in a top-six role, on track to shatter his previous career high in that category (14:23) when he did so as a sophomore in 2015-16 with Arizona. He even made headlines on Thursday after scoring a highlight-reel goal against the Philadelphia Flyers, saying his "phone blew up quite a bit."

How he scored it is what stood out and his perspective after it is encouraging for his overall growth, as well.

"I've already put it behind me to be honest with you," Duclair said. "I'm just focused on Chicago now. I want to be consistent throughout every shift. Look at that goal, [it was] second and third efforts. That's what I want to bring to the table every shift, especially with the guys I'm playing right now. I just want to be having the puck whenever you can and being big on the forecheck."

Blackhawks decline to extend qualifying offers to Anthony Duclair, Tomas Jurco

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks decline to extend qualifying offers to Anthony Duclair, Tomas Jurco

Anthony Duclair and Tomas Jurco were not tendered qualifying offers by the Blackhawks before Monday's 4 p.m. deadline, a source said, making each of them an unrestricted free agent on July 1. They're free to discuss a new contract with another team immediately because the negotiating window opened Sunday.

Duclair was in the final year of his entry-level contract that carried an $894,167 cap hit. The fact he had arbitration rights perhaps contributed to the Blackhawks wanting to part ways with the 22-year-old forward if there were no plans for him to be part of the every day roster, considering he could have commanded roughly $1.5 million per year, which is the same amount Vinnie Hinostroza was rewarded with earlier this month.

Duclair, who was acquired mid-season from the Arizona Coyotes for Richard Panik, racked up two goals and six assists in 23 games for the Blackhawks before missing the final 13 games of the season with a leg injury. The potential is certainly there — he scored 20 goals as a 20-year-old in 2015-16 — but he hasn't been able to put it all together yet and the Blackhawks have a surplus of young forwards ready to earn a spot on the 23-man roster.

Jurco signed a one-year extension with the Blackhawks worth $800,000 last summer in a prove-it type contract. He started the season with the Rockford IceHogs, where he registered 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 36 games. It earned him a call-up in January, but it took a while for him to crack the lineup because of a logjam on the Blackhawks roster and he was never quite able to could get into a groove.

Still, in the big picture, Jurco compiled only 11 points (seven goals, four assists) in 42 games across two seasons in Chicago. Both parties were likely ready to move on from each other.

Jurco had a decent showing at the IIHF Men's World Championship, where he scored four goals and added an assist in seven games, which could help his case when seeking a contract elsewhere.

It's believed the Blackhawks also chose not to extend qualifying offers to Adam Clendening and Michael Chaput, the latter of whom was acquired on Sunday from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Tanner Kero.