John Hayden

Blackhawks give John Hayden fresh start, acquire John Quenneville from Devils

Blackhawks give John Hayden fresh start, acquire John Quenneville from Devils

VANCOUVER — The Blackhawks announced during the second round on Saturday that they have acquired forward John Quenneville from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for forward John Hayden. It's a 1-for-1 deal that gives both guys a fresh start elsewhere.

"I think it's one of those change of scenery type moves," Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman said. "Both players were probably looking for a better opportunity and hopefully it will work out for both guys. In Hayden's case he's played over 100 games but I think he never could kind of get the traction in a bigger role on our team. I know he was looking for an opportunity to play more.

"In the case of Quenneville, he was a high pick. A first-round pick. He's one of those guys that had a lot of success at the American League level. He's played in the NHL but he's had a smaller role. I think sometimes that happens. These guys go to a different situation. It's not the team that drafted you so you maybe look at them a little bit differently. Kind of a fresh start for both guys. We wish John well in New Jersey and we're excited to get Quenneville with us"

Quenneville, who was selected in the first round (No. 30 overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft, has recorded five points (two goals, three assists) in 33 games over the last three seasons with the Devils. He is the cousin of former Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.

Quenneville is 23 years old and set to become a restricted free agent this summer, although Bowman said they expect to give him a qualifying offer. Quenneville was drafted as a center, but can also play wing so he's got some versatility.

Hayden, who was drafted by the Blackhawks in the third round (No. 73 overall) in 2013, spent the last two and a half seasons in Chicago, where he compiled 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) in 113 games. He also appeared in one postseason contest in 2017.

Hayden found himself in and out of the lineup for the Blackhawks this past season, often serving as the 13th forward. The trade gives Hayden a clean slate on a Devils team that has made headlines over the weekend, most notably when they drafted Jack Hughes first overall on Day 1 and acquired former Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban on Day 2.

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Tough decision looms on Dylan Sikura as Blackhawks prepare to make one final cut among forwards

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USA TODAY

Tough decision looms on Dylan Sikura as Blackhawks prepare to make one final cut among forwards

The second-to-last preseason game is usually the last chance for bubble players to make a final impression because the last one is typically regarded as the dress rehearsal ahead of Game 1 of the regular season.

The Blackhawks healthy scratched Patrick Kane from Thursday's game because they wanted to give those guys a chance to do so. Dylan Sikura stepped into Kane's spot on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Nick Schmaltz as well as on the top power play unit to give him a chance to play with offensively-skilled players as the organization looks to make one more cut up front.

It was apparent how the coaching staff felt through two periods of play after Sikura was moved off the power play and bumped to the fourth line in favor of John Hayden, who had his best game of the preseason.

"I want to play the same game regardless of the situation, whether it's preseason, regular season or playoffs," Hayden said following the Blackhawks' 2-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators. "I just do what I can. Lot of things out of my control, out of all our control, just play as hard as you can and try and help the team out however you can."

Given how complimentary coach Joel Quenneville was of Luke Johnson and David Kampf earlier in the week, it's looking like Sikura may be the odd man out as the Blackhawks look to make one more cut up front.

"Yeah, it's something that kind of lingers around during this time of the year, but just trying to play my game and see what I can bring to the table," Sikura said of the roster decisions going on around the fringe players. "Obviously there's going to be some tough decisions to be made and that's going to happen."

Asked after the game whether Sikura could benefit from a stint with the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League, Quenneville said: "We’ll see. It’s something we’ll talk about. We don’t have many moves left. We have one extra forward now and a discussion."

While it would certainly be difficult to swallow for Sikura and may feel like a demotion if the Blackhawks choose to go that route, it shouldn't be when you take a step back and look at the larger picture.

Sikura spent four years in college at Northeastern before joining the Blackhawks for the final five games of the regular season in 2017-18. He's still considered a prospect and hasn't had much time getting acclimated to the Blackhawks' system, unlike the other bubble forwards such as Hayden, Johnson and Kampf.

"It's been pretty tough," Sikura said. "We're on the ice every day and we're working out every day and obviously this is my first experience so I'm pretty new to this whole thing. Like I said, every guy here is fighting for spots and there's a lot of other guys working hard and working for those final spots.

"I think sometimes when you're out there you just kind of overthink a few things. There's a lot thrown at you within these two weeks with the systems and everything and you kind of catch yourself thinking too much out there sometimes. I think you've just got to rely on your instincts and sometimes you've just got to play the game of hockey instead of systems and stuff like that."

A stint in Rockford would allow Sikura to develop at his own pace and let the system become second nature. Look no further than Vinnie Hinostroza, who served as a midseason spark plug last year after fine-tuning his game in the AHL.

"Obviously I want to stay here," Sikura said. "This is the place I want to be. At this point it's tough to say what's going to happen. There's positives to both, obviously you see a guy like Vinnie last year go down and lit it up down in the [AHL] and come back up and sign a nice contract, so obviously there's some pros going to Rockford and you obviously want to play in the NHL. At the end of the day just control what I can control at this point."

John Hayden signs two-year extension, but where does he fit into Blackhawks plans?

John Hayden signs two-year extension, but where does he fit into Blackhawks plans?

The Blackhawks agreed to terms with forward John Hayden on a two-year contract extension that runs through the 2019-20 season, the team announced Friday. It's a one-way deal that carries an annual cap hit of $750,000, according to Scott Powers of The Athletic.

With the signing, the Blackhawks now have four remaining restricted free agents this summer: Adam Clendening, Anthony Duclair, Vinnie Hinostroza and Tomas Jurco. Qualifying offers must be submitted by June 25 to retain their rights or else the players officially become unrestricted free agents and are free to sign with any team. (Update: Hinostroza has agreed to a two-year extension with the Blackhawks).

Hayden, 23, inked a two-year entry-level deal with the Blackhawks last March following his senior season at Yale, but burned the first year by joining Chicago immediately and playing in 12 regular-season games — plus one postseason contest — during the 2016-17 campaign.

This past season, Hayden compiled 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 47 games with the Blackhawks and became a fixture on the fourth line with Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels, arguably the team's most consistent trio throughout the first half of the year, before getting assigned to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs, where he registered 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 24 games and helped lead the club to the Western Conference Finals. He also posted three goals in 13 playoff games.

But don't expect Hayden to spend much time in Rockford going forward.

Given a big part of what Chicago lacked last season was forwards that go to the dirty areas and can provide net-front presence, it's hard to envision Hayden not having a permanent role on the Blackhawks. Where that is remains to be seen.

Ideally, he's your perfect fourth-line anchor who can play any of the three forward positions, but is certainly capable of also jumping up and down any of the four lines and serving as a spark plug when needed. That includes the power play, too.

It's difficult to project line combinations and where players could slot in because it's still too early with the NHL Draft and free agency looming. But there's a good chance Hayden will be part of that forward rotation on a consistent basis.